Venice Terminal

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In Memory of G, a fellow pilgrim for such a short distance...

 

We were on a train from Padua,
racing towards the Venice lagoon,
when I spotted the child,
two years old, or thereabouts,
a halo of honey-kissed curls
and eyes of molten brown,
like molasses perpetually outpoured.
Expectant, trusting, vibrant with life,
his countenance so beautiful, he stole my breath.
His mother spoke: he gazed at her in rapture,
as if pearls of wisdom fell from her lips,
as if his joy depended on her gentling,
his mind searching the imprint
of a fable only it could measure,
the eyes grown sombre with inchoate loss
of heaven beyond a consuming gulf.

That child captured my heart
in one cataclysmic instant of knowing,
of being plunged into the essence of him,
while we sped from Europe's ancient
seat of learning towards deluged ways
and stones that told of mercantile pride
in affluence and influence
at this crossways of cultures,
where barques blew inshore,
freighted with silks and spices,
tea and sweetmeats, muslins,
dyes, attar of roses and
lapis lazuli blue as summer midnight,
a city where craning Gothic
confronts rich mosaics and the labyrinthine
excesses of dissembling Byzantium.

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To this day, I know not if he was an apparition
conjured from some buried pining for lost youth.
Alighting at the station, I saw no trace.
But what had been rendered in high relief,
inspiring agonies of curdled joy, was forged in truth
and wreathed in the mystery of a closer sphere.
Suddenly, that child was everywhere!
In all the frescoes of St Anthony at Padua,
who embraced the infant and Madonna lily -
token of a fragile, stainless gift -
in the bronze statue, offering earth one hand
whilst drawing down the cherub from the skies
with the other, their fingers touching; an echo
of Michelangelo's lightning moment of Creation.
I dwelt long in the courtyard of the venerable magnolia,
ravished by eternity.
 
There was no sharing, no way the words would form.
Travel tickets conveyed no separate journey,
our shadowed pasts divergent and our mission matchless.
As pilgrims, it was the closest we ever got.

My unshod feet still haunt those ancient streets
in the supernal multiverse of gilt and guiltless cities.
The Vision melts the stark and leaden planes of Here.
A nun, singing like an angel, banished dissonance,
floating arpeggios that linger still in purer air.
Outside, a beggar, drunk on grappa, cringed at heel-height streetscapes,
shuffled and strained to grasp the feet of passers-by.
What is there but prayer, inspired by glimpses of Transfiguration?

The last day, we returned to Venice, bound for home.
His nagging pain, dismissed by medics, was graven in fatigue.
Metal wings clove terrestrial darkness, new dawns forgotten.
We have been blessed and fortified for this, I thought.
A week later, they handed him over to palliative care.
There was nothing to be done.
The dream of far-flung shores and bold discovery, just that.
By summer, he was gone.

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from THE TWAIN, Poems of Earth and Ether

Comments 5

 
Anonymous on Saturday, 26 September 2015 02:55

Venice Terminal is one of those pieces that call to mind incidents from my own and others' lives. G was your husband? In your mention of this Venice trip and its implications in the past you've described acceptance and resilience that I must admire. Some people feel that when they hurt everybody should hurt. Obviously this wasn't you. And at once conveying the beauty of that trip.

The dark-eyed boy, real or apparition, reminded me of children I used to see in the Puerto Rican church I attended when I lived in Reading, PA. The church itself wasn't always Puerto Rican. Once it was German, later Irish. When I got to Reading it was 250 years old, a magnificent edifice that won't be on any travel guide. One image that has remained in my mind for a long time is of three little children such as you describe -- black hair, alert dark eyes and excited expressions, tiny hands reaching back for the hands of other, similar children two pews behind during the peace offering. In all the other churches I've been in this is a somewhat cursory, although important, ceremony. In the Puerto Rican church it goes on for a good five minutes with people leaving their pews and going around to find friends and family members. The memory of those children's eyes and smiles will never leave me. In the same church one morning, in front of me was a little blonde girl about three years old. Unusual there. I had hurt my knuckles in a factory the night before. I had rammed them into a large belt sander and taken the skin off to the bone. My hands were gripping the pew in front of me and my attention was fixed straight ahead. Suddenly I felt a small hand on those two injured fingers, not touching the hurt part, and my hand being swung side to side. It didn't hurt at all and when I looked down the bluest eyes and prettiest smile, filled with sympathy, looked back at me. I smiled back and her parents turned to see what was going on and they smiled at me and at the child.

And last for now, my great-niece Rosemarie. I think her mother, my sister's oldest child, might be the strongest woman I know. Rosemarie had been fighting leukemia for a few years and it had gone into remission for a year. She had won a national essay contest and was accepted at Seton Hall, about to start that Autumn. She went for a routine back-to-school physical and was told she had to return to Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. In six weeks she was gone. She was eighteen. Her mother, a registered nurse, another niece also an RN and the mother's sister were at her bedside when she passed. Suzanne, the mother, said, "now I have two angels in Heaven." She had lost a boy years before on the same date, August 28th.

If I were poet enough I'd immortalize all these people through that, the proper, medium.

Sorry this is so long.

Venice Terminal is one of those pieces that call to mind incidents from my own and others' lives. G was your husband? In your mention of this Venice trip and its implications in the past you've described acceptance and resilience that I must admire. Some people feel that when they hurt everybody should hurt. Obviously this wasn't you. And at once conveying the beauty of that trip. The dark-eyed boy, real or apparition, reminded me of children I used to see in the Puerto Rican church I attended when I lived in Reading, PA. The church itself wasn't always Puerto Rican. Once it was German, later Irish. When I got to Reading it was 250 years old, a magnificent edifice that won't be on any travel guide. One image that has remained in my mind for a long time is of three little children such as you describe -- black hair, alert dark eyes and excited expressions, tiny hands reaching back for the hands of other, similar children two pews behind during the peace offering. In all the other churches I've been in this is a somewhat cursory, although important, ceremony. In the Puerto Rican church it goes on for a good five minutes with people leaving their pews and going around to find friends and family members. The memory of those children's eyes and smiles will never leave me. In the same church one morning, in front of me was a little blonde girl about three years old. Unusual there. I had hurt my knuckles in a factory the night before. I had rammed them into a large belt sander and taken the skin off to the bone. My hands were gripping the pew in front of me and my attention was fixed straight ahead. Suddenly I felt a small hand on those two injured fingers, not touching the hurt part, and my hand being swung side to side. It didn't hurt at all and when I looked down the bluest eyes and prettiest smile, filled with sympathy, looked back at me. I smiled back and her parents turned to see what was going on and they smiled at me and at the child. And last for now, my great-niece Rosemarie. I think her mother, my sister's oldest child, might be the strongest woman I know. Rosemarie had been fighting leukemia for a few years and it had gone into remission for a year. She had won a national essay contest and was accepted at Seton Hall, about to start that Autumn. She went for a routine back-to-school physical and was told she had to return to Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. In six weeks she was gone. She was eighteen. Her mother, a registered nurse, another niece also an RN and the mother's sister were at her bedside when she passed. Suzanne, the mother, said, "now I have two angels in Heaven." She had lost a boy years before on the same date, August 28th. If I were poet enough I'd immortalize all these people through that, the proper, medium. Sorry this is so long.
Anonymous on Saturday, 26 September 2015 07:39

The fact that you remember the particulars to her passing is poinient enough. I was blessed to be one of the steel magnolias in the hospital room when she passed. Rosemarie's passing was one of the most prolific moments in my life. It proved and gave credence to the statement, "life is short"; but along with it, it also proved how strong the human heart is. I watched first hand how a health professional can change emotions in seconds flat by morphing from a mother to RN. Switching hats from a knowing medical profession to a mother has to be agonizing.
As a person watching the whole scene, to say it was unreal, is an understatement. Experiencing the death and watching a mother commend her child's soul to God was the ultimate display of love and faith.
I wish I was talented enough to put into the words the emotions of the those 20 minutes.

The fact that you remember the particulars to her passing is poinient enough. I was blessed to be one of the steel magnolias in the hospital room when she passed. Rosemarie's passing was one of the most prolific moments in my life. It proved and gave credence to the statement, "life is short"; but along with it, it also proved how strong the human heart is. I watched first hand how a health professional can change emotions in seconds flat by morphing from a mother to RN. Switching hats from a knowing medical profession to a mother has to be agonizing. As a person watching the whole scene, to say it was unreal, is an understatement. Experiencing the death and watching a mother commend her child's soul to God was the ultimate display of love and faith. I wish I was talented enough to put into the words the emotions of the those 20 minutes.
Katherine Gregor on Saturday, 26 September 2015 12:04

Words fail me, but my heart reaches out to you.

Words fail me, but my heart reaches out to you.
Rosy Cole on Saturday, 26 September 2015 17:23

Thank you for all the above comments, and welcome to Lori. I am replying here so as not to split the first and second comments.

Wasn't it Wordsworth whose definition of poetry was 'emotion recollected in tranquillity'?

All pilgrimages have profound and lasting effects - it is impossible to undergo one and remain unchanged - but there was something truly numinous about that two-week experience which carried us through what was to come. G's middle name was Anthony, which he preferred to Gerald and sometimes used. Looking back, I think he sensed that his 'polymyalgia' was a more serious condition. By the time he received an accurate diagnosis, he was disabled (overnight) from a malignant tumour impacting the spine. When he entered hospital towards the end, they said they didn't know how I'd coped, although professional carers had visited each morning.

All I can say is that throughout that time I was conscious of a third presence in the house. We were the privileged recipients of many prayers and were borne up in a way I cannot describe.

G made a valiant effort to survive for about a year in all, but, though the end was distressing, he was able to receive the last rites. He had been part of my life for less than five years.

My life has not been easy and the trauma of that time has not left me in twelve years, but I have emerged with a better understanding of the Love of God and what the Bible describes as 'treasure in heaven'.

On a brighter note, here's a link I posted on Twitter and Facebook the day Her Majesty the Queen became Britain's longest reigning monarch. (It mentions our visit to Buckingham Palace in 1999.)

http://www.pilgrimrose.com/index.php/blogs/630-a-day-to-remember-at-buckingham-palace

Thank you for all the above comments, and welcome to Lori. I am replying here so as not to split the first and second comments. Wasn't it Wordsworth whose definition of poetry was 'emotion recollected in tranquillity'? All pilgrimages have profound and lasting effects - it is impossible to undergo one and remain unchanged - but there was something truly numinous about that two-week experience which carried us through what was to come. G's middle name was Anthony, which he preferred to Gerald and sometimes used. Looking back, I think he sensed that his 'polymyalgia' was a more serious condition. By the time he received an accurate diagnosis, he was disabled (overnight) from a malignant tumour impacting the spine. When he entered hospital towards the end, they said they didn't know how I'd coped, although professional carers had visited each morning. All I can say is that throughout that time I was conscious of a third presence in the house. We were the privileged recipients of many prayers and were borne up in a way I cannot describe. G made a valiant effort to survive for about a year in all, but, though the end was distressing, he was able to receive the last rites. He had been part of my life for less than five years. My life has not been easy and the trauma of that time has not left me in twelve years, but I have emerged with a better understanding of the Love of God and what the Bible describes as 'treasure in heaven'. On a brighter note, here's a link I posted on Twitter and Facebook the day Her Majesty the Queen became Britain's longest reigning monarch. (It mentions our visit to Buckingham Palace in 1999.) http://www.pilgrimrose.com/index.php/blogs/630-a-day-to-remember-at-buckingham-palace
Anonymous on Saturday, 26 September 2015 18:19

Glad you enjoyed the comments and thanks for the intimate glimpse of a royal day with royalty. And the loovely lydy with the 'andsome chap. Looks a bit like m'self I think. (I've watched so much Foyle's War and Barnaby I find myself talking to myself with a British accent.) Well, Rosy, you take your knocks admirably, a subject I just covered on K. Gregor's post. Stay well. Soldier on!

Glad you enjoyed the comments and thanks for the intimate glimpse of a royal day with royalty. And the loovely lydy with the 'andsome chap. Looks a bit like m'self I think. (I've watched so much Foyle's War and Barnaby I find myself talking to myself with a British accent.) Well, Rosy, you take your knocks admirably, a subject I just covered on K. Gregor's post. Stay well. Soldier on!
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