A soul something
tugged me to Venice
I felt that if I failed
to walk the calles
of that city built on
sea, I would shrivel
my blood must run
like a grand canal
through the heart.
So surprised I ought
not to have been
when the guide for
the Doge’s dungeon
pointed to writing on
the wall scrawled
by the prison’s last
my name.
I tell you this really
happened. I can
show you a picture.
Me against cold
stone. My name
above, behind. My
friends clustered
around the camera.
In the photograph
I smile. My grand-
father shepherded
his sheep far from
Venice, my grand-
mother rolled and
stole him a cigar
at that tobacco
factory further
south and inland.
I never visited their
village, walked
those ancient
lanes where Padre
Pio bled. It was
always only Venice
that led me to climb
free from the cell
where he, whoever
he was, no family
of mine, died. Later,
around a table, in
a moonlit piazza
we raise our wine
glasses, toast
a cent’ anni
to our sojourn
in this city, and
I remember, too,
the last man who
crossed that Bridge
of Sighs who dies
leaving me only
some shared
letters on a wall
and I whisper
sweet grazie to a
nonna and nonno
I never knew who
traveled far leaving
me alone to find
my way home.

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