Poems of a Rome Unseen

Ode to Chestnut Sellers


It’s dangerous to want

What you’ve never wanted before.


I walked out into the Roman twilight

And heard love songs sung

By the sellers of roasted chestnuts

And I loved whatever they loved.


I wanted the same apartment

With the same shrouded lover

That they wanted in a star-smuggling street

Just across the Trevi fountain.


But how could their happiness ever be mine?

Those beautiful geese hatched in Bangladeshi mountains

That flew to Rome on a migration

The southern winds could never turn back;

Those landless, homeless, history-laden children:

Their dreams are as cut-off from me

As the lake is from the sea.

And no matter how much I love their past

I can never make a march into their future.


It’s dangerous to want

What you’ve never wanted before.



The Decline and Rise of Rome


The streets in the shadow of the Vatican

Whose names no one ever recalls

Twin themselves with the silhouette

Of the ghost they can never see.


Fantastic flow her evening gowns

Agents of youth long severed,

She floats above Classical gutters

And glides beneath the blind, withered balconies.


Regal women dressed for the opera

Never see her lustful eyes

Studying their dresses as purple as Rome

And their purses tucked under their naked armpits.


Diners dining in Ceaser’s long-lost kitchen

Condense the whole world into one gesture;

But not a single one makes a gesture

To my lonely date, my ghost.


And before I could feel the wealth of pity

A new, darker recession plummets me:

I will be sadder than this when

My ghost’s dream comes true,


And I walk these very streets of marigold Rome

Holding the small, soft hand

Of a child the entire city and empire could see,

A child that calls me ‘daddy’.



The Wedding Cake


Night falls on the Piazza Venezia

And the Wedding Cake is a marble constellation

As indifferent to my passing

As the stars are about their circuitous enslavement.


The night burns out and the altar glows brighter

Than the now hibernating sun;

There is so much to see

That should never again be seen.


In the busy stillness of that traitorous night

You could still hear the black-garbed crowds

Roaring like lionesses as the Leo roars

From an ornate balcony that cannot see me.


I should learn to look upon the Wedding Cake

As the moon looks upon us;

But then I see that the roar of the fascist crowd

Still lingers across its steps and I cannot close my eyes.


Even as sleep overtakes me I still hear

The cries of war crying out for me.

I fall asleep and I am a traitor

I dream softly and I am a coward.



7 Comments Add yours

  1. cjwaterfield says:

    Beautiful; we always fall into the same melancholic trap whilst travelling. We can’t bear to leave the place; to think that it will slowly erase itself from our memory. Yet we managed to live our lives perfectly content before we stepped off the plane! Travel once and you’ll want to travel again and again.


    1. justinfenech says:

      Eloquently said! It’s a Sisyphean trap we can never escape, nor should we. Mayans believed that history is cyclical, things repeat themselves, and maybe they were right.


  2. Sandy L. says:

    Beautiful and haunting! You’ve captured that essence so well – thank you for this


    1. justinfenech says:

      Many thanks Sandy. Have you ever been to Rome?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sandy L. says:

        My pleasure Justin. No I haven’t actually! Yes to other parts of Italy but strangely enough, not the capital. Definitely on my list though 🙂


      2. justinfenech says:

        So many people say that 🙂 I think its because they think Rome is too Italy to be Italy you know, it’s too cliched, so they give it a miss. But they always come away addicted 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sandy L. says:

        Haha indeed that’s the case! I will stand corrected I’m sure, it’s just a matter of time :p . Your post was quite inspiring in that sense so thank you once again!


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