Reaching For The Pen:
From 2009-2010 I was lucky enough to study abroad in Italy for my third year of university. As well as learning Italian and studying travel writing, I tried my hand at creative writing inspired by the beautiful surroundings of the floating city, Venice.
The kind of sunset
that only exists
conjured at the hands
of lonely writers
in badly lit rooms,
across the sky.
In bold type
it hovers over the lagoon,
slitting its blood red throat
in a passionate,
to drip down slowly
on to the Grand Canal
in a pool of ecstatic orange
As Seen Through Many Eyes...
I am adrift in a boat that is moving, barely, wooden slats slapping
against tiny waves, between here and now and tomorrow -
like the buzz of wings bumping lazily against glass,
sometimes frantic, lost, slipping back down the same paths.
The city is blurred; a lace net curtain drawn across the landscape,
trapping in the heat and the flies and yellowing light.
Marooned in a lagoon that doesn't know
which way to flow, bending around the hand
of man, stretched out, fingers spread,
palm sticky with perspiration. Three times
two legged insects scuttle over my skin,
the undefinable tickle of touristic zanzare
sampling my unique sangue aperitif. I stretch
and bend and trap them in dead ends.
Lady (and a little dog.)
The smell of the lagoon wafted in waves through the side of the metal can, its swamp and sewage scent mixed in a cruel counterpoint to the stuffy container, crammed full of tourists. Edging through the crowd, I sat down and concentrated on my breathing. The platform swayed around me, bobbing up and down. Pressed against my side was a birdlike lady in a heavy fur coat, her eyes hidden entirely behind expensive-looking sunglasses with diamonds clustered on the arms.
Swallowing against creeping claustrophobia and sea-sickness, I stared fixedly at the route on the metal sign above assorted heads. It wavered in front of me; all those five-minute intervals dancing like bare-faced lies. A local pretty-boy gave a dark-eyed Mediterranean smirk, mocking my ineptitude with the waterbus.
The tiny lady next to me rolled her eyes (I could tell because her eyebrows rose over the edge of the obscuring glasses into pencilled incredulity.) ‘Che cazzo, stupido.’ She waved a hand in the direction of the boy as her tongue pecked at syllables like sparrows stealing patatine from a deserted cafe table. My Italian was pitiful, despite years of attempted study. I smiled politely, muttering an embarrassed ‘si, si’ whenever she paused for breath.
Her gesturing hands were shrunken and leathery with weathered skin; on her fingers sat large heavy rings. The overall effect was of a small grizzly bear with jewelled claws. By her feet sat a sleepy dachshund, dark brown with trusting eyes. There was no lead, the dog simply trusted that it was normal to catch boats, and not to run off or jump into the canal for a swim. Collected scum floated along the surface of the water; I didn’t blame the little thing for staying put.
The bird-bear abruptly grabbed my arm; growling out a phrase in dialect, her ringed talons enclosed my limb in a startlingly tight grip.
“Uh...” I said, stupidly. She flapped her hands.
“Arriva il vaparetto.”
Our tin can began to bump up and down, a nauseating fairground ride sensation. I tried not to think of my pizza lunch, but couldn’t ignore the loud grind and clang as metal and rope scraped against each other angrily.
The waterbus had arrived.
The lady stood, swept up the dog and huddled forward, pushing without pity to get first pick of the inner seats. Locals, tourists and shouting school children streamed out from the impossibly small boat.
“Permesso.” “Sorry, excuse me.” “Ciaaaaooo tutti!” “Honey, look, Byron’s house! Isn’t that amazing?” “Attenzione.”
I shuffled on and headed to the side with the best view of the canal and the palazzi. Already aboard, the grizzly lady sat inside, her sunglasses fixed forward, ignoring the dog in her lap licking at her heavily made-up face. Next to her sat another lady with a fur collar and blonde streaked hair, four rows back, another with a hat. I shook my head. The lady smiled, revealing coffee stained teeth, and lifted her glasses. She winked at me.