for Jaya Savige

why are there things rather than nothing ?
     nobody knows        but it is better that way
better than nothing, at any rate

           the things of Rome
are great         marble, terracotta, glass,
        pewter, bronze,
old old old bones ribbon-bowed together,
    and gold     under peachy pearly skies
   concealed inside
                  diesel blackened palaces,
    or   behind graffitied roller doors
and peeling shutters

          and such beauteous ephemera -
   the sequinned things
        from Oppio
                    a tiny shop
                on via del Corso

the ancient things' continuous rediscovery,    
          dug up from under
                building sites -
       further revelations
to satisfy ancient history's
                  package-toured gluttony

        the modern wars are well-embedded
in breakfast tv             reminding me of
         the things of   Silvio Berlusconi -
  mirrors, private surgeons,
      an opulent villa in Sardinia
- those days
                are over.     
have the rainbow PACE flags
   that flew
   from thousands of Roman balconies
        been furled
and folded away      since
  Prodi brought the troops back from Iraq ?

  today I walked   around a hilltop of streets
      in the Blue Mountains,
and, because you'd sent your poem,
                I remembered
the walk, opposite the poets' flat
    up and along through Trastevere
  to the Gianicolo
                     (today, I returned there,
    with complications, certo )

          and I remembered Ponte Milvio -
      one place in the hundred places
                   that I loved - where you must go -
just catch a tram on the far side
                          of Piazza del Popolo,
           go on a market day - weekend antiques -
      (it's in the guide book)
and don't even think "antiques ! in Rome ? "
    just go there - to the unkempt banks
  of the swift river, to the famous bridge,
              and then to Mussolini's stadium
ringed by   perfect giant athletes -
     you can picnic beside the enormous feet
            of   their towering kitsch heroics

if you lean out  
from the poets' flat terrace
    and stare, way past the railway station,
  towards the distant south
you'll see the white concrete building,
      that will remind you of de Chirico
(but no banana),
                    of EUR,
more Mussolini -
     more impossible idealism,
looking so vast, so cold, so practical -
       impossible !
because if anything is known there
          it's that nothing works
     by program,  
on the opposite side
                              of Rome.

     this poem - merely a hint
of the trove of things
    to help you spend your grant
      and the things you've paid to store
   to do so,
                      it's nothing really.



poet's biography ->