Our wheels bump-and-jar on the flatblack stones
which once vibrated to the drubbing feet
of legionnaires, leaving forum and family behind,
marching south in the scent of pine-and-thyme
to unknown battles, glory-and-gore,
past Seneca’s marbled monument,
How late it is to begin to live just when we must cease to live!
Bouncers guard the gates of swanky villas
as wedding guests judder past in blackedout
cars, oversized as their self-importance,
Look at those whose prosperity men flock to behold;
they are smothered by their blessings,
forcing us to the edge-of-the-road, like housemaids
in a manor house turning their faces to the wall.
We wait in the shade of umbrella pines as they joltpast,
ruining their suspension, sweeping up drives
towards cocktails-and-cocaine, the parry-and-thrust
of their egos. It is not that we have a short space of time,
but that we waste much of it.
We cycle on, creating our own breeze,
the sun licking tawny stripes across the cobbles;
past empty tombs, flayed of their marble-skins
hollowed of their human-hearts,
You do not seize it, you neither hold it back,
nor impose delay upon the swiftest thing in the world,
but you allow it to slip away.
Thin Roman bricks, baked on a day like today
by sweatingslaves, burning limestone
for cement. And someone, shattered
apart by grief for that one irreplaceable soul
who used to hold his head justso, and say,
Life is long enough…
if the whole of it is well invested
who liked to stroll the Via Appia at sunset,
who would have nodded approval as we passed.
(Quotes from Seneca, “On the Shortness of Life’
translated by John W. Basore, 1932)
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