Bridge of Sighs Gondolas Durham Cathedral Poetry and wine!
Santa Maria della Salute Durham Durham Castle

Big Frocks

Top party city? Not Rio, not Newcastle, but Venice,
A centuries-long ballo en maschera. Look through
The lace mask of the Bridge of Sighs, at the boned
Bodices and crinolined cupolas of San Marco,
Santa Maria della Salute's hooped skirt. The city
Is a party! Down the Grand Canal's blue carpet,
Every palazzo is a big, Oscar-night frock, gilded
Pink and peach, taffeta and tulle, voile and velvet;
White braid balusters, windowbox corsages. Trailing
Muddied hems with superb aplomb, these shameless
Beauties carry their peeling stucco like finest
Devoré. What is a dress, but a mask for the body?
What is a building, but a mask for the many? Mists
Of chiffon veil the canals, steel-sharp gondolas pin
Their satin ribbons. Bells swing their shining skirts,
Dancing music over the city like glitter dust.

Where Venice floats, Durham is rooted: bells rock
The cathedral tower, making stone quicken, long
To dance. From the north west, the tower is a bride,
Solemn and modest, her two bridesmaids allowed
A little frivolity. The castle is tight-laced above
The full skirt of its mound. Cinched by the river's
Simple silver belt, this northern beauty dreams
Of letting rip. It's time to celebrate, dare to don
Mask and motley, let the streets run with poetry and wine,
Until Venice is known as "the Durham of the south".

Return to Commissions Home PageBig Frocks text © Valerie Laws, 2004.
HTML and Javascript implementation © Cornwell Internet, 2004.