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Like most houses over centuries here

this one has been divided. What was its

courtyard is part of a private gallery.

A vine, planted in the yard – perhaps

in the island’s original earth before

alder pilings made the city’s foundations –

has thickened, grown on top of a wall,

almost hiding the broken bottles

embedded in cement, and then up

to our third floor balcony, covering

the pergola. The grapes are pearly small, sweet.


There is no dulling roar to baffle sounds.

Two unseen neighbours greet each other

in the street below. We hear ‘acqua alta’.

Later from the courtyard comes the noise

of prosecco, and earnest chatter.

Distantly a vaporetto changes gear

as it docks. Cases are wheeled through the calle.

On time San Samuele’s single bell

and San Stefano’s leaning campanile

ring out, then fade. The expected storm breaks

with thunder – and drops tap on the leaves.


Lightning wakes me. Out of sight, far beyond

the limits of houses and paving stones,

hundreds of thousands of birds are shuffling

through salt marsh, on mud flats, in tidal shallows,

their cries and calls unheard.




© Copyright David Selzer

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