“Seeing that the remains of the ancient buildings of Rome, scattered for the most part in gardens and fields, are being day by day reduced by the injuries of time or by the greed of their owners. . . , I decided to preserve them in these plates.”
— Piranesi, Antichita Romane
(Roman Antiquities), 1756
Sedentary centuries-old granite blocks any way we turn
in the way.
Capture the flag, hide and seek
red red rover red rover —
toes stubbed, heels torn on blunt remains.
Halfmoons scar the children’s brows.
In overgrown yards and corner lots
who is even watching?
In the news the lighthouse explodes
and conical beams litter the sea like yellowed
Shattered: the circled here
the pushpin now
the road back home, home itself,
the road that leads away.
The harbor, an heirloom pendant
dangling from a seagull’s neck.
Crumbled coliseums are swept off the table of time.
Gatekeepers are gone.
We are free to enter, free to leave.
Just vellum and ink, square and circle
dimensions that fit in your hand.
Empire at the tip of an etcher’s burin
collapses into a hollow crosshatched nest.
Shackled to impossibility
everyone and no one embossed on the page.
In the foreground a hurried well-dressed man
(trim hat, unmuddied shoes)
drops a coin into a ragged one’s palm.
Here too the beggar’s shelter is ruin.
Denise Bergman is a poet.