RIONE SANT’ANGELO, OUTSIDE
LA TAVERNA DEL GHETTO IN ROME
Halos of mist wrap around the streetlights.
Every sound is pocketed. Birds who think
they are angels wonder why there are no answers
for what they sing. Dusk begins to sift
through the mist. The woman carrying her life,
who passed by a moment ago, calls out
from the next street and someone answers,
but not to her. There are no angels here.
The halos quiver. A single bird drinks
from a street puddle. The sky leans down
onto the shoulders of buildings. She calls out
again. She thinks she has been here before,.
Time starts to wobble on its axis. The robin
can’t find its nest. There are sounds
with no source, roots that lose their way
and break the sidewalk’s surface. There is
the news from my own borders. There is
a stone wall that stretches fifty feet
but marks nothing, belongs to nothing,
stands for nothing. Only the cats still play
on broken pillars and arches, as they did
during the roundup of October, 1943.
Today’s newspaper has a smudged date.
In the distance a shaft of light falls on
nothing in particular. Again the call.
There is nothing to say, nothing to do,
nowhere to go. My own watch stutters its alarm.
RICHARD JACKSON is the author of 15 books of poems and ten books of criticism, translation and anthologies. He is the winner of Fulbright, Guggenheim, NEA, NEH and other awards as well as the Order of Freeform from the president of Slovenia doe literary and humanitarian work during the Balkan Wars.
Read more by Richard Jackson:
Essay on Slovene poet Aleš Debeljak in the September 2016 issue
Four elegies in the February 2016 issue
Five photo poems in the December 2013 issue
Two poems in the December 2012 issue
Six photo poems in the July 2012 issue
Essay in the July 2012 issue