Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Epigraph on Rome

Sunblaze. Heat dancing like black
Pepper, shaken by the brusque coolness
Of wind. Earth, old blackface, stirs
And responds, flexing itself in the glove
Of habitation. From the highlands,
The long silence of morning, where grass
Lisps in the breeze and the shepherd strides
Towards midday; from marshes and lakes
Where reed banks puzzle the water and a keeling
Boat gobbles the waves like a dog
Its food; from the smoky vista of the sea,
An artist’s palette drenched in oil,
Where nets team like boiling milk
And a wizened arm slams a stop-knot
On a rope; from country towns and estates
Where buildings bake in the sun, tradesmen
Sit at their doors and the sick are brought
To a window; from the rose arbour where a hand
Brushes a table, completing the first part
Of a History of the World (soon there would be shouts
And more bad news, disturbing eternity
In the silence of the shrine); from the dusty grapes
And gritty corn gathered like money
From the sky-warm land, the quiet lane
Soaking up sun like syrup in a sponge;
From the tremendous fertility of the plain,
The deserter dragged back on rutted
Roads past a man with a suppurating foot –
To Rome, to Imperial Rome, a glowing
Marble in the corrosion of the times.
Sound of a fountain in a city square,
Silted at corners, cracked at the base,
Furious with dolphin-light, ceaselessly
Moving. A moment of harmony was about
To come down. Watch it come down.
      Watch it come down.

© 1979

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