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Caravaggio in Venice, 1591

by Annie Boutelle

Dazed by light, he wants forever
to wander this city of churches,
garbage, spices, whores, masks.
Labyrinth of bridges that dip into
more twisting alleys, more arcs
of bridge. Grey stone solid under
his feet, the one thing he knows is
there. And water slipping past him,
relentless, sloshing against the pier,
slapping the trim traghetto’s hull,
reaching to lick each palazzo step—
teasing dance of approach, retreat,
and slow sliding embrace. Sex lies
behind each shutter, polishing her
nails. Or transforms into roguish
boy with buttocks of silk. His own
hard-on never flags. Here every
thing is lit with the sensual: pale
vongoli shells on the white plate,
fettucini ashimmer with oil, and
when the night throws its silk
cape over the city, torches send
gold reflections sluicing down
the glossy black of each ripple
of each nameless canal, and he
knows he is eating the dark.


Annie Boutelle, founder of the Poetry Center at Smith College, is the author of two poetry collections, Becoming Bone: Poems on the Life of Celia Thaxter (University of Arkansas Press) and Nest of Thistles (Northeastern University Press), which won the 2005 Samuel French Morse Prize. She is the Grace Hazard Conkling Poet-in-Residence at Smith College. (10/2010)

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