Antony Johae

Rome Poem

They say when in Rome do as the Romans
but I don’t see many to ape.
It is Bangladeshi boys who herd the foreign hordes
from street to touring bus or tout made-in-China souvenirs
– pietà, opener, pendant, purse –
through the melting day, martyrs to business.
When you wander in the streets or stop at crowded fountains
Africans off leaky boats hail you with their begging bowls
and bring to mind, in this excess, survival in far places.

Sitting in a roadside restaurant we hear an ill-clad man
on well-worn accordion play a joyful jazz;
his fingers race crazily, our feet take up the beat.
A black car draws up and a heavy man gets out;
he’s here to check the player’s papers – to move him on.
My daughter asks the waiter why?
“Romany,” he says, “thieves!” and puts down full portions.
Accordion shoulder-slung we see him pass along the street.
Without accompaniment we eat half-cooked pasta in tomato paste,
at eleven Euros a go – a waste
and wonder at such home-grown theft.
We’ll dance with the Romany
but we’ll not do as the Romans.

Antony Johae © 2015