a different rome

Having no history of its own (though the original residents,

Most of whom had backed the wrong redcoat-clad horse,

Would opine otherwise), the purveyors and surveyors

Of the huge Revolutionary War tracts were kind enough

To appropriate some from other times and other places,

So there was Utica and Rome and Syracuse,

And, when the ancients were exhausted,

Madrid, Canton, and Antwerp came into being,

Bovine-populated irritants in the highway bearing little resemblance

To their distinguished ancestors.


I am driving through this land of usurped antiquity,

Cleaning up some flotsam and jetsam of my own personal history,

Drinking coffee of the black, hundred-mile variety

At Eddie’s Paramount Diner, Fifties’ faux-chromed and turquoise-tiled

In such a way that you expect Skinny Elvis to settle his non-sequined behind

Onto the stool next to you. The waitress, professionally playful

And of indeterminate age, is, in the course of being nominally flirtatious,

Chattering about the better times when the air base up the road a piece

Was not a mostly deserted concrete desert,

The barrenness interrupted here and there by the odd start-up tech company

Built on undependable grant funding and inexhaustible optimism.

You’d think having the military ‘round would make us repression proof,

She clucks as she refills my cup, But it’s kinda like they used to say

About military wives—you know, the hole in the donut;

Once the donut’s gone, there’s no more hole,

And she laughs as she relates how the base hosted

The thirtieth-anniversary Woodstock concert,

Out with the crew-cuts, in with the gray ponytails.

Let me tell you, the airmen were much better tippers.

(Thus prompted, I toss an extra bill on the counter.)

Life’s funny, I say as I settle up at the register and throw on my coat,

And she nods, Mebbe so, though I wish it was a bit more

Of the ha-ha kind.


Sufficiently caffeinated, I guide back the car back onto Turin Street,

Settling in for the drive north, saying a silent prayer

That the winds don’t kick in from off the lake

And make the roads an impassible madness of white,

As I head to my final destination, a small town

Whose namesake was home to a castle

Where a new generation of three wise men

Built us a shiny new cold-war world.


5 thoughts on “a different rome

  1. this was quite the trip you took us on – blending together so much different things. think i could read it another three times and would still find more to think about..

  2. Some great characters and images, but the voice had a tendency toward a kind of loftiness and abstraction that made it less emotionally accessible to me. Things like “usurped antiquity” and “nominally flirtatious” and “undependable grant funding” would be examples; they’re more idea than image, and they start to lose me. That said, you’ve got a good theme and narrative, and the ending rocked. I’d love to see a revision.

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