La Bella Serenissima

by angeliska on September 17, 2003

“L’om po far e die in pensar – E vega quelo che gli po inchontar”
-Venetian vernacular approximately translated as,
“Let man do and say as he pleases, and see what happens to him..”
Last afternoon in La Bella Serenissima..
Our train pulls out for Ravenna via Ferrara
at some ungodly early hour, egads..
From the depths of the fissure
an alluring Chimaera was rising..
I am undone by this place.
The Accademia, its ceiling covered with
the solemn faces of many-winged angels,
silver strands connecting each to each
as in the celestial firmament fretted..
I had not enough time there, my satchel
plucked from me at the door so I could not
sketch the strange wonders I saw there-
The Great Whore of Babylon, astride her beast,
a goat-like hydra, and her with her smile and chalice..
All the works from the Apocalypse, truly terrifying
the dead rising out of the river, hanging skin and holding bibles..
The sanguine lamb with seven eyes and seven horns,
the four harbingers, all covered with a multitude of eyes..
Tarrochi and tortoise-shell hair combs keep company
alongside alembics and other alchemical tools in the Correr.
The library there with case after case
of the most marvelous illuminated manuscripts I have ever seen.
And a requisite trip to the Guggenheim here to see
my dear, dear old lovely Mister Cornell, my lost friend..
Oh his miraculous boxes!
The fortune-telling parrot, a stuffed African Grey
and his whimsical victorian divinatory device..
My favorite, A Setting for a Fairy Tale..
Rows of glass bottles filled with powdered lapis lazuli,
feathers, gears, bits of map, theater tickets and other detritus..
(Insert massive sigh here)
I’ve been dreaming of children, toddling through fallow orchards
with a giant red apple cart, howling with wolves
as the marsh lights appear and the hazy sun fades..
And the rainy night escape from the hospital,
my brother there, unwashed and mad in a heap
of bedding and clothing, in the closed off wing-
The Involuntary Ward..
I’m doing covert research,
in a locked room my papers are spread out
on the floor in a circle around me,
I’m taking names, making lists-
Is this the Kingdom or just my mind?
There is an infant, a little girl who I watch die
as the operation fails- her tiny face crumpling
like a rotting fruit, turning black and fetid..
I wake as her heart gives out.
So sayeth Death, the world is mine.
Incidentally, I’m reading The Abyss, a wonderful book
by Marguerite Yourcenar, author of The Memoirs of Hadrian
which I also reccomend. If plague and alchemy interest you,
you should find this much to your liking.
I found it falling apart in the hotel lobby in Vienna,
and decided it must accompany me on my journey,
excellent travel reading that it is..
Now I head back to that fantastic restaurant
for a last dinner, mayhap a gondola ride,
and bid adieu to Venezia, city of masks
of water and glass, of bookbinders and silk stalls,
this outpost of heaven in earthly guise..

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