From my train window seat
I see the blue sparkling water.
Is there any better welcome
from the city floating on the sea?
The sea rocks streets, calle, bridges,
squares, gardens, the little islands
of the shining lagoon.
I can explore its veins
on the vaporetto, on a gondola,
on the narrowest boat
to cross the Canal Grande
for a few cents. And look there,
a piazza where people call
from behind wooden stalls
to sell local groceries: radicchio
di Treviso, carrots, cauliflowers
berries and all sort of nuts,
apples and colourful arance.
Old women soon join;
their trollies packed.
There is no high tide today.
I used to go home on the first train back
but not leave the station
if the city was flooded.
If the tide was not too high,
I ventured out onto wooden catwalks
left in the middle of the main streets.
The calle were gloomy and chilly
but buzzing with people.
Merchants and shoppers greeted me,
while brushing water from doorsteps
or houses, moving furniture around.
Venice, glutted with water, still sparkled.
The city wears its special gown
and jewellery at this time of year.
It’s February, my birthday month,
and winter is almost gone.
Waves of tourists arrive fluttering
for the carnevale.
It starts with the Flight of the Angel,
who offers homage to the Doge.
Masked people walk up and down bridges:
Arlecchino arm in arm with Pulcinella,
couples wearing Barocco brocade.
Men show off their jackets with lace hems,
matching double-breasted jackets and trousers.
A long wig and huge hat. They stop
for photos. The women stand
at their side, gently bending their heads.
Their brocade corsets show their décolletage,
the huge skirts impede their walk.
The pilgrimage leads to Piazza San Marco,
whirlpool of the whole city;
stones embraced by the sea.
Chiara Salomoni is Italian and lives in London. Some of her English poems appear on Vivienne Westwood’s Climate Revolution website and on The Blue Nib’s digital platform. Her translation of Silvio Ramat’s poem was given an Honorable Mention in the Stephen Spender Prize in 2014. In 2015 she read from her translations of Andrea Zanzotto at the Poetry Library in London. One of her translations of Zanzotto and her homage were published in Poem in 2018. One of her children’s poems was included in a poetry illustration display at the Royal Marsden Hospital in collaboration with Sutton High School at the beginning of 2020. Her translations of three poems by Corrado Govoni appear on The Blue Nib’s digital platform. She is a member of the Tideway Poets.