In Rome we gather stones like a warning, C. S. Hughes

by C. S. Hughes

An old librarian’s hands are stained with words
Quite invisible but ingrained
Beneath the skin a microfiche translucence
Where histories and prodigies entertain
Like the ghosts of carnivals
On the whorls of the Campo de Fiori

In Rome we heard them singing
The cobbles have lain a thousand years
In shapes lionesque and serpentine
As if berthed underneath
In homage and in death
Still its shining skin
A lost chimera

We will draw truths from Virgil’s disembodied pages
Watch them in obeisance and in burning
Until in the fragments that remain
With stern Bruno frowning from his shroud
We almost grasp this oracle
In our hands gone to ash
Facile is the descent

Black-handed and forewarned
We gather Sampietrini
And hold them high as if
We are not the barricade but the road

From maligned stones, ringing
I can hear the blows
Of the mallets that made them

Wielded with a stiletto and fragmentary love
As ravaged as the face
Of Michelangelo



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