Venice is Sinking
“Venice is sinking, Signora. Look –
how the water seeps under the doors
of the Doges Palace,” our gondolier said.
“Tables and chairs float in the piazza
when the acqua alta comes . . .
our city soon disappearing,”
he whispered, “slipping so fastfast
into the lagoon.”
Then, with his oar in that same lagoon,
out of the emptiness, like a magician
he pulled out. . . “Volare” Oh oh!, cantare,
oh oh oh oh!
how he billowed his chest as he sang
nel blu dipinto di blu,
a little off-key, yet compleat;
his oar dipping, stroking our present
and lovely canal, past houses brushed
lemon, aqua, and peach una musica
dolce suonava soltando per me
each plump note his own, unembarrassed
reply to defeat, lifting
us, feeding his song to us
like a sweet.
The table is set. No matter
the crack in the cup, the splatter,
the lack of flowers shining at the center,
like an ache. No matter.
(how close to us and suddenly the bells of San Marco ring)
Some pass by windows with a monk’s restraint:
quickly see, just barely see, and do not even dream of
touch. Others prowl there with the famished eye
of the voluptuary. More! Matter without
limit. . . for them, window shopping is
a battle between Want and Have. Station
after station of the stubborn, separating glass.
But not for me. I also pass, and yes, look in,
love to look in. . . bolts of blue silk furled round
unsmelled perfume of the mannequins,
charms of beads, canary-yellow beads
streaming over singing clavicles. I pass,
through noon and afternoon and dusk
and do not tire of this dream-parade, this store
of pictures gathered in the soul’s vitrine,
as I retire into a sated quiet and delight
on this side of the glass, I put on my new hat,
the image-dripping hat of an imagined spring.
Helen Bournas-Ney was born in Ikaria, Greece, and grew up in New York City. She has a background in Comparative Literature, has taught writing at Hunter College and NYU, and has served as director of the Learning Center at SUNY Farmingdale. Ms. Bournas-Ney was the recipient of the Anaïs Nin Award for her work on Rimbaud and George Seferis, and her poetry has been published in the Cumberland Poetry Review and the New Hampshire College Journal.