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Sea Life in St. Mark's Square


The fish are visiting sunken cities,
        the legendary watropolis.
                 They move across brows of mountain ranges,
                          to unlaced canals, above crumbling walls
                 conservators fretted over; where people
        broke for lunch in a clatter of trattorias,
photographed pigeons, or drifted, in love:

                          one of the first casualties, quick-swamped when
                 the Adriatic bowl overflowed. Now,
        Cetacean travellers go where no human dared:
scale the limpid waters of cathedral domes,
        blowholes closed until they next break surface.
                 Here, abundance—church-reefs and palaces
                          for purple clams, where sea-anemonae,

corals, also build and bloom, breathy
        in the light of thick water. Daily visitors arrive
                 from the Barrier Reef, or the Galapagos,
                          porpoises dance and skitter around the
                 lightning conductors of the Campanile,
        the seals in San Marco tower frolic as,
even now, bells attempt sound, a low groan,

                          dismal and drowned. New order spider-crab
                 scuttles and flicks on street floors, avoids
        lurking octopus in a Medici urn,
angling for the island of Murano,
        at one with the colour of silica.
                 In St. Mark's, the basilica crumbles,
                          the ravens have melted in chloride, bromium,

into knots of sea-wrack. Occasional tsunamis
        affect little, sporting moments for surfing ocean,
                 fringe-footed or finned,
                          as we once did—a memory of ourselves
                 we shall never know,
        being now microscopic,
on the backs of barnacles encrusting the bells.


Mary O'Donnell

Prairie Schooner

Winter 2011


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