Roman conversation

Roman conversation

In Rome that poet told me:
You cannot imagine how it saddens me to see you
writing ephemeral prose in magazines.

There are weeds in the Forum. The wind
anoints the pollen with dust.

Under the great marble sun, Rome changes
from ocher to yellow,
to sepia, to bronze.

Everywhere something is breaking down.
Our times are cracking.
It is summer
and you cannot walk through Rome.
So much grandeur enslaved. Chariots
charge against both men and cities.

Companies and phalanxes and legions,
missiles or coffins,
scrap iron,
ruins which will be ruins.

Grasses grow,
fortuitous seeds in the marble.
And garbage in the unremembering streets:
tin cans, paper, scrap.
The consumer’s cycle: affluence
is measured by its garbage.

It is hot. We keep on walking.
I have no wish to answer
or to ask myself
if anything written today
will make a mark
any deeper than the pollen in the ruins.

Possibly our verses will last as long
as a 69 Ford
(and certainly not as long as a Volkswagen).

– Jose Emilio Pacheco (Translated by Alastair Reid. Inside Out, Selected Poetry and Translations. Polygon, 2008)

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