by Margaret Duda
The pointed black prow glides over reflective waterways,
as the gondolier pilots us past lanterns in the dark lagoons.
Your arm encircles my shoulders, your body leans into mine,
and the oarsman sings of stars in the Venetian night.
Inside towering medieval buildings rising on either side,
light escapes from narrow windows, allowing us to peer inside.
White-haired couples hold hands, young adults kiss and dance,
and children laugh as they dash through the moments of life.
The paddle stops. We drift, gazing wide-eyed into the future,
realizing they are all ours, all the generations
we inaugurated on our forty-four-year wedded journey.
We beam at each other, hearts filled with wonder and gratitude
until the gondolier instructs me to debark alone at the next stop.
My grief and anguish is what I will now pay for our unfailing love,
until the day the gondolier returns for me, and you reach out your hand.
I will say “Yes” again, step gingerly in, settle close to your body
and listen to the splash of the oar as the gondolier steers us both toward home.
IMAGE: Painting of Venice, Italy, found at wallpapersafari.com.
NOTE: Venice is a city in northeastern Italy built on a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay lying between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. The lagoon and a part of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although the city faces challenges, including an excessive number of tourists and problems caused by pollution, tide peaks, and cruise ships sailing too close to buildings, Venice remains a popular tourist destination. A major cultural center, Venice has been ranked many times as the most beautiful city in the world and has been described as Europe’s most romantic city.
PHOTO: Venice, Italy, with Basilica Santa Maria della Salute at right background. Photo by Keagan Badenhorst.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a poem I wrote to my husband on what we knew would be our last anniversary, as he had pancreatic cancer and only months to live. Years before, the evening gondola ride in Venice had been so romantic that I knew the poem had to be about that. For the evening, one of my sons created a “gondola” with chairs, blankets, and Christmas tree lights. My son helped us into the “boat,” and I read my husband the poem. Then my son sprinkled us lightly with water as he rowed and sang to us in Italian. When we arrived at “our destination,” he helped us out of our magic gondola and played soft music so that we could try to dance a bit as he videotaped us. My husband kept the poem in his nightstand until he died. He said he would be waiting for me. Our last anniversary was an incredibly romantic evening and one that I still treasure 16 years later at the age of 80.
PHOTO: Venice, Italy, Grand Canal. Photo by David Mark.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A professional author, photographer, and jewelry designer, Margaret Duda has had her work published in The Kansas Quarterly, the Michigan Quarterly Review, Crosscurrents, The South Carolina Review, The Green River Review, The University Review, Fine Arts Discovery, The Green River Review, Venture, and Silver Birch Press. One of her short stories made the distinctive list of Best American Short Stories. She also had a play produced in Michigan, has had several books of nonfiction published, including Four Centuries of Silver and Traditional Chinese Toggles: Counterweights and Charms, and took travel photographs for the New York Times for 10 years. She lives in Pennsylvania, and is working on the final draft of an immigrant family saga novel set in a steel mill town from 1910 to 1920. She is also writing poetry to find a shred of sanity during this pandemic and hopes to write enough for a chapbook by the end of the year.
One thought on “Gondola Ride by Margaret Duda”
I don’t know what I love most – the poem or the story. They go hand in hand with the beautiful painting and photos to create an exquisite and exquisitely painful (and hope-filled) whole. Venice is one of my favorite cities, though I haven’t managed to get back there since 1990. What a great tribute to your husband and marriage.