Memory in a breath.
In the winter dark before dawn
you look at the man jumping on the jetty
and the other on board throwing to him
bundle after bundle of papers and magazines,
the silent cold at once filled
with busy breath-arrows:
in the boat arms in see-saw-like arcs
and on the jetty legs expertly bending
and supple forearms and hands slightly cupped.
In a glance you take in
the same wooden planks gnawed by salt and frost,
the flickering lights along the canal
and the same early, ready silence
suddenly filled with gestures and loud talk.
In an instant you are plunged
in your early workdays by the bridge, water pitch-dark
and on your skin the texture
of paper, plastic, cardboard and elastic
and fast fingers sorting out a beehive of things,
a chain of passing, swishing rims.
And whispers, jokes, yawns, routine-rites.
Breath of a hard, never ending time
that glitters now with this cloud of breath
as if it could just call you back:
hard time but hard to say
you wouldn’t do all that again,
maybe it’s the air’s eager heart,
hard to say you wouldn’t re-taste it all,
feet banging on the jetty to start with,
and most of all this puff of breath in front.
It was in the late 70's. I was working at the Venice post-office, a three-month job helping the postmen to deliver their post. I was working in the meantime for the final papers for my degree at the University. My job at the post office consisted in waiting and helping for the post to be collected and with a boat delivering huge parcels of letters to various strategic places in Venice, markets etc, even a nunnery...so that the postmen, their bags already loaded with letters to the brim, could find the other letters along their routes not having in this way to make another round. It was a good job for me, I had learned the routes and the twenty or so strategic locations better than any other boy so I could always leave by boat giving instructions to the boatman and other younger boys helping me. The Venetian canals and logoon were my home. Today I passed by the Rialto bridge, it was the point of departure. I looked at the door from where I had left every morning for three months more than thirty years before: another life.