Sculpted in death, models on display,
this mute cast shows how it was to die.
The terror they knew is engraved on their faces,
their prays canceled in a pyroclastic flow.
They would never know the artistry of their deaths
as those of us who now gaze upon their last remains.
I pause to muse upon the beauty of one restored
once dreaming, perhaps, into a silver mirror,
had she known it would never die.
And here a slave, who lies beneath his burden,
freed at last under molding ash. And the rich, too,
still clutching with empty hands round vanished gold,
had their end which is the end of all, good and bad.
I ignore the tourist crowd and wander down
narrow streets to be alone.
The hot sun shears a hole in the blue sky.
I stop at the arena, a monument for the many who died
to the execrations of the mocking crowds.
I sit where they sat and try to imagine
what it was like to watch men die,
and know, these were my brothers and sisters from long ago.
I gaze into an empty, silent room,
dust motes floating down, and wonder
who would have been here to greet me
and fill the hollowness that is now.
There are no sounds these days of cart wheels
rolling over rutted stone;
nor ancient voices crying out, nor footfalls
padding down these empty ways
where I wander like a ghost.
Indeed, I am a ghost that time allowed,
vanishing, into the past with each step;
but, sadly, time cannot move back, only forward,
always inching toward some unknown end
that draws me with a longing to know
what was and what is to be.
I climb stone steps back into modern Pompeii.
Its traffic grinding by, raucous voices here and there.
A loss lies within me that cannot trip away.
In the distance Vesuvius silently waits,
pressed against the immortal sky, as if to say,
long after you have gone, brief ghost,
who haunts these ancient ways, life
nature will give and take without desire . . .
a book well read many times.