The umbrella pines outside Rome
resemble Peter crucified
safely beyond the city walls.
Was he crucified upside-down,
like the mass of pine roots below?
A green plastic lizard, a speck
of iridescence, evolves
from the stone on which I’m sitting.
I unfold my lunch: a bun,
an orange fresh from Morocco,
a chunk of mostly garlic sausage,
a flask of cheap wine. The wind
in the Appian tombs suggests
the dead get restless even
in daylight. I’d like to explore
these unrestored catacombs,
but wire mesh grating protects them
from casual browsers, while hand-sized
spiders have webbed the portals.
What must it feel like to hang
from spikes punched through hands and feet?
Jesus planned his martyrdom,
but Peter, church founder, did not.
When he died, the spiders rushed
from their webs to snatch his soul.
The lizard looks sideways at me
for devising this new and foolish
superstition. The umbrella pines
don’t bother to stir in the wind,
too busy studying their shadows.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. His latest book is City of Palms (AA Press, 2012). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His fiction, essays, poetry, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, Worcester Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, Natural Bridge. He won the 2010 Aesthetica poetry award.