The Stones of Venice


The Stones of Venice

What drifts through
           the canals of Venice
is light and darkness
           and time : here gondoliers
ply their necessary trade
           each a Charon steering
hearts and minds across a glazed surface
           black wood on water
ferrying them from one stage
            to another —those who
step aboard the slender crafts
            never again seen to disembark
and every twist and turn in the maze
            is a fond farewell

And in the palace a populous 
            painted paradise
and on all sides within and without
           a flowering of wood and stone 
and marble and gold-embroidered silk
            an exuberance of art 
that has stood the test of time
            while those who once ruled here
have long since been laid to rest 

            their pomp and their powers
now shades of the past 

Yet we have the measure
           of their legacy
in this instructional text
           that rises with such majesty
up from the original sea
           : the clarity and the beauty endure
but let’s not forget
            that we are all passing through

as did those who died defending the city
            and those who ran the Inquisition

mere monuments now
            to a memory long gone

Here so many souls have melted
           into the thin air
here where the proud stone
            is worn smooth as time :
the clocks still turn
           the bells still ring
but the roar of the lion
           is no longer heard

John Lyons



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