Dr. Clark ordered daisies
for his patient’s grave. Easeful death,
my ass, he might have muttered
if he had been you or me.
Violets grow on Monte Testaccio, on the testae.
You can see them from that corner
the Church reserves for the Acattolici.
Across town, insolvent Severn
scrapes the flowered paper off,
weeping for our losses. Yes, pile
the furniture and sheets in the piazza
and torch it all.
When a workman begins to sing
a jaunty song, Severn throws down his scraper,
hurries out to stand by the fire, by the fountain.
He will live to see Italy united,
his amiable mediocrity rewarded,
artistic, diplomatic, altruistic. Tomorrow,
he will surprise himself, yowling at Anna
and smashing her crockery in ecstasy.
For now, he stands between the fountain and the flame,
watching the bright tongues at work, thinking
of Dr. Clark’s purgatives,
of the cypresses across town
between a displaced pyramid and a shattered empire,
of Hector crackling on the plain of Troy.
for Mason Bates