Issue 71, Fall 1977
Meeting the Boat
It was a pretty boat, tied to the pier,
greeting a city with streets of water,
the great gold griffin of its tall smokestack
making the least of us feel important.
The wealthy were met by their hired greeters.
Women in furs waved at their gigolos,
I knew by my heartbeat you had not come,
I went on looking, torturing myself,
transforming each woman into your shape.
Each came close, then veered off to another,
I stared, as if you had grown all that hair,
dyed yours, or bought one of those silly wigs.
Who knows what you might have done without me?
But no, that one wasn’t you. Nor that one.
Nor were you wearing huge green sunglasses.
At last only those who were very vain
were still in their cabins, brushing, primping.
Then they came down the plank like movie stars
holding their bright coats, I checked each suitcase,
at last found one that could be ours, or yours.
But that one I already had with me,
brown and tied with a string. You just weren’t there.
Never arrived at Venice, never said
you wouldn’t. The trattoria I had
in mind could do without us, serve others.
The bar where we could have a drink just died.
The place for us just floated out to sea,
I left as quickly as I could, a mile
away began to know what had happened.
It helped to think about it hard, not soft.
Your knife went through my heart. But I only
tried to die, I didn’t. I did the right
thing, or so it seemed, filled myself quite full
of pills, got drunk, and tried to kill myself.
But those friendly rats of Venice saved me.