From the Lost Correspondence
Constance Fenimore Woolson to Henry James
Cast out from work's absorbing converse
I watch as men and women
hurry toward home, each other,
from my rooms in Ca' Semitecolo,
my grand travel's tin duenna
steaming unheard behind me.
Had you made your promised visit
I would have made that water you call tea
while you lolled on the divan, so oddly
slack compared to the discretions
of your chambered prose.
This last summer seemed an anteroom,
a foyer where I waited to be called
into larger, warmer rooms,
a season rich in patience
passed in pleasant afternoons spent
cataloguing the lagoon's lost islands
swallowed by the Adriatic.
I could have written histories
of erosion, an epic of incremental
loss. By autumn my cochlea
had hardened to jasper and I
heard new sounds, tickings and
groans, small volute sighs, as if
some internal balance had tensed,
shifting in the decline of those
immaculate days. Complain
as you like that in the summer
Venice is the mere vomitorium.