a sojourn in venice, the “drowning city”

by Weina Jin

it was this: most serene lions pawing at the sky;
plaster hands clawing at silk roads on stilts.
it was this: underwater houses rusted green in the silt of the river;
crumbling stone moss creeping up over the gondola pipes
and trinities of elm moorings growing out of the water.
it was this: decay preying; the abandoned river doors rusted:
their locked teeth will not rise like daggers again.
white with silt, the water laps
at the platform, at the ghost of a masked gondolier.

it was this: pigeons flying overhead/ you predicting where they might land;
hope settling on telephone wires, a network across the city;
the stubborn Baútta bowing/ the bashful Moretta;
the city on stilts in the afternoon/ the mercato closing,
grand hotels along the grand canal,
cheap motels everywhere else.
iron gates/ and wrought iron clandestine sconces;
chaconne peppers/ and cellophane spices/ and dry flowers
itching.

it was this: the university among these alleys of water;
sure thieving at twilight. the grand canal allays us,
drumming a thump and a thump, a thump, a thump.
anywhere: waiters behind menus/ everywhere: saints behind iron grilles:
S. Andrea, S. Polo, S. Chiara, S. Stae;
old staircases with faded red carpets and dust and wood handrails and a view of shut windows.
S. Angelo, S. Helena, S. Marco, S. Croce;
even waylaid street signs in lamplight know this city cobbled with saints.

it was this: looking at the glass city past the cemetery,
San Michele, Murano, del Vetro, Trieste,
past the lilac silhouette of a fairground puffing steam.
the horizon stark, ships fully formed are birthed at the sunset
and drown in the deep green brine of the sea.