For Father Eric Berns L'acqua fracica i ponti.
From the algaed stone of Bernini's first fountain In the town's main square, Roman aquifer-fed waters Continue to soften the age of the carved frontis. Drippling like saliva from a sputtering-drunk Cicerone, the stream of its gurgling consciousness Streaks like white wine across the slime-glazed gaze Of the sculpted figures. The fretted stonework Shin-splints at the base, fading like the gold foil- Wrapped smog, the aural haze which impresses Rome's Distant form. Olive hillsides branch into the town With spring's tenderly spiked crown of rain-spurred growth While the hill's bald top has been tonsured by the force Of fortress ruins, leaving only a primitive baldacchino Of vine thickets to cast monastic shadows at midday. Here, in Frascati, first-century soldiers' barracks mingle With medieval towers and Howitzer-ramparts Nazis Used to disabuse Rome of its own local ghosts of empire-- The ones that old Roberto knows, our personal guide, Your personal Vespa-fixer and everyone's favorite Divining-rod for the region's purest, strongest spumante. Sad as Horace, eminent as Virgil, feisty as Dante, He wore each cantina's rich light, half like a laurel, Half like a halo, around his half-greying head. I understood no Italian, but drank in the glib poetry Of his laughter, the glittering stanzas of his eyes, The gilt, lilt and rhyme of his roaming, rich-lustered cadence. That same gold sang its shimmering on dramatic plains As last rays of Italian sun struck the hunkered domes Of motherly basilicas rising hen-like to gather their part Of Rome beneath their skirts (your image, not mine). These, we watched from afar, our last, most and best Of the fading day. Amid rising bubbles in our glasses And smoke's fall from our American Lucky Strikes, We floated here into evening's place on plastic chairs As the proprietario hosed down the day's macadam At the last cantina, steam rising from the cracks Like fissures of night. Roberto would then guide us back Through his ancient streets and Bernini would fare us Well to the train. Jugs of Frascati for luggage, Heads humming with contrabanded sunlight, Promising return to our smiling host, we boarded, Only the latest to depart after draining the town of its art.
Joseph O'Brien is a freelance writer who lives with his wife Cecilia
on a rural homestead near Soldiers Grove, WI. They have seven
children--Barbara, Seamus, Bernadette, Norah, Liam, Anastasia
and Mara Naomi--who wanted to see their names in print.