To Rome


John Poch

Why now, flying over Italy
with the multi-lingual flight attendants
who make me lust for my wasted youth,
who ignore my shy middle age gaze
like high school girls in a museum ignore
yet another marble sculpture of a man,
why now do I think of the steel-toed boots
I wore on the concrete loading dock
of Southeastern Freight Lines where
in my early 20s I worked my way
through college? Finally, I had given up
physics for poetry, and one night at work
I watched a man drive a three ton forklift
off the four foot dock—which was both
physics and poetry because he did it
on purpose (no skid marks at the edge).
For a moment, of course, I think
of our plane crashing, the terror of it
and the cliché, so my thoughts come back
to the boots required for the job,
the heavy leather worn thin and shiny
with a couple years of grease
and carbon filth finally ruptured
over the right toe to reveal the steel
protecting me, which had indeed
been run over half a dozen times,
those shoes heavy as bricks, probably
a part of my back pain here, now,
on this plane in this discount airline seat
which carries me through the sky
nevertheless to Rome, where Paul had come
in all his torment and faith toward death,
but glory, so I meditate on how that steel
(the oblivion of that torn upper, the years)
shone through the leather leading me
step after step night after night away
from concrete and freight, toward flight
and Rome where they once beheaded Paul,
and in the manner of the ancient Hydra,
from that absence sprung a double life,
the mind of Christ, and multiplied for good.