Archive for 2012

A DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF VENICE

LA SERENISSIMA

 

…stucco white as cuttlefish. In shadows,

a lion’s mouth utters advantage or blame.

The whitewashed stench of the prison inspires

the palace. An improbable city:

a wedding of sky, water, stone, lagoon –

colours luminously true to art, art

celebrating business, gold transformed to

lead, marble, canvas, paint. The lake dwellers’

ambition: exploitation and caprice…

 

 

 

 

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A DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF VENICE

PIAZZA DI SAN MARCO

 

After the sky has shaded from indigo

to sepia, when swifts have gone and pigeons

roost in the crepuscular arcades,

when the Basilica’s looted bronze horses

are illumined – where Rossano Brazzi

and Katherine Hepburn failed to meet

at any one of the five cafés in

Napoleon’s ‘most splendid drawing room

in Europe’, where Proust (holidaying

at the Danieli with mother) corrected

his translation of Ruskin and criticised

the risotto, where Casanova

evaded the watch – then the eclectic

clock tower, the three, competing string orchestras,

and the melancholy campanile

accompany gratis a young man, alone,

masked, waltzing on the marble pavement.

 

 

 

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A DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF VENICE

BACINO DI SAN MARCO

 

From the Daniele’s restaurant terrace,

a bride and groom watch a shower of rain,

against the deep blue of the sky, approach

from the Adriatic, fall on the Lido,

San Lazzaro, La Giudecca, become

a foil for San Giorgio Maggiore,

La Dogana, La Salute, disappear

out of sight, somewhere over the lagoon.

 

As the late afternoon sun glows on wet

marble and the monogamous swifts return,

the man exclaims, ‘What a view we’ve got!,’

but the woman, ‘The light!’

 

 

 

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A DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF VENICE

DECLINE AND FALL

 

Once, there were no panhandlers in La

Serenissma. Now there are four beggars –

men from Dalmatia, the old colonies,

and a Roma woman with no past.

Near the Rialto, two alternate

on the same pitch: heads sunk, hands out, their stories

in English on cardboard. The third plays

an accordion near the Accademia,

his history on plywood at his feet.

Only the woman, dark-eyed, distressed, who sits

anonymous, huddled, swaddled against the

long wall of the Ospedale Civile,

looks charity the tourist in the eye.  She

takes the last  vaporetto  for Torcello

– and disembarks somewhere in the dark lagoon:

but returns always as if she were any

other traveller on the chopped and dancing

water, under the pellucid sky, in the

serenity of the light.

 

 

 

 

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A DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF VENICE

A CONTINUING CITY

 

A millennium of trade and empire

has pushed the wooden piles the founders drove

more deeply into the seditious silt

than they had intended.

 

In Campo di Ghetto, ‘Juda Merda’

is daubed: on Fondamente Nouve,

grammatically correct, ‘Venezia

truffa i touristi.’

 

On San Michele lie Ezra Pound, the

Stravinskys, somebody from Salop and

Venetian bourgeoisie almost safe in

their ferrara chambers.

 

Before dawn, carts spouting disinfectant

are trundled hastily through shuttered streets –

which, later, are pristine with human sounds:

laughter, footfalls, a song.

 

 

 

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