Walking through Palazzo Ducale, I read the words on each information tablet – while others pass by with merely a glance as they listen to heavily-accented english spilling facts into their ears through a headset. Like trail horses, they follow – immediately behind eachother, merely looking at what is pointed out, touching what ought to be touched, seeing what ought to be seen. But I stand there, silently, infront of one of the bocche dei leoni or the Mouths of the Lions. These slits – carved into marble and styled as faces, served as slots to slip confessions in the cover of Venetian darkness – a 15th century tattle-tales dream. Here is an interesting part of history. But as I reach out and touch the worn stone, cold as the water of the canals outside and smooth as the guilded gold upon the ceiling of the palace, my mind does not think history, or artifact. Instead, I am transported centuries.
She crosses the silent bridges, only illuminated by torchlight and the green waters of the canals below shimmer in the flickering flames. The boats are moored and most are inside but she scurries through the narrow pasageways and through the grand square of San Marco. Entering into the palace, she trips going up the stairs as her heart beats faster and grips the banister with one hand as she clutches the piece of parchment in the other. Folded with the name in, she isn’t sure if the ink has even dried yet – but doesn’t dare take the time to look and in the evening firelight, she isn’t sure if she’d even be able to make out if the sentences were smudged. Finally turing the last corner, as the last torch illuminates the long open-aired walkway she turns toward the face, the stone face, mouth agape as if horrified as to what her next intentions are. The eyes of the lion stare straight ahead, hard, deadened in it’s stone entrapment, ingesting the worries and fears of the Venetians on some days, and their betrayals on others.
Her hand shakes, her breath quickens and she reaches out a shaking hand with the folded piece of parchment. The edge grazes the opening and she retracts, bringing the letter close to her heart, she breathes in deeper – it echoing in the empty room. Then, abrubtly she pushes the letter through the slot, through the mouth of stone, afraid that at any moment it may spring to life, look into her eyes, scorn her. But it, of course, remains motionless, pallid. Her fingers linger on the bottom lip, the rough surface still cold with the onset of her touch. Her face hardens and she turns away – her shoes padding softly on the marble floors.
And now I stand, looking into the same eyes, touching the same mouth- my fingers in the position hers were so many years ago, and instead of looking, I can see her. And instead of touching, I can feel her desperation. My heart reaches out to someone, though she is simply a ghost echoing through the corridors of a Palace in a sinking city.