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NUMB, half asleep, and dazed with whirl of wheels,
And gasp of steam, and measured clank of chains,
I heard a blithe voice break a sudden pause,
Ringing familiarly through the lamp-lit night,
“Wife, here's your Venice!”
I was lifted down,
And gazed about in stupid wonderment,
Holding my little Katie by the hand—
My yellow-haired step-daughter. And again
Two strong arms led me to the water-brink,
And laid me on soft cushions in a boat,—
A queer boat, by a queerer boatman manned—
Swarthy-faced, ragged, with a scarlet cap—
Whose wild, weird note smote shrilly through the dark.
Oh yes, it was my Venice! Beautiful,
With melancholy, ghostly beauty—old,
And sorrowful, and weary—yet so fair,
So like a queen still, with her royal robes,
Full of harmonious colour, rent and worn!
I only saw her shadow in the stream,
By flickering lamplight,—only saw, as yet,
White, misty palace-portals here and there,
Pillars, and marble steps, and balconies,
Along the broad line of the Grand Canal;
And, in the smaller water-ways, a patch
Of wall, or dim bridge arching overhead.
But I could feel the rest. 'Twas Venice!—ay,
The veritable Venice of my dreams.

I saw the grey dawn shimmer down the stream,
And all the city rise, new bathed in light,
With rose-red blooms on her decaying walls,
And gold tints quivering up her domes and spires—
Sharp-drawn, with delicate pencillings, on a sky
Blue as forget-me-nots in June. I saw
The broad day staring in her palace-fronts,
Pointing to yawning gap and crumbling boss,
And colonnades, time-stained and broken, flecked
With soft, sad, dying colours—sculpture-wreathed,
And gloriously proportioned; saw the glow
Light up her bright, harmonious, fountain'd squares,
And spread out on her marble steps, and pass
Down silent courts and secret passages,
Gathering up motley treasures on its way;—

Groups of rich fruit from the Rialto mart,
Scarlet and brown and purple, with green leaves—
Fragments of exquisite carving, lichen-grown,
Found, 'mid pathetic squalor, in some niche
Where wild, half-naked urchins lived and played—
A bright robe, crowned with a pale, dark-eyed face—
A red-striped awning 'gainst an old grey wall—
A delicate opal gleam upon the tide.

I looked out from my window, and I saw
Venice, my Venice, naked in the sun—
Sad, faded, and unutterably forlorn!—
But still unutterably beautiful.

For days and days I wandered up and down—
Holding my breath in awe and ecstasy,—
Following my husband to familiar haunts,
Making acquaintance with his well-loved friends,
Whose faces I had only seen in dreams
And books and photographs and his careless talk.
For days and days—with sunny hours of rest
And musing chat, in that cool room of ours,
Paved with white marble, on the Grand Canal;
For days and days—with happy nights between,
Half-spent, while little Katie lay asleep
Out on the balcony, with the moon and stars.

O Venice, Venice!—with thy water-streets—
Thy gardens bathed in sunset, flushing red
Behind San Giorgio Maggiore's dome—
Thy glimmering lines of haughty palaces
Shadowing fair arch and column in the stream—
Thy most divine cathedral, and its square,
With vagabonds and loungers daily thronged,
Taking their ice, their coffee, and their ease—
Thy sunny campo's, with their clamorous din,
Their shrieking vendors of fresh fish and fruit—
Thy churches and thy pictures—thy sweet bits
Of colour—thy grand relics of the dead—
Thy gondoliers and water-bearers—girls
With dark, soft eyes, and creamy faces, crowned
With braided locks as bright and black as jet—
Wild ragamuffins, picturesque in rags,
And swarming beggars and old witch-like crones,
And brown-cloaked contadini, hot and tired,
Sleeping, face-downward, on the sunny steps—
Thy fairy islands floating in the sun—
Thy poppy-sprinkled, grave-strewn Lido shore—

Thy poetry and thy pathos—all so strange!—
Thou didst bring many a lump into my throat,
And many a passionate thrill into my heart,
And once a tangled dream into my head.

'Twixt afternoon and evening. I was tired;
The air was hot and golden—not a breath
Of wind until the sunset—hot and still.
Our floor was water-sprinkled; our thick walls
And open doors and windows, shadowed deep
With jalousies and awnings, made a cool
And grateful shadow for my little couch.
A subtle perfume stole about the room
From a small table, piled with purple grapes,
And water-melon slices, pink and wet,
And ripe, sweet figs, and golden apricots,
New-laid on green leaves from our garden—leaves
Wherewith an antique torso had been clothed.
My husband read his novel on the floor,
Propped up on cushions and an Indian shawl;
And little Katie slumbered at his feet,
Her yellow curls alight, and delicate tints
Of colour in the white folds of her frock.
I lay, and mused, in comfort and at ease,
Watching them both and playing with my thoughts;
And then I fell into a long, deep sleep,
And dreamed.
I saw a water-wilderness—
Islands entangled in a net of streams—
Cross-threads of rippling channels, woven through
Bare sands, and shallows glimmering blue and broad—
A line of white sea-breakers far away.
There came a smoke and crying from the land—
Ruin was there, and ashes, and the blood
Of conquered cities, trampled down to death.
But here, methought, amid these lonely gulfs,
There rose up towers and bulwarks, fair and strong,
Lapped in the silver sea-mists;—waxing aye
Fairer and stronger—till they seemed to mock
The broad-based kingdoms on the mainland shore.
I saw a great fleet sailing in the sun,
Sailing anear the sand-slip, whereon broke
The long white wave-crests of the outer sea,—
Pepin of Lombardy, with his warrior hosts—
Following the ****** steps of Attila!
I saw the smoke rise when he touched the towns
That lay, outposted, in his ravenous reach;

Then, in their island of deep waters,* saw
A gallant band defy him to his face,
And drive him out, with his fair vessels wrecked
And charred with flames, into the sea again.
“Ah, this is Venice!” I said proudly—“queen
Whose haughty spirit none shall subjugate.”

It was the night. The great stars hung, like globes
Of gold, in purple skies, and cast their light
In palpitating ripples down the flood
That washed and gurgled through the silent streets—
White-bordered now with marble palaces.
It was the night. I saw a grey-haired man,
Sitting alone in a dark convent-porch—
In beggar's garments, with a kingly face,
And eyes that watched for dawnlight anxiously—
A weary man, who could not rest nor sleep.
I heard him muttering prayers beneath his breath,
And once a malediction—while the air
Hummed with the soft, low psalm-chants from within.
And then, as grey gleams yellowed in the east,
I saw him bend his venerable head,
Creep to the door, and knock.
Again I saw
The long-drawn billows breaking on the land,
And galleys rocking in the summer noon.
The old man, richly retinued, and clad
In princely robes, stood there, and spread his arms,
And cried, to one low-kneeling at his feet,
“Take thou my blessing with thee, O my son!
And let this sword, wherewith I gird thee, smite
The impious tyrant-king, who hath defied,
Dethroned, and exiled him who is as Christ.
The Lord be good to thee, my son, my son,
For thy most righteous dealing!”
And again
'Twas that long slip of land betwixt the sea
And still lagoons of Venice—curling waves
Flinging light, foamy spray upon the sand.
The noon was past, and rose-red shadows fell
Across the waters. Lo! the galleys came
To anchorage again—and lo! the Duke
Yet once more bent his noble head to earth,
And laid a victory at the old man's feet,
Praying a blessing with exulting heart.
“This day, my well-belovèd, thou art blessed,
And Venice with thee, for St. Peter's sake.

And I will give thee, for thy bride and queen,
The sea which thou hast conquered. Take this ring,
As sign of her subjection, and thy right
To be her lord for ever.”
Once again
I saw that old man,—in the vestibule
Of St. Mark's fair cathedral,—circled round
With cardinals and priests, ambassadors
And the noblesse of Venice—richly robed
In papal vestments, with the triple crown
Gleaming upon his brows. There was a hush:—
I saw a glittering train come sweeping on,
From the blue water and across the square,
Thronged with an eager multitude,—the Duke,
And with him Barbarossa, humbled now,
And fain to pray for pardon. With bare heads,
They reached the church, and paused. The Emperor knelt,
Casting away his purple mantle—knelt,
And crept along the pavement, as to kiss
Those feet, which had been weary twenty years
With his own persecutions. And the Pope
Lifted his white haired, crowned, majestic head,
And trod upon his neck,—crying out to Christ,
“Upon the lion and adder shalt thou go—
The dragon shalt thou tread beneath thy feet!”
The vision changed. Sweet incense-clouds rose up
From the cathedral altar, mix'd with hymns
And solemn chantings, o'er ten thousand heads;
And ebbed and died away along the aisles.
I saw a train of nobles—knights of France—
Pass 'neath the glorious arches through the crowd,
And stand, with halo of soft, coloured light
On their fair brows—the while their leader's voice
Rang through the throbbing silence like a bell.
“Signiors, we come to Venice, by the will
Of the most high and puissant lords of France,
To pray you look with your compassionate eyes
Upon the Holy City of our Christ—
Wherein He lived, and suffered, and was lain
Asleep, to wake in glory, for our sakes—
By Paynim dogs dishonoured and defiled!
Signiors, we come to you, for you are strong.
The seas which lie betwixt that land and this
Obey you. O have pity! See, we kneel—
Our Masters bid us kneel—and bid us stay
Here at your feet until you grant our prayers!”
Wherewith the knights fell down upon their knees,

And lifted up their supplicating hands.
Lo! the ten thousand people rose as one,
And shouted with a shout that shook the domes
And gleaming roofs above them—echoing down,
Through marble pavements, to the shrine below,
Where lay the miraculous body of their Saint
(Shed he not heavenly radiance as he heard?—
Perfuming the damp air of his secret crypt),
And cried, with an exceeding mighty cry,
“We do consent! We will be pitiful!”
The thunder of their voices reached the sea,
And thrilled through all the netted water-veins
Of their rich city. Silence fell anon,
Slowly, with fluttering wings, upon the crowd;
And then a veil of darkness.
And again
The filtered sunlight streamed upon those walls,
Marbled and sculptured with divinest grace;
Again I saw a multitude of heads,
Soft-wreathed with cloudy incense, bent in prayer—
The heads of haughty barons, armed knights,
And pilgrims girded with their staff and scrip,
The warriors of the Holy Sepulchre.
The music died away along the roof;
The hush was broken—not by him of France—
By Enrico Dandolo, whose grey head
Venice had circled with the ducal crown.
The old man looked down, with his dim, wise eyes,
Stretching his hands abroad, and spake. “Seigneurs,
My children, see—your vessels lie in port
Freighted for battle. And you, standing here,
Wait but the first fair wind. The bravest hosts
Are with you, and the noblest enterprise
Conceived of man. Behold, I am grey-haired,
And old and feeble. Yet am I your lord.
And, if it be your pleasure, I will trust
My ducal seat in Venice to my son,
And be your guide and leader.”
When they heard,
They cried aloud, “In God's name, go with us!”
And the old man, with holy weeping, passed
Adown the tribune to the altar-steps;
And, kneeling, fixed the cross upon his cap.
A ray of sudden sunshine lit his face—
The grand, grey, furrowed face—and lit the cross,
Until it twinkled like a cross of fire.
“We shall be safe with him,” the people said,

Straining their wet, bright eyes; “and we shall reap
Harvests of glory from our battle-fields!”

Anon there rose a vapour from the sea—
A dim white mist, that thickened into fog.
The campanile and columns were blurred out,
Cathedral domes and spires, and colonnades
Of marble palaces on the Grand Canal.
Joy-bells rang sadly and softly—far away;
Banners of welcome waved like wind-blown clouds;
Glad shouts were muffled into mournful wails.
A Doge was come to be enthroned and crowned,—
Not in the great Bucentaur—not in pomp;
The water-ways had wandered in the mist,
And he had tracked them, slowly, painfully,
From San Clemente to Venice, in a frail
And humble gondola. A Doge was come;
But he, alas! had missed his landing-place,
And set his foot upon the blood-stained stones
Betwixt the blood-red columns. Ah, the sea—
The bride, the queen—she was the first to turn
Against her passionate, proud, ill-fated lord!

Slowly the sea-fog melted, and I saw
Long, limp dead bodies dangling in the sun.
Two granite pillars towered on either side,
And broad blue waters glittered at their feet.
“These are the traitors,” said the people; “they
Who, with our Lord the Duke, would overthrow
The government of Venice.”
And anon,
The doors about the palace were made fast.
A great crowd gathered round them, with hushed breath
And throbbing pulses. And I knew their lord,
The Duke Faliero, knelt upon his knees,
On the broad landing of the marble stairs
Where he had sworn the oath he could not keep—
Vexed with the tyrannous oligarchic rule
That held his haughty spirit netted in,
And cut so keenly that he writhed and chafed
Until he burst the meshes—could not keep!
I watched and waited, feeling sick at heart;
And then I saw a figure, robed in black—
One of their dark, ubiquitous, supreme
And fearful tribunal of Ten—come forth,
And hold a dripping sword-blade in the air.
“Justice has fallen on the traitor! See,
His blood has paid the forfeit of his crime!”

And all the people, hearing, murmured deep,
Cursing their dead lord, and the council, too,
Whose swift, sure, heavy hand had dealt his death.

Then came the night, all grey and still and sad.
I saw a few red torches flare and flame
Over a little gondola, where lay
The headless body of the traitor Duke,
Stripped of his ducal vestments. Floating down
The quiet waters, it passed out of sight,
Bearing him to unhonoured burial.
And then came mist and darkness.
Lo! I heard
The shrill clang of alarm-bells, and the wails
Of men and women in the wakened streets.
A thousand torches flickered up and down,
Lighting their ghastly faces and bare heads;
The while they crowded to the open doors
Of all the churches—to confess their sins,
To pray for absolution, and a last
Lord's Supper—their viaticum, whose death
Seemed near at hand—ay, nearer than the dawn.
“Chioggia is fall'n!” they cried, “and we are lost!”

Anon I saw them hurrying to and fro,
With eager eyes and hearts and blither feet—
Grave priests, with warlike weapons in their hands,
And delicate women, with their ornaments
Of gold and jewels for the public fund—
Mix'd with the bearded crowd, whose lives were given,
With all they had, to Venice in her need.
No more I heard the wailing of despair,—
But great Pisani's blithe word of command,
The dip of oars, and creak of beams and chains,
And ring of hammers in the arsenal.
“Venice shall ne'er be lost!” her people cried—
Whose names were worthy of the Golden Book—
“Venice shall ne'er be conquered!”
And anon
I saw a scene of triumph—saw the Doge,
In his Bucentaur, sailing to the land—
Chioggia behind him blackened in the smoke,
Venice before, all banners, bells, and shouts
Of passionate rejoicing! Ten long months
Had Genoa waged that war of life and death;
And now—behold the remnant of her host,
Shrunken and hollow-eyed and bound with chains—
Trailing their galleys in the conqueror's wake!

Once more the tremulous waters, flaked with light;
A covered vessel, with an armèd guard—
A yelling mob on fair San Giorgio's isle,
And ominous whisperings in the city squares.
Carrara's noble head bowed down at last,
Beaten by many storms,—his golden spurs
Caught in the meshes of a hidden snare!
“O Venice!” I cried, “where is thy great heart
And honourable soul?”
And yet once more
I saw her—the gay Sybaris of the world—
The rich voluptuous city—sunk in sloth.
I heard Napoleon's cannon at her gates,
And her degenerate nobles cry for fear.
I saw at last the great Republic fall—
Conquered by her own sickness, and with scarce
A noticeable wound—I saw her fall!
And she had stood above a thousand years!
O Carlo Zeno! O Pisani! Sure
Ye turned and groaned for pity in your graves.
I saw the flames devour her Golden Book
Beneath the rootless “Tree of Liberty;”
I saw the Lion's le
Meandering like its canals
Venetian streets sing underfoot.
Who wore away the stone cobbled streets?
Who walked down to the shore?
Who gazed out at the Adriatic?
Who's dreams were lost in Venice's stream of streets?

Licentious lovers loved in Venice's streets, kissed on her bridges,
Crossed under by gondola and over by foot.
Proposed at the piazza San Marco.
Kissed, while the Grand Canal wound her way down.
Down into the sea,
where the menace that is the world, Venice shuns.

Rialto, Doge, Basilica, St. Marks, pigeons!
All evoke that lagoon city of streets.
Originally refugees, incolae lacunae ("lagoon dwellers")
Venetians, gave not only a place for the dispossessed,
but a place for the world to see, feel and taste.
Art, war, politics, commerce, spice and silk.

Venice with her ribbon of streets, alleyways and bridges
saw the Renaissance, the crusades, and the Black Death.
Glassware, paintings, sculptures, religion, refugees all
synonymous with that floating city.
A city returning to the water she arose from.
Subsiding with grief as she drowns in elegant decay.
Can you envision a city built on a lagoon?
That's Venice, a name that always makes one swoon,
It has a reputation for canals rather than roads,
And a prime reason why one will never get bored

The famed gondola ride through the labyrinth of canals,
Is a must-have experience that is far from banal,
Gliding through serene waters with hardly a tilt,
While being serenaded by the cheerful gondolier's lilt

The epicenter of Venice is the popular St Mark's Square,
Teeming with tourists with a perennial effervescent flair,
Historic buildings and stately arcades form the periphery,
With an array of cafes and accompanying music for people to make merry

Witness the serpentine line of visitors entering St Mark's Basilica church,
Gazing at seemingly endless luminous gilded mosaics inside makes one almost lurch,
The Pala d'Oro altar of gold studded with hundreds of gems is a marvel to behold,
As are the mammoth innumerable columns that are so mind-boggling, if truth be told

The majestic Doge's Palace bears the stamp of masterpiece Gothic architecture,
Resting on a double arcade of marble columns lends solidity to the structure,
Spectacular halls and staircases adorn the interior, replete with exquisite paintings,
While ornate works of art complemented by more paintings are featured in the ceilings

The Bridge of Sighs is touted as one of the finest bridge architecture in the world,
The stylish Italian Renaissance connects the interrogation room to the prisoners' abode,
The sculptured sad or angry faces while crossing under the bridge can easily be seen,
Depicting sighs of prisoners awaiting their fate, as they mulled "what could have been"

The bustling Grand Canal is the central transport hub in picturesque Venice,
Gondolas, vaporettos and water taxis cruise up and down the canal without amiss,
Flanked by colorful buildings, iconic structures, buzzing markets and cobbled streets,
Time flies in hopping to various locations while savoring the glorious visual treat

The world famous Venetian glass has a history of its own,
Murano's glass museum visit facilitates all there is to be known,
For intricate shapes, it is a treat to watch the glass blower's skill,
Colorful designed vases and sculptures are effortlessly made at will

The lengthy arched Rialto Bridge is as old as the hills,
A crossover between San Polo and San Marco districts with hardly any frill,
It's breathtaking sunrise view receives considerable emcomium,
As a popular tourist spot, it needs no second opinion

As the bell-tower of the basilica, the Campanile is the tallest building in Venice,
The ring of each of the five bells is replete with history that one cannot miss,
The panoramic breathtaking view of Venice from the tower top,
Is one of the reasons why it is a must-experience visitors' stop

The mere mention of Venice always makes the lagoon city so exciting,
Little wonder that the annual Film Festival is a much-awaited outing,
The aura of glamor, glitz and entertainment never wanes any given year,
As folks continue to throng the city from far and near, with their near and dear
Traveled across the world,
traveled to see my baby girl.
My one and only love,
sent down from the heavens above.

Our love was perfect,
nothing could hurt it.
So we traveled the world,
traveled with my baby girl.

Do you remember our love?
Do you remember the morning sun?
Do you remember Venice,
do you remember our final kiss?

Spent our lives together,
for what felt like forever.
But forever wasn't enough,
when the going got tough.

You gave up on me,.
in Venice, Italy.
Spent our lives together,
a wasted forever.

Do you remember our love?
Do you remember the morning sun?
Do you remember Venice,
do you remember our final kiss?
Copyright Barry Pietrantonio
Nigel Morgan Jan 2014
Today has been a difficult day he thought, as there on his desk, finally, lay some evidence of his struggle with the music he was writing. Since early this morning he’d been backtracking, remembering the steps that had enabled him to write the entirely successful first movement. He was going over the traces, examining the clues that were there (somewhere) in his sketches and diary jottings. They always seem so disorganised these marks and words and graphics, but eventually a little clarity was revealed and he could hear and see the music for what it was. But what was it to become? He had a firm idea, but he didn’t know how to go about getting it onto the page. The second slow movement seemed as elusive today as ever it had been.

There was something intrinsically difficult about slow music, particularly slow music for strings. The instruments’ ability to sustain and make pitches and chords flow seamlessly into one another magnified every inconsistency of his part-writing technique and harmonic justification. Faster music, music that constantly moved and changed, was just so much easier. The errors disappeared before the ear could catch them.

Writing music that was slow in tempo, whose harmonic rhythm was measured and took its time, required a level of sustained thought that only silence and intense concentration made properly possible. His studio was far from silent (outside the traffic spat and roared) and today his concentration seemed at a particularly low ebb. He was modelling this music on a Vivaldi Concerto, No.6 from L’Estro Armonico. That collective title meant Harmonic Inspiration, and inspiring this collection of 12 concerti for strings certainly was. Bach reworked six of these concertos in a variety of ways.

He could imagine the affect of this music from that magical city of the sea, Venice, La Serenissima, appearing as a warm but fresh wind of harmony and invention across those early, usually handwritten scores. Bach’s predecessors, Schutz and Schein had travelled to Venice and studied under the Gabrielis and later the maestro himself, Claudio Monteverdi. But for Bach the limitations of his situation, without such patronage enjoyed by earlier generations, made such journeying impossible. At twenty he did travel on foot from Arnstadt to Lubeck, some 250 miles, to experience the ***** improvisations of Dietriche Buxtehude, and stayed some three months to copy Buxtehude’s scores, managing to avoid the temptation of his daughter who, it was said, ‘went with the post’ on the Kapelmeister’s retirement. Handel’s visit to Buxtehude lasted twenty-four hours. To go to Italy? No. For Bach it was not to be.

But for this present day composer he had been to Italy, and his piece was to be his memory of Venice in the dark, sea-damp days of November when the acqua alta pursued its inhabitants (and all those tourists) about the city calles. No matter if the weather had been bad, it had been an arresting experience, and he enjoyed recovering the differing qualities of it in unguarded moments, usually when walking, because in Venice one walked, because that was how the city revealed itself despite the advice of John Ruskin and later Jan Morris who reckoned you had to have your own boat to properly experience this almost floating city.

As he chipped away at this unforgiving rock of a second movement he suddenly recalled that today was the first day of Epiphany, and in Venice the peculiar festival of La Befana. A strange tale this, where according to the legend, the night before the Wise Men arrived at the manger they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied that she was too busy. Then a shepherd asked her to join him but again she refused. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Wise Men and the shepherd bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died. She got lost and never found the manger. Now La Befana flies around on her broomstick each year on the 11th night, bringing gifts to children in hopes that she might find the Baby Jesus. Children hang their stockings on the evening of January 5 awaiting the visit of La Befana. Hmm, he thought, and today the gondoliers take part in a race dressed as old women, and with a broomstick stuck vertically as a mast from each boat. Ah, L’Epiphania.

Here in this English Cathedral city where our composer lived Epiphany was celebrated only by the presence of a crib of contemporary sculptured forms that for many years had never ceased to beguile him, had made him stop and wonder. And this morning on his way out from Morning Office he had stopped and knelt by the figures he had so often meditated upon, and noticed three gifts, a golden box, a glass dish of incense and a tiny carved cabinet of myrrh,  laid in front of the Christ Child.

Yes, he would think of his second movement as ‘L’Epiphania’. It would be full of quiet  and slow wonder, but like the tale of La Befana a searching piece with no conclusion except a seque into the final fast and spirited conclusion to the piece. His second movement would be a night piece, an interlude that spoke of the mystery of the Incarnation, of God becoming Man. That seemed rather ambitious, but he felt it was a worthy ambition nevertheless.
Amy Lowell  Nov 2010

The Trumpet-Vine Arbour

The throats of the little red trumpet-flowers are wide open,
And the clangour of brass beats against the hot sunlight.
They bray and blare at the burning sky.
Red! Red! Coarse notes of red,
Trumpeted at the blue sky.
In long streaks of sound, molten metal,
The vine declares itself.
Clang! -- from its red and yellow trumpets.
Clang! -- from its long, nasal trumpets,
Splitting the sunlight into ribbons, tattered and shot with noise.

I sit in the cool arbour, in a green-and-gold twilight.
It is very still, for I cannot hear the trumpets,
I only know that they are red and open,
And that the sun above the arbour shakes with heat.
My quill is newly mended,
And makes fine-drawn lines with its point.
Down the long, white paper it makes little lines,
Just lines -- up -- down -- criss-cross.
My heart is strained out at the pin-point of my quill;
It is thin and writhing like the marks of the pen.
My hand marches to a squeaky tune,
It marches down the paper to a squealing of fifes.
My pen and the trumpet-flowers,
And Washington's armies away over the smoke-tree to the Southwest.
'Yankee Doodle,' my Darling! It is you against the British,
Marching in your ragged shoes to batter down King George.
What have you got in your hat? Not a feather, I wager.
Just a hay-straw, for it is the harvest you are fighting for.
Hay in your hat, and the whites of their eyes for a target!
Like Bunker Hill, two years ago, when I watched all day from the house-top
Through Father's spy-glass.
The red city, and the blue, bright water,
And puffs of smoke which you made.
Twenty miles away,
Round by Cambridge, or over the Neck,
But the smoke was white -- white!
To-day the trumpet-flowers are red -- red --
And I cannot see you fighting,
But old Mr. Dimond has fled to Canada,
And Myra sings 'Yankee Doodle' at her milking.
The red throats of the trumpets bray and clang in the sunshine,
And the smoke-tree puffs dun blossoms into the blue air.


The City of Falling Leaves

Leaves fall,
Brown leaves,
Yellow leaves streaked with brown.
They fall,
Fall again.
The brown leaves,
And the streaked yellow leaves,
Loosen on their branches
And drift slowly downwards.
One, two, three,
One, two, five.
All Venice is a falling of Autumn leaves --
And yellow streaked with brown.

'That sonnet, Abate,
I am quite exhausted by it.
Your phrases turn about my heart
And stifle me to swooning.
Open the window, I beg.
Lord! What a strumming of fiddles and mandolins!
'Tis really a shame to stop indoors.
Call my maid, or I will make you lace me yourself.
Fie, how hot it is, not a breath of air!
See how straight the leaves are falling.
Marianna, I will have the yellow satin caught up with silver fringe,
It peeps out delightfully from under a mantle.
Am I well painted to-day, 'caro Abate mio'?
You will be proud of me at the 'Ridotto', hey?
Proud of being 'Cavalier Servente' to such a lady?'
'Can you doubt it, 'Bellissima Contessa'?
A pinch more rouge on the right cheek,
And Venus herself shines less . . .'
'You bore me, Abate,
I vow I must change you!
A letter, Achmet?
Run and look out of the window, Abate.
I will read my letter in peace.'
The little black slave with the yellow satin turban
Gazes at his mistress with strained eyes.
His yellow turban and black skin
Are gorgeous -- barbaric.
The yellow satin dress with its silver flashings
Lies on a chair
Beside a black mantle and a black mask.
Yellow and black,
Gorgeous -- barbaric.
The lady reads her letter,
And the leaves drift slowly
Past the long windows.
'How silly you look, my dear Abate,
With that great brown leaf in your wig.
Pluck it off, I beg you,
Or I shall die of laughing.'

A yellow wall
Aflare in the sunlight,
Chequered with shadows,
Shadows of vine leaves,
Shadows of masks.
Masks coming, printing themselves for an instant,
Then passing on,
More masks always replacing them.
Masks with tricorns and rapiers sticking out behind
Pursuing masks with plumes and high heels,
The sunlight shining under their insteps.
One, two,
One, two, three,
There is a thronging of shadows on the hot wall,
Filigreed at the top with moving leaves.
Yellow sunlight and black shadows,
Yellow and black,
Gorgeous -- barbaric.
Two masks stand together,
And the shadow of a leaf falls through them,
Marking the wall where they are not.
From hat-tip to shoulder-tip,
From elbow to sword-hilt,
The leaf falls.
The shadows mingle,
Blur together,
Slide along the wall and disappear.
Gold of mosaics and candles,
And night blackness lurking in the ceiling beams.
Saint Mark's glitters with flames and reflections.
A cloak brushes aside,
And the yellow of satin
Licks out over the coloured inlays of the pavement.
Under the gold crucifixes
There is a meeting of hands
Reaching from black mantles.
Sighing embraces, bold investigations,
Hide in confessionals,
Sheltered by the shuffling of feet.
Gorgeous -- barbaric
In its mail of jewels and gold,
Saint Mark's looks down at the swarm of black masks;
And outside in the palace gardens brown leaves fall,
And yellow streaked with brown.

Blue-black, the sky over Venice,
With a pricking of yellow stars.
There is no moon,
And the waves push darkly against the prow
Of the gondola,
Coming from Malamocco
And streaming toward Venice.
It is black under the gondola hood,
But the yellow of a satin dress
Glares out like the eye of a watching tiger.
Yellow compassed about with darkness,
Yellow and black,
Gorgeous -- barbaric.
The boatman sings,
It is Tasso that he sings;
The lovers seek each other beneath their mantles,
And the gondola drifts over the lagoon, aslant to the coming dawn.
But at Malamocco in front,
In Venice behind,
Fall the leaves,
And yellow streaked with brown.
They fall,
saxophone  Apr 2014
saxophone Apr 2014
l'm like Venice,
every night ,
full of cheerful lanterns that boatmen carry.
l'm like Venice.
you're like the water that every midnight,
when all  the boatmen are asleep,
is awake and talks to me.
Rachel Talley Mar 2012
Strolling along in Venice
With a shopping cart as home
Traveling through the city’s streets
Not homeless alone.

“This is it, Jerry!”
Then a shot rang loud
Our shock was spoken
Then we looked around

Our shopping cart was stolen
Our little turned to none
With little arguing or discussion
The chase had now begun

Running through the streets of Venice
Without a shopping cart or home
Frenzy in the city’s streets
Shopping cart-less alone.
Written in 7th grade and recently rediscovered.

Copyright © Rachel Talley
Mateuš Conrad Mar 2016
she asked him: why did you leave Edinburgh? and he didn't reply, but upon thinking out his reply to a deaf ear: because i didn't come here for you; 'lona 'lona, whisper sometimes, and i'll give you a cat's whisker.*

i was in venice,
i drank absinthe the wrong
on a beach,
spent three nights in a hostel
with a bunch of girls,
took a hebrew girl
for a taste of tourism,
listened to the shofar
before i entered a synagogue
outlet extension reading
the 613 commandments
on a computer screen...
venice's pavement traffic and eating
pistachio gelato,
nothing much,
i still preferred the Gothic distancing
of Edinburgh's nights
where i could be with cold-hands
and warm heart inviting;
basically i don't like tourist basins,
or tourist wombs for that matter...
am i looking at something predictable?
yes, i am, a billion other sperms
will see the same thing
and perhaps write about it to insinuate
poetic ambitions - too clogged up
your thinking is to redeem yourself
in poetry - you're hardly dislodged
for the art - get a guitar and couplet it
for a star-riddled pop music hit,
go on, on your way, elbow push through
the queue... go on, on your way...
oh wait, you need clapping to spur
you on?
              here's my clapping onomatopoeia:
blah blah, blah blah, blah blah;
yes, i was in venice,
didn't really care to write much about it -
i actually didn't, just now,
a sobering memory,
not the type of memory that gets
you drunk...
well it's there, a bit like the Maldives,
and it drives the delusion
that global warming isn't creeping
about the place like Nosferatu.
as any tactician, of any sort, there must be
an introduction into what becomes and expansion
that lasts the entire length of the night,
a liter of whiskey requires a decent amount
of hours to be drank in,
              ensuring that any moth that flies into my
"ivory tower" can loiter for the night,
imploring it: you better not be pregnant
with your moth larvae, otherwise...
     i will have to catch you with my hand,
and release you back into the night...

                        so... an atypical drinking session
begins with a few side orders or
sharpshooters (mix of 3:1 whiskey to ginger
      and a few readings of, say,
                       i already mentioned:
           dasein is more than an event,
          to me it's the equivalent of a crucifix...
it's a word associated to an object,
        rather than a recurring subject...
                  after all...
                          to objectify,
to work wonders in the objective world,
one still cannot escapes being a subject...
   esp. if one becomes a subject of one's own
subject-ive              experience...
     it must be such a boring, lame,
***** almost realism of object-object
                        to­ have:
       but to be unable to appreciate...
                i own about two dozens of vinyls...
but i don't really, really own them...
yes, i "own" them in the sense:
         but they might also be stolen...
        but i appreciate them more than i own
              even if i "own" them,
and one day, do not...
        i owned something more than the object-reality
of the object per se,
       i appreciated them...
the ritual of the needle and the initial
scratching before the music would begin...
plus, not even a CD and esp. not
an MP3 file can give you the sort of ground
gravitational pull toward something
so physically exposing as...
   a... water-mill effect...

i digress...
              of all the three pillars of the mind:
          memory and imagination?
i appreciate memory the most...
          you really know you have lived
a reasonably good life
   if your memory faculty is overtly present...
when you remember so much
of your, however mediocre / unspectacular
           thinking can become scrambled,
you have to sometimes associate yourself
to writing when thinking is concerned...
no wonder so many philosophers after
socrates didn't have the patience to
resort to dialectics,
     to talk...
                     at least writing gives one
the capacity to organize, or rather...
devise plans for the labyrinth...

      imagination? plagued by images...
  i do not appreciate conjuring images in my mind,
thinking up dragons and demons...
imagination clouds the mind,
and the ability to concentrate on the skeleton
of man:
plus, imagination promises and does conjure,
sketches of what an actual reality could
somehow provide...
    i'm not here, bothered about the nature
of "reality", i'll leave that whimsical notion
to english speaking physicists and neurologists...
but imagination clouds the pristine vision
of looking into the abyss,
   and by that, i also imply: looking through
the abyss back onto this world...

and should you think there's anything
profound about that statement?
there isn't...
         but memory...
     to be able to reclaim memory...
    to not seek relief / exodus / escape by
means of the imagination?
     i, frankly, would rather reclaim
the faculty of memory, above all else...
before it was stolen by the indocrination rubircs
of pedagogy...
before schooling set in...
     before, my years from the age of 8
through to the age of 21,
   the faculty of memory was made circumstanced
to "entertain" the bogus threats from
the education system...
             calculus: hardly used in everyday life...
you name it...
           what was the point of discussing
the ethics of abortion to children aged 15?
to scare them, if anything...
  euthanasia discussed aged 15? really?
the moral judgement regarding
   th "right" from the "wrong" was already
settled in the catholic school dogma...
maybe that's why i didn't want the seal
of being confirmed...
   what confirmation name would i have
  at first i thought i would have chosen
Michael, as i made my not-to-be-"hope"
of a church wedding...
                 i would have settled on Lothar...
which would fit nicely with my already
second name, Conrad...
maybe even Otto... and dropped the hebrew
name Matthew...
          sure... reading heidegger...
like all philosophy: there's the reading
of a reflective prose, with the immediacy
of a reflexive poetics...
like the ancients: not confined to high school
curriculum of standard poetics:
rhyme and the etc. of techniques...
narrative: pure and simple...
              like when heidegger writes about
war (polemic / πoλεμoς)...
                 truth about either war,
or, peace (dialectic) is to chose between
what deserves our attention:
   either being (per se) - or beings...
                 and being (per se) isn't even relegated
to a subjugation to the self...
  a self-improvement, a self-help guru
                   it's what the stoic doctor ordered...
there seems to be no fluidity with
an overt-association to a self,
                     self-worth is not exactly
akin to: the worth of being, is it?

        again: coming back to celebrating the faculty
of memory, above thought,
and certainly above imagination...
after all, i remember a period in my life
where i would have celebrated thinking per se
to be above memory and imagination,
when i attained some sort of synch.
   of a lived life of experiences,
that coincided with an equally fruitful
experience of thought that coincided with
the lived life...
            but not since a fateful event...
where memory became elevated above thinking...

so, memory? i have this one particular memory,
i was visiting Venice,
stayed in a hostel with about 15 women,
which, at times felt more intimidating
than sitting in a brothel with 9 bulgarian
prostitutes who i asked: one of you choose me,
one replied that i was not supposed to ask
them to choose, that they indeed were to be chosen,
so i said to her 'you talk a lot, you'll do!'
argentinian, australian girls, a swedish woman,
and two h'american girls...
leigh... and i can't remember the other girl's
name... visiting europe like any
h'american pair might do,
revising the ***** dancing stereotype of
finding "lost heritage"...
all over italy...

              the hostel was run by a h'american
girl and a h'americana boy...
first night? 15 women,
and you're the only man...
and one of them drops a bombshell:
well, as someone as handsome as you...
we took a group trip, via a ferry
to the Venice beach...
  we drank absinthe shots...
   don't ask me how,
but drunks have this GPS system built
into them when drunk... like bees...
i stumbled back to the hostel, alone,
on the ferry, and had a decent night of nod...
me, first time in Venice...
just like me stumbling back to
the hostel in Athens walking from
a strip-club... after having my fill
of smothering two strippers' bosoms...
having ****** my trousers prior,
tantalized by the fact that i was escorted
by a gorilla of a bouncer to the nearest
cash machine... since i ran out of money...
and then sneaking out of the hotel
that had a cash machine...
  first time in Athens... 5 ******* miles...
i made it back to the hostel...

i don't get it... drunks and in-built GPS...
navigated Venice, navigated Athens...
bee in me...

second day in Venice?
         of course... an argument between
the girls... leigh, the jewish girl wanted
to sight-see...
   a bunch of girls ganged up on her...
even her friend...
            so i said...
             well... **** me... if Solomon decided
to settle for the queen of sheba...
between me herding this quasi-tourist harem
of a bunch of australian girls...
   the argentinian etc.,
and this one h'american jewish girl leigh?
so i said: i'll do with you.

                      the numbers looked at me
like frankenstein jr.,
                        oh we had a hell of a time...
a few museums, getting lost in the Venetian
labyrinths, talked and talked...
explored the many flavours of gelato...
i think, i think i had the famous pistachio...
she had the capuccino in st. mark's sq.,
   and then she wanted to show me
the famous Venetian synagogue...
   so sure, we went there,
      but when we got there, it was closing...
boy, she was ******* that she couldn't
allow me to see it...
   instead... we saw the last tourist party
   and we huddled with some orthodox
           one had a miniature shofar on him,
i told him to blow it, he blew it...
then i sat in a jewish cafe,
finding about the existence of the 613...
             i wrote some of them down...
and then the weirdest ******* thing happened...
leigh started freaking out...
she was in such a hurry...
        she said she needed to get back,
she needed to get back...
          hell... she even paid of a Venetian taxi,
and Venetian taxis are not cheap,
motorboats on these rat canal aren't cheap...
i wanted to pay half the share...
she didn't want my money...
   next thing i know... she was booking
a flight out of Italy and on her way home...
she and her friend had still planned
another month touring Italy...
  phoom! off she went,
   then the quasi-tourist-harem of girls
came back from their day out...
leigh's friend inquired:
- where's leigh?
- oh, she decided to go home.
                   the next two days were weird...
it's not like i even pulled a ted bundy fast one...
but i remember the h'american girl
running the hostel...
  i ate the most amazing burgers which
she prepared... as if...
i staged some sort of neo-**** scare tactic
on poor leigh...
                rarely does a girl,
who planned this whole summer trip
with her friend, from h'america, all the way
to Europe... decide, on a whim...
to bail...

             Venice... oddly enough i was
not mesmerized...
           Stochholm didn't impress me either...
Amsterdam was just a cafe segment
and the chance to escape police-state
paranoia of England when i still smoked
marijuana... oh... and that one Dutch girl
who turned her head as she rode past me...
Cracow was a... eh... third time i went there?
just a transit point... London is too familiar...
Warsaw: again, transit hub...
Athens: squalor...
only two cities on this earth gave me
                 inspiration: Paris and Edinburgh...
mind you, Macedonia, amazing coach trip...
Belgrade looked stunning, imposing even,
during winter, seemingly a city on a hill...
on the flat-plains of Serbia...
but you need the snow,
   and ******* into it... and shaking from the cold,
because you're under-attired for the trip...

Katowice: but only at night.

   - and that is why i posit memory to
be superior to thinking these days,
  esp. imagination as a mental faculty...
memory has become a cinema to me...
        no wonder i'm bored with movies
these days...
         memory has become a form
of cinema for me...
            sure... it's not much...
but you can work around the "not much"
by fusing all the minor,
"insignificat" details of "skimming"
the narrative...
                       and thank god:
               i'm only given a cameo in all of it...
i'm not an over-bloated stage
actor with a protagonist role...
      in my cinema...
        i'm always the cameo!
                it's so liberating to have lived
a life that doesn't leave one feeling
                         it's hardly petty heroism...
but sure as ****...
     it's worth rememebering things
you can never be ashamed of.
Ali A  Oct 2013
in venice
Ali A Oct 2013
when i think of venice:

i think of the branzino al forno
we had at the restaurant;
where we giggled over the
young olive-skinned waiter.

i think of another afternoon:
we went to that wet market,
me in my only dress and you in your brand new sandals;
i had forgotten my film and
you had purchased one too many langostines

most of all when i remember venice:
i remember the firemen
racing down the canal
in their speedboats,
and on that day i asked you
if the canal was deep enough
for me to jump into
because that day
when i left the city,
the siren blaring behind us,
i wasn't thinking about anything
but the summer's day heat
and how:
there was no escaping it all.
still not satisfied with this poem. will come back to it again.
mar  Jun 2016
mar Jun 2016
Soon I'll be far away again
the lapping shores the only thing keeping me from you
but you should know that I would swim oceans for you
even if it was just to see a glimpse of those blue mischievous  eyes
always the most beautiful in the setting city sun
How will I live knowing I won't awake with you entwined around me?

Where do the hours go?
With you I'm always losing track of time
I'm at your whim
Have I ever told you that I'm crazy?
That I'm a little bit deranged?

I'm losing my mind
It's something about the way you laugh at stupid things
and make jokes just to hear a room beat with laughter
Your voice turns to a hum when I look at you sometimes
realizations like lighting striking me when you fall asleep
arm across my stomach like you're afraid I'll leave
because I've told you before how I learned from my mother how to run
and I'd been doing it ever since I realized boys stared at my waist
not ever listening to my words as I try to explain myself
****** hands hidden behind my back like a broken vase

My father told me that I was too beautiful for my own good
eyes alive  like the sky  at dawn the first morning you didn't sleep
hair wild as I slow down to look at the view
and he always got angry when I did that
stopped dead to stare at the fading pink light of a day coming to an end
You don't get angry
you  just stop and look at me with the same gaze I give that setting sun
and I swear
out of the corner of my misted eyes I see you smile
run your fingers through your hair as you wonder what I'm thinking
and I've always been afraid
afraid  that in the moments I spend with you that you realize
that you see that I'm thinking of one thing only
and I stare at the street lamps far below a little longer
tempting you to find out how much I really love you
to come closer and ask me what runs through my aching heart
but you  keep your distance
I wonder if you just know that later when my speech is clouded I'll say it
as I always do in the early hours of the morning
smoking out my deepest secret like trying to coax a ghost

I wish your lips weren't so protective
holding in lovesick notes even when drinking the clearest false securities
and she wants us to go far away
and when you express how fond you are of her company she looks down
everyday I see her I realize how similar we are
twin stories of mismatched fears and wanderlust
does she know about the way I claw at your skin as if looking for a way in
bruised ribcage under lust stained sheets
she used to eye me like I was a panther inching closer
irises daring her kin to set me off
but I'm no time bomb
and I think she sees that now

I'll always remember the time I realized I loved you
the first time, at least
it was too quick to know
and I was far too invested as you watched me glare at you past branches
only to fall asleep with my hair tangled in your fingers hours later
does time pass differently to you when I'm asleep next to your waist?
fluttering eylashes onto your knees like tiny dancers
I wonder if you ever notice the soft skin peaking under my shirt and sigh
thinking about how you'd long to slowly take off my clothes in the dark
teeth hitting bare skin of my collarbone as if I'm prey you've finally caught

I think of endings a year in advance
I always have, as if everything is terminal the second I say "I love you"
maybe that's why I don't say it
maybe I just assume with every lost memory I discover like a shipwreck
and ever passing whisper I recall
you see how entranced I am
my whole existence has bits of you like gems within it
or possibly they all encompassed you already
and the paint hadn't chipped enough to reveal you yet

When you're sad you sing songs to me about Venice
and the way your mother used to wear her hair to her shoulders
orange milky light stained every window like melted gelato
and you wondered if you'd ever find a girl who's heart was Murano
all lit up in the night like a summer sweet dream
when the air is hot and everyone's cheeks are a little red
their hair curly from the salty spray of the sea
you'd mark her neck until it looked winestained

but you appear  so sad when you tell me these stories
a faraway look in your vacant mind

I could be your merlot skinned girl
I can have eyes like the italian hills
rolling into the horizon
always having you search for the tallest one
Let me be your Venice
Let me be your home

— The End —