The Tomb of the Scipios
     for James Nalle Boyd

            They sleep fitfully, we hope,
in their tufa bedrooms, so old-fashioned
                        they lie down instead of ascending
            in proper plumes of smoke.

                          What are they
up to, the living ones, in their Greekified gardens,
their scroll-crammed libraries? Who are those
            bookworms Aemilianus hangs with?
The best porphyry sarcophagus couldn’t keep
                        the slimy suck-ups out.

And we—we go south, we come back, 
                        and there they are, staring at us,
as we slog toward our insulae, our smoky tabernae,
so dusty are we that even that blowhard Ennius
            can’t squall us clean.

                                                   O, Appia, vilest of beasts
to the traveled foot, take us safely home.
            We know our eyes should never leave
your hard, black stones.  end