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Rome

by Peter Campion


The metal center of the ceiling fan
reflected me: that bare diminutive
cut free from rage and dread, from any plan
I clutched. It told me here is where you live.
Outside, the city held up forms like masks.
Its famous river flowing green. The young
and almost young in sharp perfumes and musks.
Glow sticks for sale. Stock prices strung
streaming along plate glass. All this went on.
And I was part. And nothing was absolute.
The metal center of the ceiling fan
reflected me in sweaty brightness. Brute
blunt spot I was in being not desire:
like tigers or the moon or lemon trees
just rivering their presence to the air.
That clarity was nothing you could seize.
It meant that you were small. And “you” meant me
and her and him. Though each was separate:
as if each cradled some unceasing plea.
The way, each fall, new gorgeous bodies fit
inside the same outlasting billboard space.
I knew my life would disappear from there:
the way that waves of traffic-sound replace
waves . . . and that sense of being rinsed clear
would vanish. Even then, this narrow core
of white heat in my body (fear and craving) pooled
and rankled down. Except it felt now more
like fire: here was where all life was fueled.
The need to fly from need, break wholly out:
it pulsed from all the usual broil of feeling
walking past walls or roses or a pig’s snout
hung in a window, scarlet streaks congealing.

 

Peter Campion is the author of two books of poetry, Other People (2005) and The Lions (2009), both from University of Chicago Press. He is the 2010 Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize Fellow in Literature at the American Academy in Rome. (10/2010)


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