At the Forum

Liz Purvis

        after Marianne Boruch

When we entered the ruins, the stone walkways were slick
with water & the white light
of low-hanging clouds bounced off them. Beautiful,

I said, but you were busy
fiddling with your camera, changing the lens.
My boots slipped a little on the path

& I reached out to steady myself,
palm against gray stones, fingertips sunk in rainwater
pooled in the crevices. Careful, you said. I felt you behind me 

without turning, crouched down
beside the stone that caught me, ran my hand over
Latin etchings half-obscured by moss.

Earlier, we’d fought on the train;
you’d said we could see all of Rome in one day.
I didn’t want to run haphazard over cobblestones

from the Spanish Steps to the Pantheon,
the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican. You said
your pictures would capture it,

that we could look back at them after,
but I wanted only my two eyes & what they could see.
Once in the city, we were wary—the way 

people thrown in with the lions must have been wary,
circling—talking quietly again
without looking at each other, trying not to get too close.

Five minutes at the Forum, I already loved the stones
& statues, the overgrown grasses, their rainwater droplets,
the three gulls floating in a low-walled pond—

the whole scene. Even my part in it
as I agreed to meet you later,
as you left, photographer’s bag slung high on your back.

I stayed there for hours.
The broken busts I finished in my mind, filled in
the turns of their arms, tilts of their heads.

I wanted to run my hands all over everything & did.
I touched what was left of Vesta’s temple & Caesar’s,
their Corinthian columns still standing, no longer holding anything up.