The roads of Pompeii show ancient signs
of travel and commerce etched in rock.
Chariot wheels cut ruts, deep and wide,
protruding bumps controlled their speed.
Revelers and traders riding from Rome
made their mark in Vesuvius’ shade.
In Vettii’s villa, sun bleach and shade,
mythological art, the painters’ signs
of pagan beliefs, the gods of Rome
who blessed the homes and roads of rock.
Here there was leisure, no haste or speed,
beneath waving palm, blue sky wide.
The lupinara’s loggia is open and wide,
a place to queue in the dappled shade.
Farmers and merchants with lustful speed
lined up for women ‘neath a phallic sign.
Under Priapus’ painting, murals on rock,
they had their way like the legions of Rome.
Emulating the patricians of Rome,
citizens gulped wine, mouths open wide,
washed in deep baths on pedestals of rock,
rested under arbors casting cool shade.
They gave little notice to the ominous sign
of tremors, though mild, a quickening speed.
In the afternoon heat, no need for speed
for strollers who laughed and gossiped and roamed,
eating olives and dates ignoring the signs–
unusual warmth, sky shadows wide,
early fog creep, a greyish shade
draping Vesuvius, a rumble of rock.
Late August, flakey ash and molten rock
pelted the people with accelerating speed,
coloring the town in inky shade,
clouds of sulfur as Pliny from Rome
espied the calamity and sent news wide
and a ship to note the crepuscular signs.
What anguish in rock in this city of Rome,
what speed of mass death across Pompeii wide!
Today, shades of history, tourist-read signs!