Selections from Skeptic Traveler

Campo de' FioriSkeptic Traveler


In the season of eating, not of growing,
shoppers line up for pizza bianca.
Breath steams in the savory air.
Closed tulips in buckets won't last long.
Is a half-life better than no life,
a consolation flaring from a table
in a room gone dark long before dinner?

I want and do not want. Outside the shop
a child is wailing, wailing. Her mother,
who lives on the streets, clutches her tight
and will not let go. Three yound women
wearing the look of official charity
hover and urge, but it does no good.
How could even the neediest woman

surrender her child? The cries are terrifying,
a pain at the heart pure as acid.
The child has left a small yellow puddle
on the rain-drenched cobblestones. Inside,
the baker shows her angry face at the window.
Crying is bad for business. This is the best
pizza bianca in Rome, shout the guidebooks:

a thin crisp semolina crust, some oil,
a little cheese. I pocket my thick coins.
I'm one pale face in a staring crowd.
The mother holding her child is beautiful,
olive skin tight over sculpted cheekbones,
a beauty that defies attempts to place it

even as she defies the grip of rescue,
as if to say, "I am my only home,"
my daughter's only home," until a woman,
her arms expert, her face shiny as metal,
persuades the child, "You'll meet other bambini...."
Filled up, the piazza swarms, as sunlight rises
above the palaces, striking the bronze
bowed head of Bruno, burnt heretic magus.



A Riff of Zoloft


The bug is on the outside of the glass.
The water in the glass is sparkling clean.
Drink up, and all your miseries will pass.

A search for symbolism can harass
a simple thing beyond its power to mean.
The bug is on the outside of the glass,

its journey to your bedside from the grass
nothing that it or you could have foreseen.
Drink up, and all your miseries will pass

through peristalsis into the morass
of ordinary nuisances. Routine
is science by another name, alas.

It takes strict observation to surpass
the paranoiac ghost in the machine.
Between each neuron hovers a crevasse

(Auden's cracked teacup as a demitasse)
good pharmaceuticals can contravene.
The bug is on the outside of the glass.
Drink up, and all your miseries will pass.