La tempesta prima festa, vines buck and hitch like a mare refusing to be broken. Sun glares without warming, no clouds before it, a false smile with no heat of friendship shining behind. Shutters clatter, clang, and batter stucco into smithereens, another part of Civita too easily swept away. Thwarted by wind, damned flies gather again inside kitchens of housewives who shoo them away.

Burdened washer women sneeze as they transport their linens, walking through pollen clouds, thick yellow dragons that breathe spores of fire, inflaming their lungs. Piqued pussy cats chase leaves that scatter and run like phantom mice; their capricious prey skips left and right before each fruitless pounce. They lay low to the ground, ears pricked and tails down, as the gusts blow their fur aside to reveal tender pink skin.

Wind tunnel alleys conduct a rushing reverberation, channeling the tempest around our piazza like thundering cheers circling an arena. Whirring drafts penetrate windows and gates as the high-pitched wind whines while it forces its way. Long-legged spiders, limbs thin as thread, blow over rooftops, tangled in their own ruined architecture next to the meals they were about to eat.

Returning birds, blown off course and confused, are grounded as they search for their aeries, incapable of overcoming the windshear to take flight. Shards of terra-cotta, blown over and broken, spew spilled soil like fractured promises, all in a row on the wall. Fifty-foot pines bend to the might of the wind, threatening in waves to fall like their pinecones that litter the stones. Birds and insects, cats and man and plants, all at unease with these unstoppable waves.

The tower bell chimes three times, as if to announce the next round of a prize fight, while we’re left to decide whether to quit or press on. Flags tattered and wrapped, we’re hopelessly trapped — outmatched by Civita herself as her dust rains blows unchecked by our insulted skin. Refusing to concede, we’re drawn to the piazza where there are festival races at hand, wrapped in our rags like a train of nomads.

Ruthless dust devils sweep bits of tufa away, sieging us as they lodge ancient grit under our eyelids, coating every surface with grains of history. Whipping wind scrapes the buildings –enraged– but perhaps someday Civita will gather and grow at a river’s confluence, accumulating over a thousand years to make another Civita some place far away.