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  • As I stroll through this sinking city, I am not seeking sites or sights but insights that a bit of laundry suggests when strung over a canal.

    Laundry hanging over fairly fetid water.

    I suspect aesthetics are at play as much as practicalities—this person hangs all pinks and oranges, that one socks only, this one lace. From large to small, from tone to tone.

    Who is the owner of such lovely geometries of lace? Such exquisite detail in the edges, in the flowered designs? Who would arrange such wonders over this narrow canal? Is it to impress neighbors whose lace cannot compare? Is it to share beauty otherwise hidden behind these thick walls, these recessed windows? What if a sudden wind snatched the squares and circles and dropped them softly into the green-inky water, like sails out on the lagoon?

    Why so much pink against this amber wall? Pink polka dots and pink flowers and pink stripes and pink solids shifting shirt by shirt to shades of orange? Did someone throw pink pajamas into a load of whites, and oops!? Or has a sea-faring family, through the generations, developed an intense preference for shades of salmon?

    And here…why so many socks and nothing else? Does he send shirts out to be laundered and starched and pressed? Dry his underwear inside? Is Thursday sock day? And why, I wonder, as I stand and stare up at this wall, has this person bothered to wash orphan socks? Are socks the final article of clothing suitable to hang over the canal for a family that has lived in this house for over four hundred years and once strung out their doublets and boot-hose and chemises and cravats? Or does it tickle the launderer to walk home after work to see from a distance what looks like fish swinging on a line?

    Or do these bits and pieces of people’s daily lives clothes-pinned to history make a subtle statement to the teeming tide of tourists, or at least to those who stop to look and to consider that this wondrous place is someone’s home?
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