In Venice by Gloria Nixon-John

In Venice (a prose poem)

It is raining in Venice, and I am alone.  The empty gondolas bob; their lacquered bodies

collide and groan.  The rain falls in a staccato rhythm, and I hear my father’s mandolin.  One of the many cats of Venice sits on my window sill.  He says, “meow.” I think, Ciao. Even the cats speak Italian here.

Yesterday, in a café near San Marco, when Carmine saw the bill for our drinks, he taught me the word for “thief.”  “Ladro ladra,” he said, his tongue rolling the “r” like bubbles breaking the surface.  I tried the words, but the sound I made is like a poorly executed shuffling of a deck of cards.

Always the American, I challenged him too. “Thief,” I told him.  “Th—ee-ff”, I said. “Close the words at the end. First, there is a breeze, then a ride of vowels. Think of the final sound as a sort of protest, a tickle of air over your bottom lip, gentle but final.”

He tried the word: “Teefah. Allora, I can no stopah with effah.”

We laughed until there were tears, a laugh that came from a holding, lifting, opening place. A place of no words.

It is raining in Venice, and I am now alone.  The whole world of words becomes vapor, and what matters is that the “O” of moon has been sinking for two thousand years.


Practicing Verbs at the Tomb of Michelangelo

I consider the conjugation

of to be, to have, essere, avere

someday I will be dead

but Michelangelo has death.

death lives with him

just as marble weeps

and the ages gnash their teeth.

My Florentine cousin asks,

“Do you know Michelangelo?”

He thinks of my spinning

In the Sears Tower, shopping

at The Mall of America,

driving a big machine.

When he notices my tears

afraid he has insulted me

he gasps, as if to remove

his words from the air,

his face the Centaur

in Pallade e il Centauro.

For a moment, I want out

of my flesh— this life

want to be a cool shapeless

substance in the hands

of Michelangelo.

Instead, I say, essere, avere

at the tomb of Michelangelo

BIO: Gloria has published poetry, fiction, essays, pedagogical articles and chapters in small and mainstream presses including Apogee, Clover, Dunes Review, English Journal, Panoply, River Teeth, Wanderlust Journal, A3 Maps and Literature, Bangalore, to name a few. Her novel, The Killing Jar, the story of one of the youngest Americans to serve on death row, was published in 2012 and her Memoir, Learning From Lady Chatterley, written in narrative verse, was published in 2015. Her poetry chapbook is soon to be published by The Moonstone Art Center. Gloria lives with her horses, dogs, cats and husband, Mike in Oxford, Michigan where they are also visited by abundant wildlife.

Photo of Florence, Italy Uffizi Musuem. 

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