maggie emmett

January 16, 2015 Comments Off on maggie emmett

Winter in Venezia

I catch the rapido train from Milano and edge slowly westward through the stops and starts of frozen points and village stations. The heating fails and an offer of warmer seats in another compartment. I decide to stay here. I put on my coat, scarf, hat and gloves and sit alone. In my grieving time, I feel closer to the cold world outside as it moves past me, intermittently. Falling snow in window-framed landscapes.

sky gun metal grey
shot through
with sunset ribbons

Dusk eases into black-cornered night. After Maghera, the train seems to race to the sea. It rumbles onto the Ponte della Ferrovia, stretching out across the Laguna Veneta. Suddenly, a jonquil circle moon pulls the winter clouds back and shines a lemony silver torch across the inky waters. Crazed and cracked sheets of ice lie across the depthless lagoon. The train slows again and slides into Santa Lucia. I walk into the night.

bleak midwinter
sea-iced night wind
bites bitter

No. 2 Diretto winding down the Canal Grande. The foggy night muffles the guttural throb of the engine and turns mundane sounds into mysteries. Through the window of the vaporetto stop, the lights of Piazza San Marco are an empty auditorium of an opera house. Walking to Corte Barozzi, I hear the doleful tolling of midnight bells; the slapping of water and the chink-chink of the gondolas’ mooring chains. Faraway a busker sings Orfeo lamenting his lost Eurydice, left in Hades. I wake to La Serenissima, bejewelled.

weak winter sunshine
Istrian stone walls
flushed rosy

Rooftops glowing. Sun streaming golden between the neck and wings of the masted Lion. Mist has lifted, the sky cloudless; I look across the sparkling Guidecca canal and beyond to the shimmering horizon.

molten mud
bittersweetness demi-tasse
florian’s hot chocolate

I walk the maze of streets, squares and bridges; passing marble well-heads and fountains, places of assignation. I walk on stones sculpted by hands, feet and the breath of the sea. Secrets and melancholy are cast in these stones.

At Fondamente Nuove, I take Vaporetto no.41 to Cimitero. We chug across the laguna, arriving at the western wall of San Michele. I thread through the dead, along pathways and between gravestones. At the furthest end of the Cemetery island, Vera and Igor Stravinsky lie in parallel graves like two single beds in an hotel room. Names at the head, a simple cross at the foot of the white stone slab. Nearby, his flamboyant mentor Serge Diaghalev. His grave, a gothic birdbath for ravens, has a Russian inscription; straggly pink carnations, a red votive candle and a pair of ragged ballet shoes with flounces of black and aquamarine tulle tied to their the ribbons. So many dead in mausoleums; demure plots; curious walled filing cabinets, marble drawer ossuaries.

bare, whispering Poplars
swaying swirling shadows
graves rest beneath

I walk to the other end of the island and frame Venezia in the central arch of the Byzantine gateway. I see that sketchy horizontal strip of rusty brick, with strong
verticals of campaniles and domes. It is here, before 4 o’clock closing time, I throw
your ashes to the sea and run to catch the last boat.

beacon light orange
glittering ripples
on the dove grey lagoon

© M.L.Emmett First published in New Poets 14: Snatching Time, 2007, Wakefield Press, Kent Town SA.

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