Helen Mitsios (right, putting books back on the shelf they came from, as you always should) is an award-winning poet and writer and the Books Editor for WONDERLUST, and edits the TRAVEL POEM section, and NIGHTSTAND, our books recommendation column.
Her most recent poetry collection is The Grand Tour. She is also a member of the New York Writers Workshop.
“I wrote this poem because there was always something beguiling about the statues that hover on the roof perimeters of buildings in Rome, until one day I saw them in a different light,” she says, intriguingly…
In the ancient city it is impossible
to feel old. Gelato colored buildings and dusty
paint on the walls around as we walk
snake-charmed sampietrino streets.
On the terrace of the Hassler Hotel bar
the sun sets dark into glintings of possibility
alive in a prosecco glass. A surround
of stars appear each a tiny flashlight
of regret memorialized, not the wish or
navigator’s solace but marking instead:
if I had done this instead of that,
if I had said this instead of that.
One hundred forty saints and martyrs
stand in St. Peter’s Square, St. Thesia
dismissed from martyrdom, still allowed.
Lined up along the roof’s edge they
beckon to one another to ease the boredom
and see who will jump first. Or in a garland
together. They don’t bother smiling
at tourists, their garments wild rococo ribbons
dreaming in the wind and limbs like ripe
loaves of bread. Each morning we drink espresso
and eat cornetti. A moment. A moment.
A moment. The ellipsis on an empty page.
So many statues standing on the roofs
of Rome – married to the winds, eternal figures
trapped in air, watching us below, watching the stars
above, with their travertine regrets no longer
viable. But things could have been different.