Magazine article The Nation

The Patron Saint of Venice

Magazine article The Nation

The Patron Saint of Venice

Article excerpt

Oh, tourist, is this how this country is going to answer you

--Elizabeth Bishop

There, barely out of the water lay the harbor, low, the sea deep green, the only scenery except the faded blue of far-off mountains. Only on window ledges was there greenery.

There was the island of glassblowers, bricked over. A sunken island, one the tide had glazed blue. Isle of the dead. Isle of the tourists, famed for its mirrors. All you saw was you, an island adrift in a sea of guided tours. There was the island dwarfed by a freighter, an island of pastry flaking on a green glass shelf. Tour guides were drowned by church bells, eight or nine waves rolling the piazza under, unsettling the dust, sinking the last, the fondest hope of the tourist at the tobacconist's to be pilgrim in search of more than stamps and soap.

To be gondolier singing tourists to supper, his foot pushing a wall away from his boat as his voice swelled, just a Venetian singing a Neapolitan song, ducking a footbridge lest the high note fall. …

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