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A BIT LATE TO THINK OF KAFKA

His new apartment was in a converted

eighteenth century farmhouse stranded

in a nineteenth century coastal town that,

as is the way of things by the accident

of geography, had become a prosperous port

and then declined. The back way in was along

a sloping path through an unkempt garden

then down narrow steep slate steps – slippery

that day with leaf mould. In the twilight,

two Waitrose bags-for-life in each hand,

he slipped, falling neatly on his  backpack.

However,

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ACCADEMIA BRIDGE

Although elsewhere they must compete with tall men

from Senegal selling faux Gucchi bags

and middle aged Roma women hunched like

supplicants as they beg with their cardboard cups,

short, slight Bangladeshi men of all ages

have cornered the market, on the always

crowded bridge, with selfie sticks, lovers’ locks

that illegally litter the rails, and a cache

of small umbrellas for wet, cruising tourists.

 

South is the church of La Salute with its

whorls, bell towers,

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CITY OF ART

There are the Biennale’s Big Beasts, of course –

this year David Hockney’s ’82 Portraits

and 1 Still Life’ at the Ca’ Pesaro (each

painted in three days) and, at Palazzo

Grassi and Punta Della Dogana,

Damien Hirst’s ‘Treasures from the Wreck

of the Unbelievable’, which took ten years –

the pavilions in the Giardini

and the Arsenale; the freebies

in rented palaces and tenements.

 

And there are the abiding grand masters,

the Titians, Tinterettos,

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FRUITS OF THE SEA

On the island of Burano, where women,

sitting at their front doors for the light, make lace

and men fish in the lagoon, and houses

are painted the profound colours of sun and sea,

there is a family owned restaurant

Da Romano (opposite the headquarters

of the Communist Party) whose first owner

encouraged those painters rejected

for the first Biennale to hang their work

on his walls – since when artists of all kinds

have come: Miro, for example, Matisse,

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GRANDE HÔTEL DES BAINS

‘A camera on a tripod stood at the edge of the water, apparently abandoned; its black cloth snapped in the freshening wind.’

DEATH IN VENICE Thomas Mann

 

…Cholera is no longer a rumour.

Besotted, face rouged, hair dyed, he dies

staring unseeing at the shallow sea.

Artifice, made and re-made, fades in the rain,

like the islands with their ‘gorgeous palaces’…

 

Near the Palazzo del Cinema –

where, annually, insubstantial

figures, louder than life,

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LA FENICE

At Punta Della Dogana, a cellist

seated under the arcade, is playing

melodies from operatic arias.

It is early evening. A fog horn sounds.

A cruise ship is sailing for Dubrovnik.

With a tug at the bows to pull, one to steer

at the stern, The Queen Elizabeth –

its superstructure higher than St Mark’s

Campanile, moves slowly toward us

through the Giudecca canal. Passengers,

silhouettes on the top deck, look down

on the packed, diverse crowds jostling along

the Riva Degli Schiavoni,

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