Canal Water

I am in Venice,
Dreaming of what

It was like
When painters,

Knew which way
To turn

When they had need
For commissions

Or when they sought

There is fog
In the morning

To cloud our

And then sunlight.
In Venice,

Faces in paintings
Are alive with need,

Not just
The main players

But the others
Who stood by

Hardly caring
Who preached sermons,

Who lived
Or who died.

They were busy,
These figures

At the edges,
And did not often think

About redemption,
Much less about

Their faces

Then, and ours now,
Look as though

We are meant, in fact,
For commerce,

Working out margins,
Rates of return.

It is harder,
As the man said,

To imagine
The end of capitalism

Than the end
Of the world.

We hunger, however,
For glare and splash,

An opening
Of the spirit,

The urgent end of
Anything at all.

In the meantime,
I am waiting

For a boat
To take me

To the sanctity
Of the Salute.

The engine
Of the vaporetto

Is grinding
Towards a silence

Like the very first one,
To be broken

Only when
the end
Of capitalism

And the end
Of the world

Appear on the water,
Pursued by the panting

The first laden

Down with contracts,
Anti-trust laws,

Overdraft statements,
Old software.

The second
Filled up

With painters
In possession of the new

Colours that
Will be used

To render finality
In all its garishness.

They join forces
Under the domed sky

As the Giudecca
And the Grand Canal

Meet close to
Where I stand

And flow into each
Other, drink

From the waters of the
Exemplary lagoon.

Colm Tóibín