from Poem in the Shape of a Rose

Stephen Sartarelli - 1954-

June 10, 1962

. . . Take a few steps and you’re on the Appia
or Tuscolana, where all is life
for all. But to be this life’s
accomplice, better to know
no style or history. Its meanings
deal in apathy and violence
in sordid peace. Under a sun
whose meaning is also unfolding,
thousands and thousands of people,
buffoons of a modern age of fire,
cross paths, teeming dark
along the blinding sidewalks, against
housing projects stretching to the sky.
I am a force of the Past.
My love lies only in tradition.                                   
I come from the ruins, the churches,
the altarpieces, the villages
abandoned in the Apennines or foothills
of the Alps where my brothers once lived.
I wander like a madman down the Tuscolana,
down the Appia like a dog without a master.
Or I see the twilights, the mornings
over Rome, the Ciociaria, the world,
as the first acts of Posthistory
to which I bear witness, by arbitrary
birthright, from the outer edge
of some buried age. Monstrous is the man
born of a dead woman’s womb.
And I, a fetus now grown, roam about
more modern than any modern man,
in search of brothers no longer alive.

More by Stephen Sartarelli

from The Diaries

It would be so easy to unveil
this light or this shadow . . . One word,
and the life that lives alone in me,
beneath the voices every man invents
to get closer to fugitive
truths, would be expressed at last.
But no such word exists.
If, however, in the din rising up
from the streets I hear a sound slightly
clearer than the rest—or if I inhale
among the season’s scents a sharper breath
of leaves, awash with rain, then,
by suggestion, my ineffable life
looms before me, for only an instant . . .
And I can’t bear it . . . But one day,
oh, one day, that sight will make me shout,
and my shout will be a revelation . . .

                                                            (1950)