Letter From Rome

You think you have left me with sunny apricot palaces
And cherry-stained roofs above the blood-stained churches,
But it’s raining now in Rome; I’ve closed the shutters,
And a cat’s cry comes from where the streetcar lurches.
Remember the terrace, the arms to trellis your head,
The statued gardens where the white foam leapt?
The wine-soaked songs along the sidewalk rubble,
Mussolini’s noonday siren while we slept?
Well, chicory’s now no longer mermaid hair
Washed up by chance in early market baskets;
Old women have long ceased playing the Befana, too,
And beg to nourish their black-draped, walking caskets.
Your rivals, the dashing carpenter and fabbro,
Still dash up the stairs, in three hours to earn the price
Of a coffee or two and perhaps a roll from Milan
Cellophaned dryly shut, and a Marlboro fag if they re nicej
While garlicked fingers loosen the ocher diapers.
(Remember those icy beauties, their vase-smooth shoulders,
The dark-spade challenge of their chignoned locks?
The life they carry resembles Grand Canyon boulders!)
And the failed films of failed life never fail to assure
The factory worker that his troubles are realistic,
While chattering of war or art at either Rosati,
The wealthy go off to bed at the tempo “ballistic.’*
Will you be coming back to this damp crux of the world?
I need to touch your cheeks and girlish waist
And bite your ear until you re cleat with music
And bite your tongue until it has my taste.
For here there are no chandelier-flaked salons
Nor crumbling golden alleys so coloilul,
Nor worldliness nor sane rusticity,
Not even the sense of death — just a miserable lull.
And our only refuge is in each other’s arms
Within a cheated, borrowed, broken room;
We re but the atomic remnants Leopardi mentioned:
On volcanic ash — forsythia-yellow broom.
Our young enthusiasm s grown to appetite,
And our innocent malice meets their indifference;
For who gives a damn when Bruno broods over flowers
About where to stage the bases of bomb defense?
Once we were their hope and they our necessity,
We brought over our muscle to add to their nervous twitch.
But not even Neronic fiddles smoke up the air,
And both of us suffer now from a green-palm itch.
So come back with a canvas or bass-clef spaces or pens,
But come without hope or greed to these sunless sheets,
Come with the shimmering cupolas of skeptic eyes
To this skyless country where only an old rug beats.
Come walk with me where stony orchards grow,
But keep your acrid August-orange mouth neat,
And pinched in a crowd of strangers high on the Pmcio,
We’ll kiss in the sunset glow of a hemisphere.