Four weary tourists slump
into chairs at a sidewalk café
in the Piazza della Rotunda.

A red motor scooter whizzes by
nearly hitting a blond toddler
chasing a yellow balloon.

Honk, screech, mother yells.
Dogs bark, people shout, traffic buzzes.
Children splash in sculpted fountain.

From the shadows of a side street
emerges a slow-moving figure
bent to nearly half her size.

Her gnarled knuckles grip a cane.
One step, feet together, next step, feet together,
a tortoise among frolicking rabbits.

The black-robed crone proceeds,
pauses, sighs, negotiates a slow, so slow, turn.
Almost crawling, she arrives at the steps

of the imposing Pantheon, where she
stops. There. Center stage,
facing the columns and molded bronze doors.

Alone in pain, prayers,
or supplications,
she stays, solid amidst swirl.

After sipping cappuccinos,
consulting maps and brochures,
rested travelers rise to move on,

to enjoy the magnificent city
of epic statues, savory delights,
and romantic music,

while the ancient woman snails
back to the corner, turns, then
vanishes in dark shadows,

having trod her limit
of rough cobblestones and
breathed her share of exhaust-filled air.