Sunset in Frascati

published in Salt River Review

St. Peter's flared in the distance, the crimson dome.

A steep drop of crystal cliffs

led me down to the child's grotto.

Beyond that, a thin strip of molten sea.

A dead baby

was tossed before the altar.

(Coming closer, I saw with relief

it was only a lump of clothes.)

Kneeling there, listening.

Far off, a motor roared in anguish

over its broken muffler, a radio

thumped heavily beyond the vines,

and the violators were chipping away

at the hills in search of pre-Christian tombs.

I heard them, the mad motors, the greedy mystics

and their pickaxes attacking the  hills.

You took on trust

I would respect your secret wilderness

beyond the tidy, sequestered paths,

or I'd get bored by

so many rows upon rows of cindered

ferns that I wouldn't venture far

or stay long.

But I stumbled upon it

in the blades flattened around a pedestal,

each weathered blade of grass

seeming to join in a script 

the name of someone, you know who I mean,

the woman who was covered with tubes,

who even then was writing in her head:

Burn this.