The Eternal City

Sometimes I picture your face on money. 

But this isn’t Rome, where they know
what money’s worth, which is almost 

the paper it’s printed on (a kind of art), 

and where I stared what seemed eternity
into a guidebook, lost, side-skipping

pigeon past, motorbikes, and swarms 

of gypsy tykes excavating the ruins
of tourists’ pockets, until I stumbled

onto the Temple of the Golden Arches-

McDonald’s!- and across the piazza, 
the Pantheon.... Inside, third niche left, 

alone a moment with the Ossa et cineres

of Raphael, I thought of you; “put it all
in the poem” was your advice so, okay, 

here you are! – among the camcorders, 

cell phones, retired gods, and a pair of
kings – rumpled, broke, and amused 

as you were the Green Mountain morning

you asked: among us who was writing 
for posterity?, and one of us knew. Bill, 

I haven’t paid you your due, but need

another favor: could you please undie
so I can buy you the glass of good

rosso in the Eternal City I owe you? 

               William Matthews, poet and teacher (1942 – 1997) 

Copyright © 2005 Jim Simmerman. Used with permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.