LILIANA URSU, WITH TESS GALLAGHER AND ADAM J. SORKIN
Once Upon a Time in Venice
I dreamed I was in Venice.
I was twenty
and lightning was my brother.
On my scarf a hand from the sky
had painted curious signs.
My hair smelled of tangerines
and my breasts of almost ripe lemons.
I was living in a small hotel,
its name erased by the thick fog.
At dawn, I'd wait for you on the embankment.
You were the merchant of pearls and myrrh.
Your lips had the taste of apples stored in hay,
your cheeks, the salt of tears mixed
with harbors and the open seas.
You always arrived in May
after a year or two of absence, or three.
I always asked you the same thing:
“Where have you been these last two hours?”
The gondola on which you used to ferry me
was heaped with azaleas and freesias, alive with red
and blue birds, and our bodies—drunk on love,
on the supreme sensuality of the stars.
You never spoke,
letting your voyages take the place of speech,
and even sometimes of life.
Whenever you sailed away, I'd go back
to my small Venetian room. I played chess
by myself, I painted delicate scarves
with more and more complicated runes,
coordinates and alignments of the planets
calculated to bind us together again.
And every evening, in my small stove of glazed white tiles,
I burned those long silk letters.
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