from A Soldier of the Great War

On the ninth of August, 1964, Rome lay asleep in afternoon light as the sun swirled in a blinding pinwheel above its roofs, its low hills, and its gilded domes. The city was quiet and all was still except the crowns of a few slightly swaying pines, one lost and tentative cloud, and an old man who rushed through the Villa Borghese, alone. Limping along paths of crushed stone and tapping his cane as he took each step, he raced across intricacies of sunlight and shadow spread before him on the dark garden floor like golden lace.

– Mark Helprin. A Soldier of the Great War. Avon Books, 1991.


L’ultima estate in città

Rome was our city, it tolerated and coddled us and I too ended up discovering – despite the sporadic jobs, the weeks of hunger, the dark and humid hotel rooms full of jaundiced and brittle furniture like some obscure sickness of the liver – it was the only place I could have lived. And yet, when I think back on those years, I can’t remember more than a few faces, a few moments. There’s a particular inebriation to Rome that incinerates your memories. More than a city, it is a secret part of you, an animal hidden somewhere inside. And there are no half measures with her, either, it’s either head over heels or time to get going because, above all, the city demands devotion. But, in the end, this is the only tribute that will ever be asked of you […]. If you love her, she will offer herself up to you just the way you want, and you won’t have to do anything but float […]. And for you, then, those summer nights pierced with lights, those vibrant spring mornings, café napkins like women’s skirts blown about by wind, the biting winters and interminable autumns when the city seems powerless and sick, exhausted, swollen with the decapitated leaves you cover with your soundless steps. And for you, then, too the dazzling stairways and rushing fountains, the ruined temples and the now ousted gods’ nocturnal silences until time itself loses all meaning. And this is precisely how, day after day, waiting, you will become a part of her. And this is how you too will begin to feed the city until one sun-filled day, a slight scent of sea in the wind,  you will look up at the sky and realize  there is nothing left to wait for at all.

– Gianfranco Calligarich. L’ultima estate in città. Garzanti, 1973

(translation Misera e stupenda città)

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

July 25, 1998: automatic (excerpt

brick and wood    che cosa? a roman nose
and an elephant of snow triumphing
with purple and gold banners viadelcorso
and the consuls that ran far to the bay
of ostia where the pines used to sway
and now the trash heaps rage just so

– BAubrey & AlbertFJester

Renzo Vespignani exhibit

Periferia con gasometro, 1946 Olio su tela, Roma, Museo della Scuola Romana

from: Musei di Villa Torlonia

29 June – 18 November 2012

A Renzo Vespignani

Salivano lente le sere
e il mondo restava beato.
La giovinezza mia era la lieve
lieve gioia imprevista di soldato.

Venne la guerra poi o, nella vita,
non salirono più lente le sere.
Polverosi i tramonti. Ed infinita
la noia fitta delle primavere.

-Sandro Penna. Poesie. Garzanti, 2001.

To Renzo Vespignani:  Slowly nights ascended/And the world was blessed/My youth was the gentle/Gentle and sudden joy of a soldier // Then war came or, in life,/The nights no longer slowly ascended/Dusty the sunsets. And unending/
Springtime’s heavy boredom (translation: Alexander Booth)

Ormai non resta

Ormai non resta che battere
la [sudicia] città
in cerca di chi non c’è più.

– Dario Bellezza (da una poesia dattiloscritta con intervento
a mano), Come verrà distrutta Roma. Roma, CO2


Now nothing left to do but scour
the [filthy] city
looking for who’s no longer there.

(translation Miseraestupendacittà 2012)

from Jenny

The sun hung dreaming under a delicate, whitish mist, into which not a single spurting column of smoke blended, because there were no factory smokestacks in sight, and no smoke came from any of the comical little tin chimneys sticking up from the buildings. Grayish yellow lichen lay on the old, rounded, rust-brown roof tiles, and greenery and small shrubs with yellow flowers grew along the eaves. Around the edges of the terraces stood silent, dead agaves in urns, and from the cornices twining plants spilled in silent, dead cascades. Wherever the upper story of a taller building loomed above its neighbors, dark, dead windows stared out from a red-yellow or gray-white wall — or else they slumbered with closed shutters. But of the mist rose loggias, looking like the stumps of old watchtowers, and arbors made of wood and tin had been erected on the rooftops.

And above everything hovered the church domes, a countless number

– Sigrid Undset, Jenny. Translated by Tiina Nunnally. Steerforth Press, 2002


& what recedes
Back into darkness seen
It comes from within

Summer slipped, 2006

Villa Adriana

Dead brown needles down
Into my lap, I wanted
Your ghost to come back