No disease, or death here, or Constellation of the Guitar;

no sleep of second childhood.[1]

This intensive care is as orderly

as a circus in which all are acrobats.


The tumbling fills hands and air.

Can the sober matron follow the tottering

velvet hat through the tall crowd?

The city, stilled and digitised, reappears in a solemn wraith.


The March sky huddles around a Greek tanker,

an afternoon emulsion, trapping the air.

One-legged cranes, as they do everywhere,

cluster around the city’s graves


to observe the birth of an old city.

The orderly sausage-meat crowds percolate

through hoops, a dance of the enzymes.

The clowns pose weeping skulls in a caper


of scarves, curved gowns and flying hands.

Commuting daily from affordable Trevino,

the striped waterboatmen nevertheless

observe all the rules of theatre.


The eyes of tourists, craven with thirst, drink up

any excess of the blue-green waves drifting below.

The purposeful progress turns out once again

to be equilibrium maintained.


No dead, ghost-red child appears to lure

the grief-stricken to a water fate.[2]

Even Byron has outlived his dole;

he waves as the cameras putter past.


The stones have long outfaced

their Victorian doomsday sermons.[3]

Today the circles of talk are anonymous, civic,

municipal, international; they stir


no bulrushes with premonitions

of the death of Wagner.[4] This is the cradle, Venice,

which outlives and outwearies all its fugitives,

where the pen lies under the hand.

[1] Mann, Pasternak, Durrell.

[2] ‘Don’t Look Now’ dir. Roeg, 1974.

[3] Ruskin.

[4] Franz Liszt.