By the Villa Borghese




By the Villa Borghese park and the statues
Of Lord Byron and Goethe, I wait for a bus

And watch two old homeless Roman women
Sitting on a bench on the street opposite me

Sorting through their ragged belongings,
Plastic bags and shopping bags and blankets.

It is cold. Christmas time in Rome, the city
Of Christian light, of hope, of faith, of charity.

They know that tonight like last night
Will be dark and long and cold, huddled

Together on the steps of a church, cuddling
Each other for warmth. They are not begging

Yet, like so many one sees around the Vatican
Kneeling with head down and only hands holding

A styrofoam begging bowl, or shaking one
Or two cent coins in their cup murmuring

Per favore, Signore, per favore.
But here there is no favor, no permission,

Only the gross peccata mundi, the mortal sins
Of the world left naked, without remission.




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