The Bar at Gianicolo

Dear Armando,
The other day, while messing with Texas, I….
Just kidding. If you wanted to mess with Texas,
Armando, how, exactly, would you do it?
Even Texans don’t know what that means.

Armando, I picture you now, bearish at
The cash register of the Bar Gianicolo.
It was always good to step in, half a block from
The American Academy in Rome,
Spitting distance, as they say in Texas,
From the Vatican (where I was privileged
To view Pope Pius XII’s efforts to
Exhume St. Peter’s bones (could he have doubted
Those bones were where they were suppose to be—
A plumb-bob from the summit of the dome
Designed by Michelangelo himself?))

Armando, you always knew just what I wanted
Without my asking. Amaro Montenegro.
Texas, by the way, so vast and rich,
Was once a part of Mexico, but left
When Mexico abolished slavery.
I tell you this, Armando, because if I
Still lived in Rome, I’d ask for your advice
On how to be American these days.

As I write this I remember your sad wit
And cynical demeanor, clearly faux.
Your greatest joy, it seemed to me was playing
With the children buzzing around the floor,
Among discussions of politics and art,
Gossip and flirtations at the tables—
So much life, Armando! Life is all
Around you in the Bar Gianicolo!

We both know how Italians are mesmerized
By the swish and flash we call America.
Just look at what surrounds you, Armando,
The icons of your Bar Gianicolo:
James Dean and Norma Jean and Diesel Jeans
And beer from Texas. What do you think of us now
As we prepare to dominate the world?

Not far away the huge bronze statue looms,
Of Garibaldi on his horse, not bad
For public art. He looks as though it was
A lot of work to unify a country
Such as Italy. And next to that
The puppet show that shows Pulcinella, the clown,
Beating up the Devil with a stick.

All on the hill that overlooks the city
Where martyred Galileo showed the Pope
A telescope, rotations of the stars.
It seems to me, Armando, you understand
These ironies. That’s why I’m asking you.
Did you learn in school about the Roman Senate,
How it lost control of the Caesar?

That was a raw deal, Boethius jailed
In a tower and all…. You were probably
Too young to remember the arrogance,
Acrid, of Mussolini, the rational
Madness of Hitler—the will to world dominion
That even prophets practice by descrying.

Drop everything to be among the children,
Armando, stop dreaming about Marilyn,
We have the despot now, turning tragedy
To advantage. Italians are so prescient—
Take “Diesel Jeans”—that’s flat out genius.
America is about to kill a lot
Of innocents (the children are included)
To grease the gears of world dominion.
The rest of the world does not approve, Armando.

Take down the icons, friend. Democracy
Was meant to repudiate imperialism,
Not make it happen. Advise me, Armando.
A typically Italian shrug will simply
Not do, while an American tyrant
Readies to rain fire on earth. In the name
Of his larger-than-average dream he’ll murder
The one true sky and all God’s children under it.