Rich with grace from the minute I arrived. The invitation came to me out of the blue: I still don’t know whonominated me. Maybe it’s best that way: anonymous grace. The timing was uncanny. For the last fifteen years I have been working on a prose devotional: an autobiography accompanied by thoughts about poets who have been my priests. I did two drafts of all three hundred pages during my five weeks here: paragraph by paragraph, page by page. I could never have done this in my daily life at work in Madrid. The weekly field trips inspired. The dinners sustained. My Fellows encouraged and supported. My (God willing) close to finished draft of this book would not have happened without Civitella: this desk here in Vista, the constant coffee, the view of the green tree, the soft bed, the kind staff, Paola at the front desk each day more beautiful than Sofia Loren, the uninterrupted time
— to all of it I bid good-bye and say Mil gracias por todo. Grazie.
Opening paragraph to the book The Little Entrance:
Exiting Moore Hall, a flat-roofed Georgian four-story brick dorm, white-trimmed windows with six panes on top and six on the bottom, with those lead pulleys on ropes in the window´s casements, I could hear behind me the laughter of my classmates sounding like a troop of baboons in the zoo of rooms; each pane of glass had fogged up from human heat and as I looked back at the dorm I was quite certain they were laughing at me, me — the ridiculous fairy, the faggot. Out, out, I walked out, a little drunk, drinking I had done completely alone, propelled into the greater dark as if I was being pushed by a deep cold river. A cold river dragging with it the reflections of the cold stars. The stars dragged behind me like the tin cans attached to a car after a wedding. Away from the light I was going. I was pitching myself into the dark. Southern Comfort tickled the back of my throat, electrified my nerves, accelerated my walk. December. Brunswick, Maine. Christmas was coming just in time for me to kill myself.