How I Loved the Broken Things of Rome When I could not speak
because I knew no Roman tongues
and all day long I was
overwhelmed by fragments -
headless statues littering the gardens
and the museums, full
of shelves of heads of stone -
for days on end I roamed
alone in beauty.

When I could not think
because I was hungry
or tired or lost
in a crowd of conversation,
when even if I wanted to
I could not seek
answers to ineffectual questions -

"How long will it take?"
"It is impossible to know this…"
What I wanted I could not say.

When in my thirst for knowledge,
what I thought I longed for most
was a tall cool drink
of sparkling speech -
of crystal clear communication -

occasionally I would
stumble, at least,
on some ancient,
elegant thing.

The long smooth shank
of a broken column -
once supportive,
now useless
but still so well preserved -

"Here, take it home with you,"
my Roman friends enjoyed this joke.
"We have so many,
We have so much of these things."

Too heavy to take away with me,
too partial to explain.
Inert and inarticulate
but still so precious.
How I loved the broken
things of Rome.

J. R. Carpenter © December 2002.


J. R. Carpenter

artist's statement