San Marco, deserted square at the edge
of lightless tunnels. Zone swept clean of pigeons.
No wings spinning through pinnacles. Only blank
viridian sky, swivel of a streetlamp, its shadow dialing
in an arc of blue with no crowd
to stipple it, ripping the ground.
Before we left for Venice, in the gap
between dense violet dreams, I found myself
wandering the night until I found San Marco,
like stepping into a jewel cut from caves
that had kept me hunching forward,
wondering how death would end.
San Marco glittering by water, others
before me walking in a ring from square
to square, staving off interference, eyeing
everywhere for gondola collisions,
bottlenecks of crocodiles, thieves
that would abscond with such magnificence.
Dreams were more accurate than the reality.
Even that late in the season, certain cooks
confirmed: Too many shadows,
like aspic labyrinths on dinner plates
after the guests in their jewels had left.
Darkness emptying into vacant space,
Charon poling behind, just out of reach
in the musings of a strolling surrealist painter,
fluffing birds and flaneurs all gone:
Only dark arcades, an empty cart,
the girl with the hoop running toward
the cut-black figure with his arm stretched out.
No longer a night girl whispering
escapades on the S train, she shimmied in black
fishnets, traipsing, instead, the beach.
Pervy bluestocking turned Sicilian
sports black-boomerang brows
over ovaline eyes imported from the hotel ceiling.
Lovely enough to bring down a fortress, she arrests
an officer in midstride
outside the Palazzo Publico. As he extends
directions—Who asked you anyway, she word-
lessly blurts, a purseless ragazza in a string
bikini searching out a lover in the crowd.
On the pigeon-speckled edge of her business,
this cop's just a scrap of piazza
barely jotted by the mix of nerves
behind her contacts. She's an open
book in a language he doesn't speak.
The next man who takes her from behind stands
for love for a quarter-hour on the fringe
of her listening. Like the one who stood
her up, even the cathedral on this street
is in need of an interior answer. A single beam
transfixes the dimness, buckles and dies
along gold-arched mosaics. On the gold mid-
day beach, the pearly oyster in the velvet crack between
her thighs closed just like any muscle in the cluster
the fisherman was wresting from his big black nets.