A black iron key for Mrs. Hunter, who collected keys.
Photographs she considered vulgar.
Keys from China, Istanbul, Cairo
In a house in New Jersey.
My father made paintings of her keys.
In the Campo Santa Marguerita I bought a key.
On the ceiling of her bedroom
He painted a map of the world.
Cross the Canonica, then walk straight as you can.
You’ll pass the Palazzo Priuli,
The one with the windows you like.
Bear right at Da Remigio. Remember?
We ate sea bass there in 1981.
You could see the Carpaccios again
But if it’s twilight, go all the way to the riva,
The little house given to Petrarch in exchange for his books.
Often I fall asleep at night imagining this walk.
Hills, valleys, rivers, woods, fields—
If you can see the arsenal
You’ve gone too far.
Each morning when she passed
Through Campo Santa Marguerita
Her clothing made her body visible.
For whom she returned
We knew, but we remembered Ascalaphus.
But for him, nobody saw Persephone eat the seeds.
Ascalaphus became a screech owl, harbinger of woe,
But to me, the sound of him descending
From the arsenal at night is like a nylon zipper.
But for Ascalaphus, nobody saw
How she deceived her
Lover and her mother at once.
Above us Tiepolo’s Peace and Justice,
An Egyptian mummy at our feet.
Inside an ivory sphere incised with the life of Jesus
Ten more concentric hollow spheres.
The book from which Lord Byron learned Armenian.
The mummy’s brain and teeth laid out on pillows beside its head.
Because they are useless: what the guide says
First in Italian, then English, then French,
When asked why a monk spent
Half a century carving the spheres.
I don’t remember Pensione San Gallo
Though I circled it on the map. I remember
A little round table, the ornately carved bar.
January, the island deserted, snow dissolving in the dark canal—
The waitress who recognized our love.
Trattoria da Mario on the Calle del Mondo Novo, still there.
The expression on her face as she placed the two
Round glasses of grappa on the table cloth.
Bat-like, out of the caverns of earth,
The bones gather and the clay heaps heave,
Rattling into half-kneaded anatomies that
Crawl, that startle, their eyes
Blinded by the white light of heaven
ntil the four winds bear their bodies
Upward to the judgment-seat.
The firmament is full of them:
A dust of human souls soaring higher, higher still,
Borne up by the powers invisible,
Then hurled in countless drifts
Before the breath of their condemnation.
Pound: “Will I ever see the Giudecca again?”
Byron: “Music meets not always now the ear.”
Tintoretto’s Last Judgment in Madonna dell’Orto:
The resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.
The lights of the Giudecca are prettiest in winter.
Venetians murmur because they’re never really outside.
Mann: “The soundless voyage.”
Ruskin: “The Renaissance frost.”
I caught myself in the mirror.
A hand reached up to touch my cheek.
I knew then I would die like Enkidu,
No one to accompany me, no comrade, lover, child.
The mirror was framed with pale glass roses, tiny lights:
On Murano someone made them,
Clipped, then bent the petals,
Rolled the molten bubble in the canes—
I pretended the hand was yours.
What made me put it there?
A sheikh’s robe pressed under glass,
A shower curtain embroidered with pagodas,
The day bed where she sat, eyes closed,
As I pressed the key in her palm—
Snow on the Zattere, conch shells on the Lido,
The grocery boat at San Barnaba,
The marble grape leaf shimmering above drunken Noah’s head,
Shem looking away—I remember
Missing the night train to Rome,
Sleeping in the Campo Santa Marguerita,
The market twenty-five years later:
Confetti between the cobblestones, our daughters
Disappearing in the fog, wearing masks—
Because I wanted to be seen
I made sentences,
I arranged them in lines.
The oldest door: the door-knocker
Shaped like a dolphin.