Venetian Candy

By John Updike 1932–2009 John Updike
How long will our bewildered heirs
marooned in possessions not theirs
puzzle at disposing of these three
cunning feignings of hard candy in glass—
the striped little pillowlike mock-sweets,
the flared end-twists as of transparent paper?

No clue will be attached, no trace
of the sunny day of their purchase,
at a glittering shop a few doors
up from Harry’s Bar, a disappointing place
for all its testaments from Hemingway.
The Grand Canal was also aglitter
while the lesser canals lay in the shade
like snakes, flicking wet tongues
and gliding to green rendezvous.

The immaculate salesgirl, in her aloof
Italian succulence, sized us up,
a middle-aged American couple,
as unserious shoppers who,
still half jet-lagged, would cling to their lire
in the face of any enchanted vase
or ethereal wineglass that might shatter
in the luggage going home.

Yet we wanted something, something small ....
This? No ... How much is ten thousand? Dizzy,
at last we decided. She wrapped
the three glass candies, the cheapest
items in the shop, with a showy care
worthy of crown jewels—tissue,
tape, and tissue again sprang up
beneath her blood-red fingernails,
plus a jack-in-the-box-shaped paper bag
adorned with harlequin lozenges, sad
though she surely was, on her feet waiting
all day for a wild rich Arab, a compulsive Japanese.
Grazie, signor ... grazie, signora ... ciao.

Nor will our thing-weary heirs decipher
the little repair, the reattached triangle
of glass from the paper-imitating end-twist,
its mending a labor of love in the cellar,
by winter light, by the man of the house,
mixing transparent epoxy and rigging
a clever small clamp as if to keep
intact the time that we, alive,
had spent in the feathery bed
at the Europa e Regina.

John Updike, “Venetian Candy” from Americana and Other Poems. Copyright © 2001 by John Updike. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: Poetry (January 1997).

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This poem originally appeared in the January 1997 issue of Poetry magazine

January 1997
 John  Updike

Biography

An acclaimed and award-winning writer of fiction, essays, and reviews, John Updike has also been writing poetry for most of his life. Growing up in Pennsylvania, his early inspiration to be a writer came from watching his mother, an aspiring writer, submit her work to magazines. In an interview Updike stated, “I began as a writer of light verse, and have tried to carry over into my serious or lyric verse something of the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Marriage & Companionship, Family & Ancestors, Relationships, Living, Activities, Travels & Journeys

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Imagery, Mixed

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