Letter from North Carolina


Once we went to Venice,
a lifetime ago,
and stayed in a room
on the Grand Canal.
It was hotter than we expected
and dirtier, too,
but it was Venice.

Tonight there's Venice on tv,
shimmering still
though a sad story of decay,
of sinking toward a muddy doom
which even then we knew of.

Tonight we remember the Bridge of Sighs,
the Doges' palaces, and dungeons,
that curious mix of opulence
and intrigue, the cynical use of power.

Floods of pigeons rose daily from
St. Mark's Square, soaring startled.

Every afternoon we lay in the sweet sweat
of September, later picked our way seeking
supper through Venetian streets of water,
heads full of what poets and painters
had told us.

O, who can know Venice?

We know the fire that burns here on our hearth
and in the backyard the camellia bush
full of pale pink December blooms.