BRIDGE OF SIGHS, VENICE

bridge-of-sighs

Lifting its heart to the sky, the sea sighs. Light
collides with darkness. Gondoliers are serenading
tourists: O Sole Mio. Through a tiny window of

the covered bridge a last look at freedom. Narrow
corridors and stark cells. Trap doors concealing
the Inquisitional Hall. Who tightened the chains?

Who betrayed whom? Who defended the accused?
Who offered comfort? Who visited the imprisoned?
Thunder cracks lightning’s whip forcing confessions

from the brave and timid alike. Rain is pouring
through gargoyles’ grimaces. Secret trials. Guilt’s
a far-gone conclusion. Texas prisons overflow,

so do jails in progressive California. Consider:
The New Jim Crow (by Michelle Robinson). Forget
about job-training, rehabilitation “You’re on your own!

Alcatraz glows through fog in San Francisco Bay.
Once a prison, now a popular tourist destination
(similarly the Dodge’s Palace). Driving north across

Golden Gate Bridge, exiting freeway 101, you’ll
discover San Quentin’s purgatorial fires turning into hell:
Three strikes and you’re out!” Death-row inmates

enduring a slow-going torture. Who knows how many
lives were destroyed by The Inquisition? What forms
of oppression exist in our country, our communities,

our work-places, our churches? Do insiders in all walks
of life decide the fate of outsiders? Are you, or someone
you know, homeless, sick, unemployed, underserved,

living alone? Beware if you’re a dark skinned male
subject to police searches, or if you are an immigrant,
who looks Hispanic. Deportation without a hearing

is common. And consider Amnesty International,
the Red Cross and Red Crescent denouncing our
Guantanamo prison. Bolts of lightning break through

clouds, shattering preconceived ideas of justice and
compassion. Articles of torture clearly on display–
manacles, the rack, spikes, chains. Frightful feats

happened here. Who believes we Americans are
innocents abroad? We see little, hear little, speak
little of what’s done in our name. Drones, counter-

insurgency attacks, collateral damage. Inmates are
shipped across the U.S. to Texas prisons, rarely close
enough for family visits. Yet the boasting TV blares:

We’re the best country ever on earth! Such a sense of
history! Such hubris! Oy Vey! as we say in Brooklyn.
Why not funnel reparations to the descendants of slaves?

Why keep funding our endless wars abroad and the dreadful
domestic drug war? We’re crossing the Bridge of Sighs,
O Sole Mio echoes in cells, so does San Marco’s Te Deum.

From: “Heart and Soul”—Poems by Carolyn Grassi
Patmos Press SF 2014

wire-fence

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QUOTING RON HANSEN

"Carolyn Grassi's 'Heart and Soul' is fascinating in its fluent and affecting blend of memoir and poetry, reminiscence and sheer invention, loss, grief and homage. Adopting a persona at times, or imitating a seminal influence on her writing at other junctures, [Carolyn Grassi] has created a quilt of memories and reflections on a life's education—the journey we all hope to make from becoming to being, or from acting as disciples to representing ourselves and our art as apostles..."
Read the complete foreword by Ron Hansen in 'Heart and Soul' published by Patmos Press, San Francisco, CA.

Ron Hansen, author

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Carolyn Grassi

Ron Hansen and Jim Torrens

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D

Lit Prof at SCU