Sunlight in the Ghetto
Early in the morning and already laundry hangs
high in the alleyway.
Fresh laundry – still dripping,
the water slapping against the stone sidewalks.
A sea wind blows through the canals,
just so, just enough
to bring the smell of salt to your nose.
The sun rises, but not high enough
to bring color to the clothes hanging on the line.
That will come later today,
for a bright hour or two.
The Jews lived here once.
Forced to the narrowest alleys and canals
at the edge of the city, no quite banned,
but never embraced.
Even today, for all its charm,
history marks it with names, a place lacking
the richness, the cathedrals and music halls,
and broad plazas.
And yet. And yet… something persists,
Ghosts perhaps? Or perhaps a reminder of life’s power
to persist. The beauty here is narrower,
but just as magical as the tourist traveled canals and walkways.
You breathe in the salt air.
By noon the clothes above your head will be full of the sea’s perfume.
The sun will bleach the color for an hour or two of sunlight
and then drop behind the walls for the afternoon.
Everything is fleeting. An age from now, this city will be lost.
My grandchildren will never walk these stone walkways.
and so you soak it in, you photograph, you paint,
capturing the place,
and, if you are fortunate, once or twice
capturing the soul.
About this poem
If I could spend the rest of my days doing anything, I would spend them walking the streets of Venice, writing, photographing and painting.
The Ghetto is the part of Venice where the Jews were compelled to live by the Venitian Republic beginning in the 1500s. The English word Ghetto comes from this place.
Life is fleeting. Treasure it.
From those thoughts, this poem.