ISSUE FIVE
November 1998

John Drury

John Drury (Photo by Paula Deimling) John Drury's books include The Stray Ghost (State Street Press, 1987), Creating Poetry (Writer's Digest Books, 1991) and The Poetry Dictionary (Story Press, 1995). His poems have also appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, Western Humanities Review, American Poetry Review, and other periodicals. He is a professor at the University of Cincinnati.
First Trip to Venice    Read Along with the Author


My first night in the city, I went out
and scouted through the colonnades
for courtesans in mini-skirts who'd meet
my timid looks with smiles and nods.

I thought they would be floating, a slow fleet
of cleavages and hair, perfumes
that mingled with sea breezes and smelled sweet
as naked bodies in pink rooms.

I'd seen the paintings with expectant looks
on their warm faces and felt sure
I'd find them if I wandered through dark nooks
of the Piazza, out of the glare—

but I returned to the Atlantico
and my huge room always alone,
knowing I could have sneaked a woman through
the stuffy lobby, her hand in mine.

Nothing came true from my imagining.
I always had to be surprised
by the real, sudden flow of everything.
Nothing occurred as fantasized.

I also had the notion that I'd go
to the Rialto Bridge and write
a poem that would change my life. I'd know
what to say in the noon sunlight.

It never happened, though I climbed the bridge
and gazed down each side. But the rush
of light on broken waves and the stone edge
muted me. And so did the push

of passersby and shoppers, the Venetians
pausing to chat. I loved the wives,
baskets in hands, who looked like restored Titians,
tinted with shadows from stone eaves.

I loved the rippling light the canal tossed
over the surfaces of stone.
It skittered on the faces as they passed
up the broad steps and then down.

It wasn't, after all, what I expected.
But light, water, and a brusque wind
won me instead of winning them, connected
to everything I had not planned.

 

 

John Drury: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue FiveThe Cortland Review