Gershon Maller

Gershon Maller

Gershon Maller is a Melbourne based poet and editor. Poetry Collections: Night Breathing (1993) and Nights in the Gardens of Spain (2002). Rogue Objects and This Tangle of Bones are in progress.

In 2003 Maller received a major grant from Arts Queensland for a multimedia collection of still-life poems set in Venice and Rome, performed at the Brisbane Writers Festival (2006). His work appears in Australia and the US.

Gin in Venice


Last night’s moonlit blade slashed
a throat on Ponte dei Scalsi steps,
but tourists gaze beyond stained
granite toward the Rialto bridge;
a waiter shrugs off my query with
limonata, points to Moscow mafioso
in Hawaiian shirts on leave with red
stiletto working girls. Linen men,
damp to crotch crushed like suits
in café chairs await wives bargaining
rare glass; all escape the heat in iced
jugs below blue umbrellas; an eel
ribbons briefly, slips rust barges afloat
lip-gloss cigarette slurry of used kisses.


Swarthy men in newspaper hats
disembowel the Grand Canal outside
my window, build a makeshift deck
from thick planks, probe the plumbing
absent middle-ages; steel jaws scoop clay
from trenches pumped dry to reveal
Venice’s guts of rusty pipes, rubber-sealed
bolted at the flange for hopeful never-sink;
all seeped in afternoon light, soft colors
by Canaletto below a bitumen sun, where
diesel docks perspire a tar miasma; café
tables, finding their sea legs, wobble
in a street bar high on scaffolding above
the city’s wound, open for dry martinis.


At midnight, the moon ripples
its gold coin on surfaces slipping
shadows cast by dome and spire
circling in oily tides to lap timber
shafts driven deep into lagoon mire
where merchants floated fortunes
in the amber city, trading Nubians,
incense, wine, myrrh, and olives
down arteries narrowed by villa walls
with potted sills sprouting crowds
of blood red flowers below sagging
roofs, tiles loose as aging teeth
topped by chimney stacks of ducal
hats, the lineage of medici banks.


Below Giudecca’s expansive sky, craft
are hauled across the tide by muscle
or calico; gondolieri two-step long oars
rolling back from toe-to-heel to forward
lunge; a mariner’s hull gently nudged by
Sirocco’s promise, mainsheet drawn
knuckle-taut by shivering sail, his tiller
furrows the sea as he looks prow to
distant spire where small black widows
bowed by trolleys over-ripe with vegetables
alight from vaporetti to limp their sway
inland toward the next Tintoretto, who
sprays concrete walls with phosphor
tints of the toxic and heroic night.


An olive-skinned Sicilian barely clad
in dick-togs squints his line of sight along
the shot gun barrel, his volley of hot lead
lost on flying skeet, random gull, & sunglass
bodies littering the white deck, basting
in the sun. An armoury steward, with a glint
of appellate, nods to safety, points the gun
to port, reloads the acrid breach with
a steady click and passes it butt-first to
next bareback marksman. Then, as paper-
backs turn pages of summer plots, a gelati
melts, and laughter bubbles from chlorine
pool, the skeet explodes, and the Majestic,
bound for Athens, ploughs the Ionian Sea.

For other contributions by Gershon Maller, please follow the link below:

Poetry in this post: © Gershon Maller
Published with the permission of Gershon Maller