We’d long missed the shoehorn,
the little rusty tin horn that was
always with us. It seemed shameful to be carrying
Such an awful object into gilt and stucco hotels.
It must have been at the Danieli I forgot
to pack it in the suitcase or the little bag.
Presumably Hedia the chambermaid would throw it
into the Canalazzo. And how could I
write asking them to look for that ugly bit of tin?
Yet there was a reputation (ours) to be safeguarded,
and the faithful Hedia has saved it.
The flood has swamped the pile of furniture,
the papers and paintings crammed into
a basement sealed by a double lock.
Perhaps the red moroccos, the endless dedications of Du Bos,
the seal engraved with Ezra’s beard,
Alain’s Valéry, the manuscript
of the Canti Orfici,* fought blindly there,
together with shaving brushes, junk of all kinds, and all
your brother Silvio’s music.
Ten, twelve days under the appalling erosion
of fuel-oil and dung. Surely they struggled
hard before yielding up their identities.
And I too am up to my neck in filth, if my
civil status was doubtful from the start.
It wasn’t flood water that besieged me, but the events
of a reality unbelievable and never believed.
My courage in facing them was the first
thing you gave me, though perhaps you never knew it.
January 2, 1969