Attractions by John Allman




He sent them this way, the Doge, cupping his chin, waving them toward this darkness already a prison; where shackles hung, an outlined empty space voluble as the one covered by black cloth among portraits of the Doges: This is the place of Marin Faliero, beheaded for his crimes. This bridge so baroque seen from Ponte della Paglia, we imagined the interior of cake. The Moor swinging his hammer into rust on the bell of the Clock Tower, all that sound outside, the Campanile’s golden angel severe in such resonance he moved the Adriatic back. Prisoners traipsed up dank stairs from below the water line.

You back against the steel-braced door, unable to breathe. You know them, the spirits sidling along the broken mortar, hunched and chained in Quonset stone cylinders, dragged here from Dalmatia, who fought to save their trees bundled under water to raise this city. Your people led down the gangway onto the Riva degli Schiavoni; someone who threw rocks from the cliffs of Omišalj, the moles on his back identical to your father’s, the blue of your eyes a blueness along his cold lips, your lungs burning with claustrophobic fire, cords straining in your neck. From these stone walls the odor and exhalations of a people, their children hundreds of years later Thomas Mann said wore a flutter of rags.