Today's poem is by George Keithley


Herons thrive in Ostia where no ship sails
into harbor. Fishnets fray. Unknot. Return
to stray hemp—threads for nests. Once a port fails

to satisfy the Roman soul, merchants spurn
its market. More marsh than river, the Tiber sprawls
before us. Frogs toil the shallows. Here, we learn,

the Emperor Hadrian wept. Among wine halls
Augustine remembered his lost life. Here,
down a wharf thick with shops, makeshift stalls,

Pope Urban led his blind astrologer.
Rain threatens and a homing heron calls
its mate. Together they approach the shore

where a resplendent shrine, neglected, falls
to ruin: while the last mosaics break
the lusty gods cavort across these walls—

Noon finds them lying shattered in the wake
of a black squall. Already summer trails
Hadrian into history. Herons rake

the marsh. At dusk they roost among the scales
on the docks of Ostia, where no ship sails.

Copyright © 2003 George Keithley All rights reserved
from The Starry Messenger
The University of Pittsburgh Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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