Sunday, January 02, 2011

Only Poetry Lasts

Roman Bathhouse Ruins,
Varna, Bulgaria

—John Balaban

The wind skips in from the sea
stirring poplar catkins, wooly stuff
drifting the town in flurries,
nestling like words, like poems,
as we sit in these ancient baths, listening
to poetry, the delicate thing which lasts.
Look at these ruins. Boys, silly with love,
chatted idly by the pools. Merchants, 
trading amphorae of oil and Lydian dye,
muttered about profits, seas, lost ships.
Now seagulls flap and squawk
on broken walls scurfed with weeds,
with weeds and the royal poppy.
Thracian, Greek, Roman, Bulgar, Slav, 
Goths, Avars, Celts, Tatars, Huns.
Only poetry lasts.
The walls crumble: Horace endures.
And Ovid saves himself from exile
where history blows off the sea
scattering catkins through rubble of empires.