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.
Prairie Schooner Winter 2011
Copyright © 2011 by Mary O'Donnell
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission