Friday, February 23, 2018


In 1338 Venice counted each household’s
Men, women, boys, girls, servants, 
Livestock, windows and gondolas. The dogs 
Reluctantly subscribed themselves
As "servants." Most cats
Insisted they were the Doge. Others
Were content to pass as gondolas.

Thursday, February 22, 2018


My old friend has hired
The ghost of Sigmund Freud
As her typist. He’s grumpy
And sometimes translates
Her writing into literary German
Still, it seems to work. Judges -
She’s a lawyer -- are used
To looking grave over papers
They don’t understand.
When she asks him why
He’s returned from beyond
To type for such meager pay
He only nods and says
" Warum stellst du diese Frage?"

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


This version of me insists
He’s the real one, the others
Having been provisional. Just wait!
When the final version – who’ll have
Shouldered the other mes aside
(The swine!) and declared that he’s
The last for which the first was made –
Has ceased then all we others
Will have at last our coequal day.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Over time, those sharing the steam grate
Where St. Jerome sleeps on cold nights
Have become minor variants. Their Latin
Has an Illyrian lilt. Wrens and cats
Keep track of them. They’re working,
When sober, on translating
Silent certainties into quiet doubts.

Monday, February 19, 2018


Traditionally, bodgers
Wandered about making chairs
From beech wood. They used
Wooden lathes made from saplings.
The word "bodge" is related
To "botch." Dreaming
Of bodged chairs is a sign
That the handmade gods
Have been thinking about you.
Make no plans; do not rely
On remaining yourself.

Friday, February 16, 2018


The bridge was torn down long ago
If you must cross it, Canaletto
Painted it; the picture shows Venice;
You’ll find it in Montreal.
First, you must make friends
With some of Canaletto’s staffage –
Those figures populating his pictures
So the buildings won’t feel lonely.
(Try for some of the early ones; he later
Just painted vaguely human blobs
Who have no vices and rarely smile)
Enveloped in a red cape, you’ll pass
As one of the Doge’s entourage.
If you wish to return, Canaletto
Cannot help you. Seek, but do not trust,
Some master of chiaroscuro.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


As I understand it, Valentine is one of the more dour saints, and he probably does not much look forward to his day. He gets up and can barely push his door open; every one of the eleven thousand virgins who attend St. Ursula has left a piece of chocolate outside his room. (This happens every year; St. Christopher will come by later and carry the chocolates away). St. Sebastian will leave him an arrow, on which he’ll cut his finger; St. Apollonia will pass him in the hall; gaze at him wordlessly, and then press a tooth into his hand. He will be besieged by prayers, which he will conscientiously try to answer, although he is fairly clueless on the mysteries of human love. This explains the number of puzzled looks one sees as the day goes on, as people find Valentine’s answers popping into their heads. “I find speaking about the martyrdom of St. Gelasius is generally a good way to break the ice;” “I believe you mean ‘inamorata’ – ‘inamaretto’ refers to someone who loves almond liqueurs, which is probably a sin and is, anyway, fattening;” “I asked St. Barbara and she said a howitzer is a small, light cannon used to deliver shells with a curved trajectory while a bazooka is a portable electrically-fired rocket launcher. Do your parents know about your interest in artillery?”
(For those who were thinking of asking, St. Crescentia is still the patron of this blog. If you run into her on an elevated subway, try discussing the martyrdom of St. Gelasius.)