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.