In Nimes

…The so-called temple of Diana was an Augusteum, the niches in the cella also suggest some library use…

I’m in the South of France.
Far off, a flute is playing Vivaldi’s measured Summer
And all around unmeasured profligate summer
Is flinging itself in my face, fluting birdsong,
The heady scents of jasmine and honeysuckle,
A thousand greens and one impossible high blue.

I walk up the hill to the Roman watchtower
Where I eat my delicious picnic,
Roast chicken, rosemary potatoes,
A whole punnet of strawberries
Dipped in a scoop of Chantilly cream.
From three stalls in Nimes market.

Down through the trees to the so-called temple,
With the dome half-fallen.
Of course it was a library, of course,
You only have to look at the pediments
You can see where the scrolls —
Where the scrolls —

And suddenly I’m in a ruined library.
Nemausus, it was, Gallia Narbonensis,
And the voices in my head are wailing:
“Where are the books!”
“Where, oh where are the books, the books?”
“What have they done with the books?”

So, sitting on a slab, I pull out my kindle, Gaius.
I read Ovid and Cicero and Homer
Marcus Aurelius and Plato and Livy
Until the voices in my head are calm.
Then I mutter, just in case,
“Tell them to write on parchment.”

Fortunately there’s nobody in sight
Except for one Livy-loving lizard
Who had crept close while I was reading,
Startled at the sound of my voice,
Freezes for an instant, looking up wildly,
Then skitters off over my sandal.

(If ever there was a journal poem this is it. The symbol of Nimes is, and has been since Roman times, a crocodile, but the lizard was real, they are everywhere up in that park, which claims to be the first public garden to be laid out in France.)

Posted in Human culture, Life as it blossoms out in a jar or a face, Poetry