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O BRAVE NEW WORLD!

On the third floor of Ca’ Rezzonico –

where gondoliers slept when the palazzo

was let to the song writer Cole Porter –

is Egidio Martini’s collection

of five centuries of Venetian art.

Three of the floors’ small windows survive,

each an intentional belvedere.

Two view the Grand Canal, the third south west.

The eye follows the perspective below:

a canal and its quay with inevitable

eclectic craft, stone bridges and turisti;

then tenements and the terracotta tiles –

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THE FISH MARKET

The hand holds so much power – the power to love, to hate, to create, to destroy.’ SUPPORT, Lorenzo Quinn

 

The resin and fibreglass installation

of one of the sculptor’s small children’s

hands and wrists emerges from the Grand Canal

many times life size and startlingly white

to brace the rose Ca’ Sagredo Hotel –

once a palace where Galileo stayed –

as if to prevent its imminent collapse.

 

When we arrive on the opposite bank

so you can take photographs the market

has closed,

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THE GHETTO

We came here more than twenty five years ago

but know when we reach the Trei Archi bridge

we have gone too far and turn. (Distracted by

a young black man begging with a baseball cap

we had walked passed the sottoporto

where the curfew gates had been). We see

a man in a keppel show the entrance

to his children. Inside the Old Ghetto now

are information points, and a café

and a restaurant with kosher options.

In the New Ghetto’s spacious campo

are more eateries,

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THE GULLS OF VENICE

‘Imperfection is in some sort essential to all that we know in life.

THE STONES OF VENICE John Ruskin

 

Many things are forbidden in Venice:

sitting on the steps in St Mark’s Square;

hailing water taxis from water bus pontoons;

putting out food waste except on the hook

provided between the designated hours

in order to deter gabbiani;

of which there are two species, compatriots,

the black-headed gull and the herring gull,

comune and reale respectively,

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THE LAGOON

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.

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A WINNING HAND

We met on the first working day of the week;

married, five years later, on a Saturday;

and sailed for Ireland on the Sunday.

This Monday marks fifty two years of mostly

wedded bliss; occasional toilsome woe;

loving; giving; hard work; grace – a pack of cards

without, for the most part, the jangling jokers.

 

Out of the grassy plains, along the Silk Road

from Samarkand, came the colours of

anarchy, of power and passion; came

the four corners of the world,

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HESPERIDES

As goldfinches begin to sing and sparrows

chirp in polyphony, and swallows,

martins, swifts hunt with grace, the palette

of attenuated gold, amber, rose

is layered along the sea’s horizon

and the sun becomes a perfect disk

in the filtering, vermilion haze.

Anonymous con trails criss-cross the compass.

A lone swimmer crawls across the bay.

 

The evening star, sudden as a lamp, glints

in the afterglow. A wispy rain cloud forms

and drifts away like smoke.

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STUDIES IN BLUE: PADDLING POOL, LLANDUDNO

Five men, in orangey yellow overalls,

using long handled rollers are painting

the paddling pool – which is the size of four

tennis courts – that blue which only colour charts

show or astronauts will see.  Beyond

is the limestone headland with rock-roses

amongst the scrub and fulmars nesting.

Far out to sea is a gathering,

stately and serried, of white, wind turbines.

 

I think of David Hockney’s iconic pools,

and of Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Combines’ –

hybrids of sculpture and paint  –

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GERTRUDE BELL AND THE TREATY OF SÈVRES

Paris, 1920

 

The treaty was signed in the Exhibition Room,

overseen by Marie Antoinette’s

dinner service. Like porcelain owls’ eyes,

they were witnesses of the delegates’ harsh

geometry, the fretwork jigsaw of desk

wallahs – Ottoman Mesopotamia

become modern Syria and Iraq.

 

Gertrude Bell was one of the delegates:

daughter of a philanthropic iron master;

Oxford graduate like T.E. Lawrence;

cartographer, mountaineer, linguist;

archaeologist, administrator,

public servant;

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OF PLUMS AND FIGS

Dreamily among the leaves, uneasily,

in my age, up a shining ladder

I am plucking plums – discarding those

rotten, prune-like encrusted with sugar,

or pecked at by passing tits and dunnocks.

I pass the whole, ripe ones down carefully

to my granddaughter, who holds her bowl

high as she can. You look on, pleased for us both

and concerned. Later you will place the blushed plums

in a wide shallow dish of the deepest red

adorned with foliage –

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