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Poetry

From the Janus view of the Janiculum,
                     a warren of restricted views.
To one’s left, the Vatican. Across the river, the Jewish Ghetto
                     created by an edict of a pope,
“Since it is absurd and utterly inconvenient that the Jews who were…condemned by God….”
                     In a faceoff with the temple, the facade of
Santa Maria della Pieta invokes Isaiah’s prophecy: “I have spread forth my hands all day to
                     an unbelieving people.”
Inside the Amphitheatrum Flavium, we should not be
                     shocked at what we find.
The oaken floorboards and even the forest from which these timbers came are gone.
                     What endures endures fragmented:
the hindquarters of an ass, a woman’s thimble, a torso without a head. We gather at
                     the cross.
If the image of the crucifixion is meant to soothe, its balm is at best
                     an angel holding a devil by a string.
Every era has its Saint Prassede wringing her bloody sponge. When did it become our nature
                     to help the tyrant to survive? No one can remember
the origin of the thing. We, the spectators, register
                     our complicity in empire’s conquest
and demise, the individual faces no longer remembered,
                     not the viscous blood-black jam
of them, the place of execution in our provenance scrubbed clean for a time.
                     “Our country has no reason
whatever to be ashamed,” wrote Suetonius. And as a recent earthquake reminds us,
                     all terra firma is lava underneath.
Here, of all the gods, it is Fortuna who presides. And now
                     the lions have leapt the barrier,
and you are it, the new fresh meat of historicity. The powers want to know,
                     how will you survive
this gladiator’s Last Supper, this cloture of the poison tribe?


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