For Isabel…

The city of Venetians, through the wall of Providence, founded on water, surrounded by water, is protected by water instead of walls; whosoever therefore should cause damage in any way to the public waters will be condemned as an enemy to the country and will be punished no less severely than he who has violated the sacred walls of the country.

(Giovanni Battista Cipelli 1478-1556, Edict of Egnazio)

I.

Pigeons squat upon the eyeless wind and water beaten skulls of static statues long corroded with creeping fissures of fungus...
This gauntlet of unsavory characters huddles together and mocks and jeers all miserable individuals who enter/ exit hour by hour the ill-fated area
that lies between the twin columns of San Marco’s Winged Lion and San Teodoro the Dragon Slayer... the once-upon-a-time place of criminal executions...
Not at all a fortunate day for these glassy-eyed World Souvenir Freaks become wind surfers in search of the ultimate wave in the driving rains.
And who are now herded off the cruise ship Leviathans in drenched sweaters and sweatshirts by antsy tour guides, megaphones-in-hand, like rambunctious cattle
from one preordained “must-see” touristy site to another after tying jumbo garbage bags, blue, green, orange, to already weary feet and aching thighs arching...

II.

Police direct traffic from one huge puddle to the next, arms swinging up and down, stopping and starting, pointing the way for these directionless souls
to tightrope across zigzag passerelles of wooden planks propped upon stone blocks that stretch over mirrored reflections of Piazza San Marco...
Acqua Alta now floods the back streets, the floors of shops and homes, where shopkeepers and residents bend over hunchback with rags, mops, and buckets in hand...
The perpetual rain impels these discontented and disoriented globetrotters sporting Venetian masks to snorkle through the chilly acid mist...

III.

Built upon a whole forest of wood pilings and tree trunks that were pounded centuries ago deep into sludge and silt of an inhospitable lagoon
Venice was miraculously given birth on water by Cesarean behind a natural shield for refugees fleeing wave after wave of invasion… Visogoths, Huns, Lombards...
And now this Eldest Child of Liberty is once again in desperate need of protection from wave after wave of a new invasion even more subversive and insidious…
An invasion that sabotages the very foundations of this ingenious man-made stage that suspends this magnificent White Phantom City above the glistening tides
that ebb and flow to the gravitational pull of the sun and moon upon a molten planet whose tectonic plates stealthily grind against each other
while spinning through a resplendent Cosmos insensitive to human aesthetics... A dilapidated stage now sinking centimeter by centimeter year by year…
A stage upon which humans above can play their daily charades—but whose masonry takes only a few crystals of the lagoon’s salted elixir to scuttle…

IV.

Bright RED letters warn
of the three ways of flooding:
Waters that flow over the quay…
Waters that rise through the drains…
Waters that infiltrate by subsoil osmosis
into walls and foundations.

Yet there is yet a fourth:
The fear of impending deluge
that mounts like black waves
that jab like razors deep
into the honeycomb gel
of our neuron nightmares...

XV.

Orange lamp posts guide the vaporetto
on the way for sleeping sick-sea spirits

to visit glass blowing factories of Lido.

Crew teams slalom through barbershop polls.
Red-tasseled gondoliers and clothes lines
undulate over green waves [oscillating].

The glassblower’s pink cheeks puff out
as if sounding a medieval buzine:
Metal pincers stretch out an inchoate mass…

From within the eerie blue-green glow
of molten cobalt flames magically
emerges the muscular form of a unicorn.

XIX.

Cagetta and the Poet
look in admiration
at the stores of hand-made
Venetian masks.

“Our own masks are nothing but
white powder“, Cagetta laments...

“But you know what scares me. It’s
those masks… those Arlecchino masks!!!”

Coat the wooden negative
with a film of vaseline…
Press two triangles of paper maché (recycled)
into the nose, with no bubbles within...

The structure must reinforce
the soft points of the mask,
the front, the cheeks, the chin,
but most importantly, the nose…

And once it all dries, you must
change the look of the eyes.
Each masked face must possess a different expression.... It must....

Yes, the faces of those pure
white paper-mâché masks... fantastic, angelic, erotic,
neurotic, diabolic…

that arise from an illusion
of the inner self
from out of the mold
of very empty clay

where negative
conquers positive,
and nothing ever
happens by accident.

Those masks become antique ceramics…
Masks of the carnival…
Masks of Il Ridotto…
Masks of the beggar…
Masks of the thief…
Masks of the secret ballot…
Masks of the celebrity…
Masks that hide the real self in fear…

“You can be anything you want to be
from Isabella—to that old scrooge—Pantalone!!!”

Those masks are the ghost-like faces
of the Poet and Cagetta as they glide
in white shrouds down the back streets and alleys ways of Venezia…

XXII.

Brodsky’s name is handwritten on the official sign1

that directs all island visitors
to the [tombs] of Pound and Stravinsky.

Pound's grave is full of flowers.
Brodsky's holds a bucket of pens.

Posted to the tree:
“I’m bored with America. Canto 6.”

On another tree, in pencil,
“Brodsky, Better Poet.”

Graveyard warriors continue
their cold Cold War battle

in the bellicose depths
of [cemetery containment].

The Cold War far from over,
the Poet collects his fan club

and booms Ezra’s Sestina: Altaforte,
“I have no life save when swords clash!”

He then mocks it with his own
Sestina, Agressão dos Cachorros:

“Damn it all! Ezra’s ‘physics…
refuse amnesty to bloodshot eyes!”2

Pound rises [from his tomb] in contempt.
The ground over Brodsky trembles.

An onlooker’s foot slips deep
into the abyss of the inferno below…

The woman mourner swears that El Duce’s
propagandist “was not a fascist!!!”

The sun shines [pitiless] through Venetian mist
upon waves of artichoke and spinach.

No matter: Il Doge assassinates
poets of all political persuasions.

1 Hall Gardner, Cemetery Containment Brodsky vs Pound.
2 Hall Gardner, Sestina agressão dos cachorros.