A series of short vignettes in the style of chapters from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities.

Invisible Cities – Cities and Motion 1

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Cities & Motion


As the traveler approaches Camerone, he sees on the landscape the city twist upon itself. Much as his water boiled as he broke camp, Camerone bursts forth in heaves: rolling over and swaying the very hills that support it; grass sparkles as the sun hits its seething mounds. Drawing closer, he sees children tossed in the air as the grounds lurch, buildings bend and scrape the stones, horses lose their step, apples spill from a market stall. To enter the city is to risk life as men fall from the gate.

But it happens that when the traveler passes through into the city, he sees that all is still. All is the same here as in his home city: a school, a squeaking bar sign, children throwing rocks, alleys not quite safe at night, a carved stone fountain. He sets his mug upon the ground and when none spills on the dirt, he smiles and finds an inn. In the street the owl hoots and the beggar shifts in the dirt; the city sleeps.

The next day the city gathers to watch him go, a circle around the gate. They cannot understand why these travelers leave, why anyone would want to abandon the safety of the city for the heaving, chaotic, spinning world outside.


A short story in the style of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Full series here.

Invisible Cities – Cities and Motion 2

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Cities & Motion


Look at the city of Tailan and you may see a train, but do not be fooled by its thin foundation. Look again and see the public square covered in people: festival tents shading an art exposition, a centuries-old maple trunk that forks and rejoins, voices singing from a far-off temple spire. See the wide boulevards and deep wells. Feel the smoke spout from the coal funnel and blow through the city in the ever-present wind, which the city’s people use to tell direction when they stumble home late at night. Never once have they thought of the thin metal rails, stretching in straight lines to infinity, that hold their city of grass and pavement. That Tailan floats five inches above the ground is the city’s great secret.

The tracks that carry Tailan sometimes meet others, steel lines that run perpendicular, parallel, in turns. And sometimes but rarely, another city will approach rolling on the tracks, thus beginning a trade. Men grab bushels of fruit from the market, furniture from the store, old cows from the field, and rush to the edge for that brief moment when the cities come side-by-side. Hundreds of outstretched arms, half second barters, and the trade is over, the two cities rolling apart to the distance.

If you look closely, you could almost see the outlines of a dining car in the walls of the jail, the hint of overnight cots in the greenhouse beds, the frame of a caboose holding up the tall radio tower. But these are faint; the city has taken hold of whatever used to be and made of it something new.

The residents of Tailan have no memory of how the city began, only that they were raised there by their parents, as their own children will be. They see no tracks, no caboose, no path in the distance, only the city built around them. They have mastered the art of always moving but going nowhere.


A short story in the style of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Full series here.

Invisible Cities – Cities and Motion 3

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Cities & Motion


I have spent many months tracking Briscilla, Great Khan, yet have never once succeeded in catching a glimpse of the elusive city. You may already know of the method by which you follow Briscilla: it leaves in its wake the trash and refuse of its residents.

Here – you see the outlines of the coffee shop: a square of cigarettes butts, stale espresso shots, crumpled napkins, and an old receipt itemizing the rest. The square of foil wrappers, dried vomit, and crushed dreams – that was the bar. Over here you see the signs of a school – broken pens, hopes for social acceptance, and budding aspirations lay strewn on the ground. And there – those piles of shame, desire, and unanswered prayers – that must have been a church.

By following the filth of Briscilla, we come across waste which is not quite so old. On the ground: a freshly broken heart, a subpoena postmarked one week ago, a bag left to reserve a seat, a newborn infant newly cold to the touch. From this we can deduce that Briscilla is not far away, perhaps in the next valley. However as we approach we see the valley only holds more trash. But look, this tea is still warm – come, we must be close.

You might ask, Great Khan, why we continue to hunt Briscilla, when all we can find of the city is dregs and slop. And I will tell you it is the fool who judges a thing by the trail it leaves. A wise man will reason and hope that its trail of waste proves that the city of Briscilla is everything its filth is not.


One of a series of short stories in the style of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Full series here.

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