Sirens thrill along mute canals near midnight.
I count the required sixteen for flood warning.
Water laps intimate under the window at Hotel Tre Archi
swelling across cobbled fondamenta beneath.
I watch from the second floor, knowing others
hoist quickly their chairs to the ceiling
elsewhere in ground floor rooms.
The sea is making inroads across islands of disbelief.
Lovers drink from each others lips
between sparse street lamps,
feet soaked in salt.
Here I am only lost walking, never on the water.
Hail came suddenly in the afternoon,
lightning jolting the boat from Murano
shattering talk and the bare uplifted faces.
I remember your eyes.
I drink wine from a jug: ruby-red, fat and round, the taste.
Your kisses still stroll across my tongue with it
though you are oceans away.
Every filigree of connection the body makes from lips
– around a breast, along a thigh –
shiver down deep, inside fig-pink memory.
Masks are hanging from the walls
crowding windows of small shops
in the market off Canale di Cannaregio.
Silver and peacock-blue, raven-black and scarlet,
their shape-shifting visages await the gift of sight
we alone can position there.
Here is the place to lose myself.
One step inside this face of gold: all children left behind, all worries,
and the dent of daily life in the goblet of fancy evades recognition
along with the name, the obligation of returning.
Sheathed with disguise, it is free.
I could do anything here.
Venice is an old lover still wet with longing
her body unashamed,
everywhere bridges over a maze of aqueous veins,
the map of love’s capillaries
with some dead-ends, some narrow ways,
some bridges a gondola can only pass under
if I lean heavily to one side
while the boatman dances his oar
against the wooden rollick.
You have to pay.
Venice is sinking, but slowly enough.
Gates can be erected to block the hungry tide that
surges, purling courtship between water and stone.
Sea comes for me tonight.
Maybe it carries our breath from the lake near your door;
rain off our shoulders in Fahy’s Wood at Bealtaine;
dew from your purple tulips and uncut meadowsweet.
Images of you clutter my mind’s alleyways,
slip like shadows between corner and canal.
They rouse longing in a city of water and glass,
liquid cold, fluid hot.
Caravaggio-dark, skies were sanguineous at sunset.
Now mist inside shutters
shrouds the Venetian glitter of light splayed on walls
from red and blue buds
in the Murano chandelier.
Tonight is full moon.
A mist of rain rings her wide-eyed light,
a single beam down the smudged waterway.
If only this small light
or this dark night
or the sea’s impatient working
at the foundations of this old wall,
could prise ajar the future
and you are there on a shore somewhere,
This is a city of indulgence, and
I’d pay the boatman twice,
if he’d bring you.
Fahy’s Wood is pronounced Fah- hee’s in Irish.
Bealtaine: (pron, bal-tin-uh) old Celtic festival on May Day, the coming of summer and the light.
From Robyn Rowland, Seasons of doubt & burning. New & selected Poems, Five Islands Press, 2010)
We were fortunate enough to have Robyn Rowland read at the Word Tree - a spoken word event run on the first Saturday of every month at the Burrinjah Cafe, Burrinja Community Centre, Upwey. It was a wonderful reading. So, if you missed it - here's a taste of what you missed.
The Word Tree flowers again this Saturday March 5th - Burrinjah Cafe, cnr. of Matson and Glenfern, Upwey. Featuring Ross Donlon and Ross Gillett. Limited Open Section. 3.00 - 5.00 pm. $3/5.