While I rake in silence
my plot of grass under the great trees—
the oaks and monumental maples—
I think of the proprietor

of the Cafe dei Fiori, sleepy, preoccupied,
dressed to the nines,
setting out tables in the Via Frattina—
extending his empire each day
by the smallest of increments
until there is room for another place . . .

at which we happen to be sitting
on the day the city official comes,
also dressed to the nines, to unwind
his shining metal measure in the street:
two tables must go. But for now
the proprietor shrugs, arid a look
of infinite weariness passes
over his face. This is Rome:
remorse would be out of place ….

And the white-coated waiters
arrange on doilied silver trays
the tiers of sugared pastries: angel wings,
cat-tongues, and little kiwi tarts;
and the coffee machines fizzle and spurt
such appetizing steam; and a woman
in a long red cape goes by
leading a matched pair of pugs
on a bifurcated leash.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 3 Number 9, on page 37
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