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The lament of Maria Maresciallo at the funeral of Veronica Franco


          I recall our hand-signs in carnival,

          the silver rings on your white gloves,

          your fingers making to me –

          you are daytime, Wooden Mary,

          these are evening and small hours.

          That was your name for me, and with it

          you hurled stones and rotten fruit

          when our friendship became tedious;

          but at other times you rested your head

          against my shoulder and sighed,

          often a lover’s name, a Saint’s name,

          but still it was I who felt your sacred breath,

          its scented play on my cheek.


          Tintoretto and Titian worshipped you, you know,

          and your lover the Saint, he adored you;

          but I was your sister, the only initiate of Berenice,

          I wandered your depth and breadth, nave and aisle,

          danced in your wake, walking on water by your magic,

          swam in your subtle flow, submerged, miraculous;

          I traced the letters of   A  M  O  R  E   in the air

          while you were lost and looking away, inspired,

          made kisses inside my mask, daydreamed of you.


          A single balotina, a single mourner,

          her hand resting on your coffin

          where the wreck of your beauty is caught,

          I look around, above – the planes still fly,

          the vaporetto is full of Japanese,

          the world somehow has not stopped,

          and under my breath I say:

          Ite, pensier fallaci e vana spene

          Your house has fallen, the Ca’ Franco overthrown,

          in secret it has crumbled away, it is dust,

          forgotten, your pages have been torn from you,

          ripped from your gold-chased spine,

          the book of your life is defaced;

          be written on me still, Veronica –

          while I live let them read you in my plain face,

          all the words of love, the true looks,

          the eyes behind the mask, verità;

          and when a flourish sets the fine to me,

          let me close and lie beside you,

          book to neglected book, closer in this finality

          than we have been in life.





(The “Last few words” field is not allowing me any line spaces between items, whether I cut and paste or type in direct. I don’t usually include author’s notes with a poem, preferring to allow the readers’ interpretation to work for them. However on this occasion I did want to provide some explanations. The fact that I am unable to present them in a readable form in the “Last few words” field means that I am going to have to reproduce them here instead. Please bear with me. If you have any other questions about this poem, please feel free to ask me.)


Title: Veronica Franco died in relative obscurity; no one knows where her tomb, if any, is located.

Line 4 Wooden Mary: Centuries ago in Venice, to celebrate the Feast of the Purification of Mary, twelve pauper girls would be dressed in fine clothes, jewels, and gold, and married in the church of San Pietro. On one occasion these girls were kidnapped by audacious Narentine pirates, but the Doge of Venice himself captained a flotilla to pursue the kidnappers. The pirates were overtaken, slaughtered to a man, and the girls freed. Venice’s oldest celebration, the week-long ‘Feast of the Maries’, was instituted in honour of this. However over the years it degenerated into a rowdy occasion, and wooden puppets were substituted for real girls; these became the butt of the populace, and the term ‘Maria di legno’ (‘wooden Mary’) became a synonym for a cold, haughty woman.

Line 15 – your lover the Saint: Veronica’s lover was named Marco, after the Patron Saint of Venice.
Line 16 – Berenice: An alternative of ‘Veronica’. The name means literally ‘Bearer of Victory’.

Lines 26/27 – planes… vaporetto: The anachronisms are deliberate.

Line 30 Ite, pensier fallaci e vana spene: The first line of a sonnet composed by Veronica Franco, it may be rendered, “Away false notions and away vain hopes”.

Line 31 Ca’ Franco: The Venetian abbreviation Ca’ is short for ‘casa’ meaning ‘house’, and may refer to an actual building or to a dynasty or family.

Style / type: 
Free verse
Review Request (Direction): 
[This option has been removed]
Last few words: 
See above
Editing stage: 


It's not a story I knew but the notes and the poem explains it so well, I found it easy to read, the formatting looks fine Marie. It's so good to read your work as it's exquisite and intricate and takes me to a place I have never been before.

"The perfect woman perpetrates literature as she does a small sin: as an experiment, in passing, to see if anybody notices it - and to makes sure that somebody does." - Nietzsche

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Chez, and obviously you can confirm that it is visible. :)

It's the last of my poems about Venice. Never been there, but I was inspired by some word-of-mouth accounts, plus Francesco da Mosto's DVD and book, plus finding out about Veronica Franco (the 'honest courtesan') and rather falling under her spell. Most of my 'Venice' poems have actually been about her. I am imagining myself existing in a kind of timeless, half-requited love affair with her (hence the anachronisms). Her personal world was, of course, one where she gave pleasure to men and her heart to one man; my 'presence' is that world is one of an imagined confidante, someone who enjoys an emotional intimacy with her, someone in whose arms she can even relax if she wants comfort without the feeling of being possessed, but in the end someone whose love she does not return, or at most returns it in a different way. It is meant to be poignant, a way of expressing feelings which are familiar to me and which may be familiar to others (I don't know about that - readers will relate to this poetry in their own way, I guess).

Anyhow, this poem having been written, there is no more to say about the subject. I would be flogging a dead... oh dear... anything more would be superfluous is what I mean to say.

Thank you for 'exquisite' and 'intricate'. I don't think I could be simple if I tried! LOL.



Nah pop no style, a strickly roots.

author comment

I can see why you have been frustrated with the formatting problems we're having.

I copy and pasted it into word to eliminate the extra spaces and make it more screen friendly.

That is my first impression, now I'll read your notes.
Mmmm, I'm in two minds about that.
On the one hand I have heard the Iliad recited in Greek, not understanding a word and marvelled at the beauty and kind of resent any explanation being necessary.
On the other hand my acquisitive mind is always grateful for deeper insights.

I'm really glad you've come to Neopoet and hope you will stay.

Regarding formatting, I'm a bit of a purist, and having worked in printing and publishing know you are pushing shit up hill to retain perfection in physical form in print, so tend to think it is best to let the words alone speak, while understanding your desire.

Now I'm going to read "A young woman who loved me spoke Welsh to me" but won't comment yet., I've been awake for 2 days and am barely lucid.

A new workshop on the most important element of poetry-
'Rhythm and Meter in Poetry'

Glad you finally read it even if you're barely lucid :P

"The perfect woman perpetrates literature as she does a small sin: as an experiment, in passing, to see if anybody notices it - and to makes sure that somebody does." - Nietzsche

... is a wonderful way to read poetry.


Nah pop no style, a strickly roots.

author comment

I see that some of the functionality of the new text editor is working. Hopefully it will not be long before It gets to where we want it. I posted one of my old poems that uses italics, and like the results, but I still find there is a problem with line spacing when splitting lines after they are posted. But I think that is a fairly minor fix for Andrew, when he can find the time.

Last few words is quite rudimentary; for long explanations and notes, I usually do what you have done, and add them to the end of the poem itself, that way they can be edited properly.

I enjoyed this poem of yours. I have never been to Venice, or anywhere else in Italy, but it seems to me that you have captured the flavour and customs of the place very well.

When are you going to post some of your lithopoesis? I am intrigued by the idea, and would like to read some.

Respectfully, Jim

"Laws and Rules don't kill freedom: narrow-minded intolerance does" - Race-9togo

I have never been to Venice either!

I don't think I could make lithopoesis work here. I think it would be better to direct you to - click on the 'poems' link and you will find several examples. None of them is presented exactly how I would wish, as they are suited to the starkness of blank paper, but you will get some idea.

[The only deliberate use of colour and images in a 'lithopoema' was called 'The bear who never made it back', in which I collaborated with German-born Scottish artist Reinhard Behrens. It was actually made into a folded A5 leaflet which was handed out at a literary festival earlier this year.]


Nah pop no style, a strickly roots.

author comment
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