In Venice, the desire for ice declares you dissoluta, profligate.  Or worse.  It does not matter that you have walked six miles under a nagging mother-in-law of a sun, or that the only thing cool in your vicinity is the lean strip of shade from an orange tree whose branch hangs over a wall.  Ice is not an appropriate state of water in a city where liquid means livelihood and transportation. You are not to ask for it.  The hotelier will shrug and return to reading Libero Italiano.  The barkeep will not tolerate such a request for its addition to your Aperol, and will not serve you again.  The waiter at the café will sneer, call you “la donna lasciva” behind your back.  But still you crave it, that clear, cubed repudiator of heat.  On your tongue.  At your temple.  Between your breasts.  Everywhere.  You begin to search menus across the city for il cocktail di gamberetti, though you care nothing for shrimp. You order it, hoping it’s the kind served in a martini glass, packed with ice that you can scoop into your flute of sparkling water.  Your waiter, wise to you, brings you a saucer of iceless shrimp and cocktail sauce, wills you to eat it.  You leave the appetizer untouched.  Again.  Later, you scan the la Piazza for street vendors offering €2 bottles of lemon Fanta and Coca-Cola.  At a kiosk close to the clock tower, you find the drinks poking out of tub of ice.  You sink your hands into it, indulge carnality, not because you want a drink, but so you can fondle this mound of white treasure, cold as diamonds and twice as rare.




In Venice, the cats are all black, lean and long, like scarves left forgotten on walls or stoops or stairs.  You see them, not everywhere, but often.  When you pass the mercato del pesce, they weave between the legs of the stalls or strike at the scraps that fall when a fish monger drops them. “Piccoli mendicanti neri,” he says, with affection.  You can tell these cats have worked their charming-but-pitiful scheme on him before.  As you bend to pet one, no older than a year, it growls at you, certain you mean to steal.  (But you don’t.) When you walk past Joseph Brodsky’s house, you find a cat at the end of a calle in a sudden cortile, washing its tail, for all the world as if the courtyard were designed for an exhibition of one.  (Perhaps it is; museums in Venice spring up like mushrooms). You snap a picture.  And another, waiting for it to turn its gaze on you.  The cat ignores you, as all cats do (except this one ignores you with an Italian accent).  When one evening you rest on a bench in the Campo Santa Margherita, drinking frizzante and watching the sun shrug into the clouds, Il Vecchio creeps out of the Calle del Magazen and wanders over by your feet.  He lies down slowly, as old joints permit, a black semi-colon on the dingy page of the square. You imagine any number of questions he could ask you, if he cared.

JC Reilly writes across genres and has received Pushcart and Wigleaf nominations for her work. She serves as the Managing Editor of the Atlanta Review and has pieces published or forthcoming in POEM, Imperfect Fiction, Hawai'i Pacific Review, the Arkansas Review, and Rabbit: a Journal of Nonfiction Poetry (Australia). Read her (sometimes updated) blog at or follow her @aishatonu. 

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