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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