If you stroll far enough, long enough eastwards
on Riva Degli Schiavoni (Shore
of the Slaves) – before it was a wide,
stone promenade it was sand and mud –
stroll away from the crowds, past the Danieli,
the Arsenale, the vaporetto stops
and beyond, with San Georgio Majore
across the Bacino Di San Marco –
you come to the Shore of the Seven Martyrs,
where now private yachts and small cruise ships dock.
It was the Riva Dell’Imperio –
built by the Fascists in the ’30s –
when the German Kriegsmarine torpedo boats
moored there. The officers were partying
one July night – the carousing loud
through the blacked out canals – when a sentry
disappeared. A crowd of hundreds was forced
to watch the seven murders – men who were
already incarcerated – and children
forced to clean the blood from the stones. Later,
body unmarked, lungs full of sea water,
the sentry’s corpse washed up against the oak piles
that keep the city safe in the lagoon.
Nothing extraordinary here. There are
two other sites in Venice, many more
throughout Italy, with greater numbers –
like the bus exchange in Gubbio,
Piazza Dei Quaranta Martiri,
or Rome’s Adreatine massacre.
Nothing remarkable anywhere perhaps
given half a million Italian war dead
except mostly, despite the witnesses,
the crimes are unpunished.