The grey-green snake of the Grand Canal
heels itself behind a fleet of hulls
and white marble writes white marble on the face
of the water under the façades
in a fat oily squiggle straight from the tube.
When the tyre-clad flank of the vaporetto thuds
against the belly of the dock, we pilgrims watch
how in her sky-blue suit the blonde conductress
throws an eight around the two
Arsenal-forged cast-iron bollards
and brings the boat’s
stern first and then its prow
into a tame adjacency.
She might have stepped straight out of that
mural I’ve just been to see
where a small local female saint subdues
the scaly basilisk and leads it
still trembling with lust on a length of cord
– it must be silk – across the square and through
the parting crowd – it must be here
where the sea’s edge drapes its hard green lace
on polished stones our feet perceive as waves.