Scoundrel Time

Isolated Splendor

I was aping Mussolini in a pizzeria
when the American I fell for called me an asshole, not
an overreaction in Roma, the city
responsible for romantics

like Caligula and Berlusconi. Later that night, soccer hooligans
attacked the riot cops, the latter
lining up like imperial legions to face the Goths. This
was a dangerous backdrop

against which to fall in love. This
was a turning point
in which I embraced the Old World, became
an insufferable American

who would wear a Roma scarf, refuse all romance
except with Eurocentric types, paramours
you could only speak with
if you understood the films of Federico Fellini

as spoken in the language of Marcello Mastroianni. I had forgotten
affectations like this
isolated men in the home of the brave, where dress up
was okay

as long as you tricked yourself
out like a cowboy. Wearing the flag as a cape
does not concern me. I’d rather think of that Roman summer
when The World Cup went to Italy,

as if through memory I could reclaim my love. Mussolini
longed for broken statues
standing in isolated splendor, as reminders
of how great the Romans once were. Thomas Jefferson

lifted e pluribus unum from a Virgil poem, an ode to farming
in which the poet celebrates a paste
mortared from garden herbs, each taste
retaining its singularity

while synergy made flavor new. Ezra Pound
said Mussolini was Jefferson
without the tights. Without a history
full of false equivalencies

what would Shakespeare be? If we didn’t make mistakes
why would we practice art? Romeo and Juliet
fell in love for our enjoyment. To cure a broken heart
you must work. Someone has to work

as a riot cop. Someone
has to wear a mask to stop himself
from bursting into tears. To fall you must
approach the edge. To stand

where Mark Anthony put Julius Caesar on display
like Exhibit A, the body of evidence
for which he cried, you don’t have to remember
Mussolini. You don’t have to remember

you lost your love to see the light
falling across an emperor made of stone, a disarmed Caesar
who has no feeling for phantom limbs, no sense
you stand by in ruins.