Two Poems

 

MY GRAND CANAL

 

I.

This, for the overwritten city,

for the sheen of its domes above waterline

viewed at night from the vaporetto—at least at night,

for the rise in the throat, the longing

always present, but not to be addressed

by the cynic, this, the ache for an ethics of wonder,

thread between numinous threads, now waters,

now burnished light, yet harmonious

before suffering—insufficient, sentimental,

smacking of sentiment at least, with its question of what

is to be repaired, is there something to repair?

 

II.

This for the syllabaries. Wordsworth’s

Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee,”

O art, eliding a darker history,

city that coined the word “ghetto.”

But the gold-lit domes, oro, ore, as in shimmer,

as in sweet vocables he “sighed his soul toward,”

sweet uplift out of those histories.

How is one prepared for this?

Hath not a tourist ears? Hath not a tourist eyes?

Betimes, this plinth of desires, its concatenations of simulacra.

 

III.

Old Ez, entombed on San Michele,

you can be redeemed,

but outside of time

when the verse will be read as cut

beyond the right and wrong of it.

Can this be allowed, this conciliation

as little miracles are allowed

their utterance?

 

IV.

And there betimes, baroque San Moisè,

Moses and his Law honored, not in horned marble,

but on Meyring’s altar piece, where on Mount Sinai

he receives the Tablets. Old Testament prophets—

their voices interrupt chronology—

their graven images blent into divine illuminations.

Onsweep. O blind mores, the Grand Canal flows out

toward that isle of the dead.

 

V.

Benefice in wonder. Almost sunset.

San Marco and its lions dissolve

in briny air, imagined space, imagined sound.

MJQ, Milt Jackson’s vibes, Connie Kay’s brush on cymbals,

The Golden Striker, to-be-figured sun of No Sun In Venice.

Only the dumbstruck find miracle

without context, which is why the notes remind me

that along canal’s byways, in the small churches

Titian and Carpaccio deliquesce—

O Western candles—

to be in love with their tapering.

And I am borne by a watery light

that flows us toward the now,

only to disappear among the eons,

matter, gravity, holding in the currents

as though we were each an offering.

 

 

REVANCHE DUSK

 

Who likes dusk?
We should be wary of dusk,
when eyesight goes a little blurry.
 
The children have no fear
when the sun is almost set
and a little bird comes.
 
Is it the poet’s bird,
left the rock for the sill,
chirps in at the room?
 
I remember I asked
about the bird that came
to my dead parents’ window.
 
We should not be overjoyed
that dusk has come;
we should be reminded
 
of the irony.
I won’t ask
any more what is outside
 
the window or what
the little bird brings,
singing in the dusk.