Afternoon on Torcello
by Gail Tirone

In the shade of the portico
my son sleeps, head on his father’s lap
the deep sweet breaths
of a four-year-old finally at rest
after chasing pigeons in Piazza San Marco
after close calls near small canals
deep sweet boy-breaths
in the shadow of the 7th century church

My daughter and I wander
the Byzantine basilica
our footsteps echoing on 7th century stones
decoding Roman numerals
on the tombs of ancient bishops
marveling at saints’ bodies
silk-wrapped relics encased in glass
lighting tall tapers
whispering prayers for relatives long dead

With chubby fingers she tests the holy waters
all in the reflection of a gently curved nave
mosaic of golden glass
where a blue-robed madonna presides
dispensing the absolution for which
I am still waiting
The patient madonna
greets new generations of children
with their sweet breaths and curious steps
on her old stones

We climb the campanile
set after set of rickety wooden steps
narrow, confining
a spiral skeleton leading
to two bronze bells
that start to ring the hour
the moment we reach the summit

The deafening clang of bronze
declares the certainty of this place
this place that has been here
for over a thousand years—and isn’t going anywhere
a place that knows why it is here
and what it is about

Later at Locanda Cipriani
the children play in the gardens
as my husband and I sip cool Tocai
and reminisce about travels in days past
days less encumbered by careers, possessions—and offspring
days once filled with poetry, romance and wine

“To two out of three,” he toasts
We spend a sweet hour
remembering who we are
and how we got here.

PAINTING: Basilica di Santa Maria Della Salute, Venice by John Miller.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Poetry illuminates individual experiences and the collective human experience. I hope the reader gleans some of both from this poem. Small epiphanies. When reading a poem, that spark of recognition engenders connection—which we could all use more of these days.

gail tirone

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gail Tirone is originally from New York, and now lives in Texas. She was a featured guest poet in several Houston Poetry Fests, and is a Best of the Net nominee. Gail has a B.A. from Princeton University and M.A. in English Literature from the University of Houston. Her poetry has appeared in Mediterranean Poetry, Blue Heron ReviewSulphur River Review, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Free China Review, The Weight of Addition Anthology (Mutabilis Press), and elsewhere.