Fred Muratori

—from Nothing in the Dark, a prose poem noir

When Kafka visited Milan he found an inscription over the entrance
to a brothel that read Al vero Eden, and noted "heavy traffic between there
and the street." The prostitutes were French and "spoke like virgins." He
was an astute man; I have never been able to identify conclusively a
particular mode of speech as virginal. Childish perhaps, or naive, but no
voice beyond adolescence can be free from the erosion of experience, or can
remain unpunctured by the jagged embrace of time. The meter on innocence
runs out almost immediately. I wondered what it would have been like for
a German-speaking Bohemian-born Jew to make love to a French prostitute in Milan during the autumn of 1911 and could not imagine it, not having had
first-hand knowledge of any of those conditions. In such a context,
insofar as I could not imagine experiencing what Kafka either had or had imagined experiencing, I was perhaps innocent. And if each thing we have not
experienced ourselves constitutes a unit of innocence to which we might
assign an arbitrary monetary value—say, one dollar—then most of us are indeed rich.

From my office window I watched the rain fall on the pavement and
cars, on moving black umbrellas. Il vero Eden—the place we came from,
where we might have done everything we will never do.

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