The Blue Rose of Venice by Thomas Rain Crowe
Thomas Rain Crowe's works are very well known both in the United States and abroad. In this intensely personal narrative, he warmly invites the reader along on a very special trip he planned for his wife "to make up for my manly lack of romance." His descriptive language subtly examines the contrast between the Italian Italy and the tourist Italy. How very typical of tourists to get lost, hotels to lose reservations, and language barriers to be ever present. His attention to detail shows his eager expectations of the trip and how they were not immediately met. He and his wife face multiple challenges the first night. Instead of being able to easily find the convent,
We walked ten minutes
Lugging heavy bags of clothes
For a five week trip.
His exhaustion and frustration are clearly evident as "tired and lost in Venice at dusk," his ten minutes become twenty minutes as he struggles with directions.
When they reach their destination, however, all is not well as he discovers their reservations are not to be found. Fortunately for the weary travelers, an angel comes to their rescue and they are able to enjoy "several days with a series of hurdles and intervening angels" in this quixotic city.
The symbolism in "The Madonna of the Knots" is not "lost along the way" as surely the author and his wife were. The Mother Superior ensured their protection with a holy card.
The sharpest contrast between the old Venice and the new Venice is seen in the "Song of the Gondolier." The beautiful images of
a single wooden paddle
from a black boat on dark water
is shattered at the end when the gondolier
begins to sing
into the evening
and the mouth of
a cellular phone.
The photograph on the book's cover comes from "Unfurling a Peace Flag on the Ponte Della Guerra Against the War." Crowe purchases a peace flag and tells Nan to take a picture of him on the bridge with it.
"En Italia, the peace flags are only done by liberals," chides one of the gondoliers. He knows that peace can only be achieved when all the communists are dead. As they leave and the gondolier waits for another passenger, it is Nan who reminds him
But this is the Bridge of War.
The gondolier manages a wry smile
and tips his hat
getting the paradox in our actions
and our point.
Although a cultural misunderstandings has occurred, they take pride in the fact that they
changed the world
with a word and a simple act—
not with a bayonet
or heavy bags of gold.
The title poem is a love poem for his wife.
Too much time has gone by
since I have put my love for her
into actions or in words.
The color blue is not usually associated with love but all he could see was the one flower
to match her linen dress
and her hair in the light of the moon.
The final poem, "Goodbye to Venice" reads like a page from the author's journal. The allusion to music, wine, and gondolas in narrow canals clearly captures Venice in all its quiet beauty. Having accomplished what he set out to do, he simply says, "Ciao, Venezia. I've got to run."