Old stone, flat and cold,
Solid as steel beneath my feet. Jesolo.
Concrete miles line this beachy isle
That sits, shallow – across the sea.
I reach the shore and can feel her:
A siren call. That sacred hive over yonder,
Where glass and sky and mist
All rise – to crown the jewel,
That mystery plane.
That wicked place;
So fair, so bright – with stilted roots
Digging deep inside
A scattering of tiny islands,
Where now tourists raid and colonise,
every day, every night…
And yet are none too wise
To what our gloried star really hides?
Empirical history – dodgy Doges,
Torture, theft, rape, plague, or lies?
What sacrifice lives inside and fortifies
Those gabled walls? Those marble halls.
A Romantic city. A shell of former times.
Such beauty stands, like staggered, arched
and gilded hands – surrounding ancient reliquary.
But perfect painted muralled doors
Show nothing of the crimes before,
Of boats that moored, the wars there fought,
A majesty paid, staked, staged or bought
– like golden coins, poured;
Channeled deep into the murky waters.
A drowned world. A drowned horde.
Can truly no-one hear the streets that talk?
The fishermen, dogs, the tools, the nets,
The marketplace, waste, the gabble – the squawk
Of hooded crows – bent hooks, sharp lines,
Hordes and hordes of squinted eyes,
Sharpened knives, yellowed teeth, butchered pork
and hammered beef. A blood-stained reef…
Can no-one see the ghosts who walk?
A Golden city
– painted bright but rusted to the core.
Silently it lies in paradise;
Invisibly it holds a torch.
A secret city – shy to most.
But to my eyes these flooded isles
Hold many an ancient host…
Jesolo, Venezia, Septemeber 2014.