Cobbled streets have the burnished look of stone skulls
sinking like a necropolis of Ugolinos from centuries
of bewildered tourists stumped in the Eternal City, mulling
over which way to turn. Every ruin begets a selfie
like a Hollywood set directed to life then ditched
with each phone’s shutter click. Past the bronzed
facade of the Colosseum, ominous as a chipped gold tooth,
other crowds follow like apostles the voice of a guide, yawning
and carrying her flag aloft like a cross. Even here I look for
a history of myself. In the Musei Vaticani, I zoom close
to Art’s record: frescoes, sculptures, altarpieces, and war
with pilgrims for the best shot, studying the prose
of a guidebook to explain Exekias’s amphora,
the slave boy delivering clothes to a nude Pollux,
or why every Christ child craves the adoration of a
black Magus: shades frozen in a single hole.
The crumbling stone beneath our feet speaks to us;
even Rome’s dust possesses something of human
grandeur, the elegance of decay. I envy the triumph
that certain paintings give back my face, but Romanus
Pontifex almost sealed my fate. Still, I’ve more hills to climb.
From every gift shop Papa waves at his blessed lambs.