Minnesota Poetry: Jim Moore’s “A Summer Afternoon, Venice”

Jim Moore is the author of six collections of poetry, including Lightning at Dinner, The Freedom of History, and The Long Experience of Love. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, the Nation, the New Yorker, the Paris Review, the Threepenny Review, the Pushcart Prize Anthology, and in many other magazines and anthologies. Moore has received numerous awards and fellowships from the Bush Foundation, The Loft, the McKnight Foundation, and the Minnesota State Arts Board. He teaches at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and at The Colorado College in Colorado Springs, as well as online through the University of Minnesota Split Rock Arts Program. He is married to the photographer JoAnn Verburg. They live in Saint Paul, Minnesota and Spoleto, Italy.

A Summer Afternoon, Venice

You feel how good it is,

this earth, sitting on the cool bridge

made of shadows

that swings between pine tree and church.

Pigeons search through the dry grass,

diligent, working their turf.

If, at 44, you begin to learn

you are not, after all, the point of the world,

what then? The bells ring 6 pm,

the shadows no longer just a bridge,

but a road widening into darkness

and the night beyond. Everyone

is going for a walk on that road

one time soon, if not here

where the roads are made of water,

then somewhere else, somewhere equally strange,

some tide-lulled Venice of the brain.

There is a moment when our empires fade to nothing at last.

Where once we had stood ashamed,

unable to understand our place in the universe,

now moonlight is there, shining its bridge across the open water.

“A Summer Afternoon, Venice” in A Freedom of History by Jim Moore (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1993). Copyright © 1993 by Jim Moore. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions.

  • Eric Turnquist

    I think this poem is to give us a perspective on an individual’s life, see where they are in the world, then realizing there is much more than that. The man’s thoughts go from Venice, where he is, then out to the rest of the world, which is the ocean.