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Friday, November 15, 2019


by Allene Nichols

The water is rising.
The waiter with the red-checked shirt,
eyes darting, is ready to run.
But there is time for red wine,

baccala’ mantecata, and tiramisu.
There is time as the water
laps at our feet
and the sky scowls.

The boat shies nervously against the pier.
Our glasses clink too loudly.
Our laughter echoes
high and clear
like struck porcelain.

We’ve wept over the skeletons
of churches and museums.
St. Mark’s floor is covered
with mud. The Doge’s palace
is listing dangerously.

The statues, paintings, and friezes
are safe in Rome,
But we will never step here again.
No weeping now, though our cheeks are wet
and our eyes bright.

Clowns, wits, and bon vivants
do their best,
but their eyes drift back
to the sinking buildings
and a shadow passes
over their faces.

The air is thick with mosquitos.
Our clothing clings to us.
The smell of decay,
Held at bay for centuries,
creeps in from the alleyways.
The city, empty except for us,
echoes eerily.

All is lost and nothing is lost.
The world will go on.
The waiter cranks an old phonograph.
Vivaldi strains against the silence,
almost lost in it.

We dance as the fish swim at our ankles.
The sun glowers on the horizon.

Allene Nichols lives in Dallas, Texas, where she teaches at Richland College and at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her poetry has appeared in many journals and anthologies including Veils, Halos, and Shackles, and Impossible Archetype. Her poem, “Queer Salt,” was a 2017 winner of OUTSpoken’s creative writing contest.