A Wizard in the Forum
(March 9th, the Blessing of the Motor Vehicles)
Today, the cop cars, big trucks, streetsweepers,
cherrypickers come to bow for their blessing.
Santa Francesca Romana, mantled in Hadrian’s
massive ruins, emits a little man in black.
He looks down from what’s left of the Velia
into the Fascist trench full of vehicles, makes a cross,
turns his back on it and then on the grubbed
and humbled Forum, vanishes.
For the moment,
no Carabinieri choppers churn the air,
no small jets follow the aqueducts southeast
to Ciampino. But a gleaming Krik Krok bag
riding a freak updraft
is Simon Magus,
upright in my mind like one of those
jet-pack guys in Life. Cinecittà temples, colonnades
unfurl in the valley and climb the hills.
The Forum crowd gapes and cheers the banner
of his streaming beard.
St. Peter, bless his
legendary soul, goes down so hard on aching knees
he dents a basalt paving stone, I kid you not,
and launches a Stinger of a prayer. Of course,
the wizard takes the plunge. Some say he landed
there, broken and bleeding and leaving above
the disappointed multitude nothing
but righteous empty air.
In the fullness
and fracture of time, you can guess Augustine
had something to do with this, that Greekless
Puritan, who tasted then tossed away
even innocent pleasures, purchased pears,
decent poetry, chaste baths, leaping high
for the hell of it, falling for a healthy roll
in the hay, grieving, simply grieving
over your mother’s corpse.
Break the flesh
on the senseless stones, eat the air,
O Hippo, promise-crammed. God bless
all grovelers. Those witty soldiers in the Ager
Vaticanus north of town knew, know, will know
in their merciless bones everything’s already
for Frank Eakin and Carole Weinstein,
and in memory of Bob Alley
Piazza G.G. Belli
Not so much a piazza as a tram stop,
bus stop, taxi stand where the Via Aurelia
leaps the Frenchy boulevard (and the tracks)
and lands on the not-so-hip side next to the cinema.
And it’s not even quite where I’m saying,
but left, beyond the Dante tower toward
the bridge. “What the fuck am I doing
on this side of the river?” You know he’s
thinking that under his marble top hat,
turns his lowered head ever so slightly
toward the Bagno Turko (the sign says)
a block away, toward the laughter and by
God violins from the bar that bears his name,
the clever old hypocrite. Those he sang
in secret openly blaspheme. He does not smile.
By day for shade he’s got his pines, a fountain
at his feet, and ancient herms whispering in his ear.
He’s listening, always, past them. Gentleman’s cane,
frock coat, pocket watch, and that filth that collects
in limestone ears and eyes--which circle
of Hell or Purgatory or Paradise is this
where the bells of San Crisogono dong
the solemn no of the hour, ting ting
the timeless half? And every now and then
there’s that universal campanile
wrangle, angelic fisticuffs high in
the air over the other side of the shitty Tiber.