L’Ospedale della Pietà

Once upon a time
these ornate iron grilles
high in the church walls
kept teenage girls
away from any prurient gaze –
or worse.
Today, it’s the reverse:

            they help us visualise
            the figlie whose
            fairytale ability –
            amongst the discarded
            children of the poor
            and the bastard offspring
            of the nobility –

turned them into stars.
There’s a small hatch
through which
the holy sacrament
could be passed.
A guide unlocks the door
to a narrow staircase

            and I follow to where
            I can see precisely how
            Antonio Lucio Vivaldi –
            Red Priest –
            could be more
            than mere voyeur.
            There’s a meticulous list

of every foundling,
every instrument
in the maestro’s care;
and the elaborate lace
worked by those
not chosen for
orchestra or choir;

            such virtuosic power,
            that even now
            the unguarded
            listener might become
            some kind of beast,
            transported, giddy
            with vicarious desire.

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