Tepid damp and lukewarm night,
Build your camp by rivers bright;
Sable black and and somber grey,
Silt the river's arms away.
Island tenements rent for cheap,
Bakèd bricks in plinths lie deep;
Stores of merchants and their wives,
Sheltered from the thund'rous tides.
Glance on that maternal shrine,
Softly angled toward the Rhine;
See the men with flowing beards,
Seldom entertaining fears.
Moon illumes a stony pose,
Sun sustains a garden rose;
Temple pillars bathed in or,
Leave mute shadows on the floor.
Olifant horns begin to sound,
Tribesmen fall upon the town;
Riding with the northern gust,
Trampling the homes to dust.
Yet, as gateside rocks abound,
From the ashes, rises now,
Where that city met disgrace,
A mighty fortress in its place.
Immortality: built to last, like the Roman Coliseum.
A first century monument to humanity’s achievements,
to Nero, to the strength of linen clad Romans,
with travertine arches that withstood fires and earthquakes.
Mortality: bones and blood, like Nero himself.
and those who followed him until there were none.
Our breaths follow the rhythm of our internal clocks,
ticking down the hours until we fall into cold dust.
Immortality: tastes like sermon promises of Heaven;
shines like morning light through cathedral stained-glass,
mesmerizing and tantalizing, hope that our breaths
will stick to the world like black ink on scritta paper.
Mortality: tastes like dried leaves and scattered roadkill;
shines like morning light through hospital windows,
reminding and tormenting, months and months of hospice.
Our bones are not travertine, our blood is not Holy water.
This evening, the sun has set in raspberry blush and apricot.
Beckoning down with it those trees that shift through emerald tones the shadowed grass has forgot.
She lies draped, feasting, curved - carved not in marble but with
the ochre the trees leak when the sun is high
Deep and rich. Hands dig into figs and pull the insides out, sucking the ambrosia dry
Leaving fingertips dripping in rose-hip gold oil
myrrh that lights up that dusky soil
So when you touch the ground here, the mud is soft like the moonlight over her
And the juniper berries oft get stuck between your teeth
and make the air taste sweet.
Reflections in water mark no shimmering Daphne. She is flesh and blood
That desires not only to eat, drink and dance
But to feel full in her heart, to cry when needed
Flawed as a child is. She pulls her hair back from her face too regularly
and spits out cherry stones like a boy unimpeded.
And above her head soft stars form in Ariadne's guise
A vision of rich apples and pears, dark by midnight skies.
are you collecting the old counts of how
they slaughtered your son and his power-hungry heart,
twenty three knives to the torso,
the killing blow delivered by a beloved friend?
or are those the scrolls that you wish
dust would settle over forever, relics and reliefs of
everything you see behind your closed eyelids.
a politician’s mother
must be all the more clever; her son will not
be going into battle to die with honor
but rather with deceit. give her-- you-- a laurel wreath,
the irony of the goddess nike standing
golden over the tomb of your son: emperor,
caesar. mother of summer, of boiling july,
are you not the sun? are you not the constellations
freckling burnt pale skin? are you not
the fiercest and brightest of warriors, quietly,
Two coffee shops, one left one right, ancient
History of modern Rome, post-war families saving
Ethiopian delights, surviving selling beans rebuilding
The Eternal City, bringing back normality by drugging
Insanity. I knew them both since I was a child, holding
My father’s hand while he drank, the elixir and I
Ate my tramezzino looking up at his smile. Contagiously
Spreading the good vibes as he joked, with young
Bartenders sons, of local bar owners serving
Residents. Went to each yesterday, one for cigarettes
The other, for corretto, another way to gulp a drop
Of spirit disguising, in the tiny cup, of a dark mask.
Young tapsters have grown old yet remain, brewing
In solitude, relatives absent some departed.
At the cashier two Chinese ladies discovered, to be
The wives of new owners, foreigners employing
Italians, weird products of migration, for ambitious
Populations conquering integration, as their kids
Go to the same school as mine and locals mock
The change, living in the glory of the past, when
National espresso only charged, seven hundred lire
European currency exchanged, in ninety cents for those
Who don’t know, triple its original price. My bank
Stuck in the middle of the two has also changed
In twenty years, my first account at eighteen
Transformed, me into the witness of many comes
And goes, directors and vice, bankers and services
Evolving to reward, my loyalty with fraud.
Two nights ago it shamelessly stole, fifty euros of me
Claiming, inexistent liabilities on a contract that had none.
Peanuts to unconscious holders, asking explanations
To hear clerks remark, they have no idea and will
Eventually know in ten days time, when the statement
Will sentence the crime, as legal commending me to shut
Up, accept the theft, give thanks. Going tomorrow to grab
A coffee and close, twenty years of history, mine.
My train is changing colours, turning blue seats red,
green and lilac by sapphire stripes separated still.
Only sparing white walls, and graffiti sliding doors,
marvelled upon entrance my eyes welcomed the gift.
A palpable surprise, for me and all passengers within,
overwhelming feeling, grateful for ideas,
coming into life as I chose to seat on emerald,
while other toy with ruby and end up choosing lolite.
Heard a distant voice, somewhere in my mind,
found myself complaining a part of me I did not like,
about selected colours, come to think of it a little very dead,
defeating happy purpose as I engaged to blame,
whoever had the idea and the choice he made.
One day it will erupt
and turn this city into grave - I say.
No one believes a fortune-teller,
no one wants to face the fate.
They won’t leave Pompeii,
nothing can make them go,
there's no place like this
in the whole Rome.
Nothing will make them leave,
only fools run away from paradise.
They are singing and drinking wine,
girls are dancing and music's playing.
I wish I didn't know how it will end,
I wish I was one of them.
I'll pour some wine into the glass
and down it as fast as I can,
and then I'll have another one,
and another one.
I'll be singing with them, dancing.
I'll kiss a girl and then I'll sleep with her,
I will be trying to forget it.
i. once upon a time, there were old gods and new gods. under crumbling archways the divine and the cursed share cigarettes, lighters cupped in their hands. rain pours relentlessly from the heavens, falling to the uneven cobblestone in a sheen of silver spears and smoke. this time, nothing but prayers are shed.
ii. this is their communion: an errant hand brushes against the marbled form of Hades, rowboats rock harmlessly to the temple of Asclepius, feet shuffle across the white line and into the holy land. it is in these moments that solitude begets peace.
iii. angels tuck in their tired wings, roosting on bridges and cathedrals and alleyway corners spun with ivy. amongst themselves they count the crowds that take shelter in their shadows. every day, the numbers swell until even the loneliest of the celestial feel a warmth in their gilded chests.
iv. these same seneschals pour life through golden urns, as they had done eons before the she-wolf who nursed the founders of Roma was ever born. water flows steadily from all four rivers and through the eagle-face spics that dot the roads, blessed by frail, rosary-stained hands. even the Tiber, full of harsh currents and deep embankments, softens under the touch of a child at a fountain. life flourishes. the gods smile.
v. once upon a time, i met these cursed and divine and celestial beings. all lived together in a city as old as time itself, in a city born from clay, then wrought with brick, and finished in marble. and in this place of impossibilities, i found my heart.
i found my home
poppies and chamomile bloomed roads,
covered in warm dust... such a pity
that these are the only ones left
to be pointing towards the eternal city,
where marble and stone still stand
on places gods used to walk bare-footed,
where belief was more than just demand,
until cassocks have had ancient ways sooted.
A place where manner was turned into art
And polymaths emerged from genius creation,
where Latin blood spills from heart to mart
In a continuous state of vibrant elation.
where green is the colour of oils and lust
and the sun can burn to a lemon flavour,
and the sand on the front of the boot is black
and the wine is more than a bitter-sweet savour...
There, where a walk through square paved markets
is bursting with hand-made stories,
where scratching through history's pride
would always end in timeless glory...
I had held myself as a greater man,
A soldier aloof from the whims of life.
The only things I cared for were the gladius in my hand
The screams of my enemies
As their blood dripped from my blade
And they lay clawing at my feet.
I went whoring with the boys
Played with them games of dice
Laughed at their jokes.
It was all lip service.
I did not care for their ways,
The ways of lesser men.
I was a soldier whose only lust was for blood.
I was better.
The new recruits came
With their beardless faces.
They huddled together for comfort,
Some cried to their mothers
Those simpering wrecks were of no interest
Except for one
With the stature of a god
The confidence of a titan
He stood amongst his peers
As a man stands amongst children.
It was not long until we sparred.
As good soldiers there was no need for words.
We both knew what was obvious
What was as certain as life and death
We were brothers in arms
Of the same breed
We were as one.
The fight came.
Outnumbered ten to one
Until blood soaked our faces
Our enemies and our own
Until crimson flooded our eyes
Before night fell we were the only two left
Alone in a field full of ravenous beasts
Of coprses waiting for the crows
Left to rot in some far flung land.
Their gaping snouts salivated
Waiting for the chance to sink their blades into our flesh.
A new emotion filled my veins.
I was no longer fighting for myself
To satisfy my lust for death
But for my kin standing next to me
The god made flesh
It was as we stood back to back
As I felt him stand firm against Fortuna’s whims
That I knew I was finally what I claimed to be
Has made me a greater man.