from “The Sojourner”

The twilight border between sleep and waking was a Roman one this morning: splashing fountains and arched, narrow streets, the golden lavish city of blossoms and age-soft stone. Sometimes in this semi-consciousness he sojourned again in Paris, or war German rubble, or Swiss skiing and a snow hotel. Sometimes, also, in a fallow Georgia field at hunting dawn. Rome it was this morning in the yearless region of dreams.

– Carson McCullers, The Sojourner (1950)


From ‘Eternal City’


What’s happened to this old lane of the dead?
A row of lights across the land, fulgent string
A buzzing of engines between walls
Labored breath, a shying away from strangers’ limbs
A look into emptiness between day and sleep.
And nonetheless on a short outing maybe
You recognize the gate again, the staggered wall
And across the field the fleeting arcades, the aqueducts
And the smell of grain, and the swallows’ black turret-like tails
Spun out into the golden sky. And that of the bats
That rises and falls with the wind. Yes, there you confront
Your no-longer-me. The stripping away, deliverance
From that which was and will be. But all this is gone
By the time you see the old cryptic tavern sign
“Here no one ever dies. Qui non si muore mai.

– Marie Luise Kaschnitz (trans. Alexander Booth)


Was ist aus der alten Totenstrasse geworden?/Eine Lichterreihe landüber, glänzende Schnur/Ein Brausen von Motoren zwischen Mauern/Mühsamer Atem, Scheu vor fremden Gliedern/Blick in die Leere, zwischen Tag und Schlaf./Und doch vielleicht beim kurzen Aufenthalt/Erkennst Du wieder das Tor, die gestaffelte Mauer/Und feldüber die flüchtigen Arkaden, die Wasserträger/Und den Geruch von Korn und die schwarzen Schwalbenschwanzzinnen/In den goldenen Himmel gereckt. Und der Fledermäuse/Das sich aufhebt und sinkt mit dem Winde. Ja, dort erfährst Du/Dein Nicht mehr-ich. Die Ablösung, Erlösung/Von dem was war und wird. Den Hauch Vorbei/Beim alten rätselhaften Wirsthausschild/„hier stirbt man nie. Qui non si muore mai.“  (Marie Luise Kaschnitz. Ewige Stadt. Scherpe-Verlag, Krefeld. 1952)

Disjecta Membra: Postcard Texts

Alexander Booth has two new (old) pieces up with the fine folks at Ghost Proposal

These were part of a series written in 2006 on Via dei Castani, in Centocelle, Rome

Piazza Mirti

Misera e stupenda città, 2005

Shelley wall art in Ostiense

Photo by ozmone

#romantic #rome #ozmo #shelley

© 2013 Instagram

From Whispering City

It is clear that…wherever visitors turn in Rome, they will find heritage, myth and memory, histories without end, piled higgledy-piggledy on top of each other. In this city, every vista is kaleidoscopic. No doubt, on occasion, historical meaning, historical ‘truth’, the facts about one sector or other of the city can be established, but always and only by stopping the machine, as it were. So long and complex has the human habitation of this city been, so ‘eternal’ is it, that everything that matters here is in movement, prompting not an answer, a cheap conclusion, but prolonged and vivacious, life-giving, debate…this whirlpool of histories…

– R.J.B. Bosworth. Whispering City: Rome and its Histories. Yale, 2011.


Rome a labyrinth of guttering lights. Flickering, never quite aflame, but for the remnants coming still and going floating across the cobbled streets, their wisping back and forth from the Castel Sant’Angelo, those flames that would sputter out and stop sometime around the 19th century.

(An awareness of the burnings at best obscure now in autumn’s crisp seams of smoke, glimpsed maybe but to remain unprocessed passing the grim unintentional irony of the bars that belt this once Field of Flowers, that flame against the cold and damp)

The guttering amber light of Rome. Resin-like, seductive it is somnambulist.


Nur wenn in Rom eine so goettliche Anarchie und um Rom eine so himmlische Wuestenei ist, bleibt fuer die Schatten Platz,
deren Einer mehr wert ist als dies ganze Geschlecht

– Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767 – 1835)
“Rom laesst sich nicht vergleichen”


Only when in Rome such a godly anarchy reigns and around Rome such a heavenly wilderness, will space for the shadows remain, which is worth more to one than this entire age

At home

The windowless room: an afterthought. And the light it came, when it came, in shards. Slow like the white dust (the dead) it settled over the green ceramic tiles ending just above the kitchen sink. One street from the station, if you stretched your head from the balcony, you could see the lines. Ideal. Two types of terminus: station and cemetery (but at night the one it glowed up from out of its heart, over the walls, aglow). Now and again, voices through the drainpipe above the toilet that finished outside the window. Often, in the mornings, the body’s sounds through each wall.

Fragment of a queen

A heavy, humid day at September’s end an old tobacco and sweat encrusted queen crookedly alights from the backseat of a car and shuffles across the white piazza. Middle-aged to twilight, says, “I know why he’s pulled open his chest in all those pictures, his heart there.” Stops. Lights a long cigarette and the filter brushes, catches upon a faint film of stubble. “If only she’d die and let me get on with it. I’d finally have space to breathe. She’s always had the window.” The sun-struck roses in the municipal amphorae cracked, she wondered if that vampire was still behind the glass. At the cinema, over on the Corso. Was it even there anymore? Lord, what a sight. Black stringy hair thinning, couldn’t even take up much of the dye, tattooed up to the chin, cheap heavy rings. Only claim to fame coming in black-and-white in some film, in New York supposedly, smack-lidded eyes, a good looking cock. Would she make it? In any event, he wouldn’t have anything to spare, surely.

Not even noon yet, too hot.

Somewhere back behind her, up the Pincian Hill, back over the dead ground behind the Villa Borghese. A hot-air balloon, stitched with stars.

At September’s end

No Rome syndrome, but
Roman hue of ruin this orange
Late September sky