among all the turns not taken
and the stream of visitors
drags you back in
through shoals of souvenirs and surfaces,
till you’re washed up
in the shallows around St Marco’s,
where pigeons change the paving to swirl and eddy,
grey over grey.
The storm that blew
the morning vaporettos from the Grand Canal
has worn itself out. Sunlight lacquers the marble and the stone.
into an alley that trickles between canals
and takes you here, to a stillness
you didn’t want.
You wander over wooden bridges,
past wider water,
past the Jewish places, where the sense of ghetto
first came among us;
to Cannaregio, with its spaces half square and alley, its blanched days,
washing hung high between windows
like flags held up in surrender,
and a church as plain
as the people we are, a church for the few
who want the earth.
The lagoon to Murano
is laid out like sheet metal,
the islands welded to it;
the islands that didn’t quite make it, islands still islands,
without the balance,
the culture and the commerce
pirouetting on poles
rammed among mud and sand,
the stones of an empire that surged across oceans,
that drowned the world
and drew back
into style. Above you, seagulls unravel. The day fades. Another turn.
© John Foulcher