Tim Kahl

The Idea of Rome



Is it necessary to defend the idea of Rome
or better just to acknowledge that it once was great?

It is hard to believe that  Rome didn’t  just float
through timeless channels and crash land on the Tiber

like some poor tagged butterfly carried toward the
one and only forest where it meets its species en masse.

All those tiny civilized wings fluttering softly
together to change the weather in Arcadia

—and to change the weather in Arcadia is to change
the course of history. So, now, for the very first time,

history has a direction. It evolves toward the mutual.
Thus the idea of Rome is nothing more than a

fantastic moment of cooperation, part of a great
assimilating wind that has blown since our cells

took on their mitochondria. And it is this
thinking clump of cells so improbably cobbled

together which contemplates the idea of Rome,
that it must have a complicated twist before the end,

one last classical triumph to amuse us moderns.
We, who are bored with our lives. We, who suffer

through the tedium gnawing at the spirit.
A thought occurs to us: what must the idea of Rome

have as its purpose? Is it not possible to gather
effortlessly beneath the vaulted dome?

Convergence of Sand and Cloud

The impossible mix of sand and cloud
idea enough for the worried to ponder.
And after, if the two are fertile,
comes a wonder like the leafy sea dragon
whose kelp limbs are a record of
one thing offering itself up to the cover of another.
Meanwhile the sea spreads its tentacles,
stinging the coast with a whipping spray of foam
that is airborne for an instant, shaped as
the ambivalent hand of a marine god.
The hand points, or maybe it doesn’t;
yet the outlandish continues to happen.
Ice plants infect the rocks with fuchsia.
The gray gulls salute their perches, and
the wind pushes all the pieces of
the panorama together. The convergence of
sand and cloud is imminent. Already the breakers
are rumbling of their meeting. The beach throws up
scrub pines as feelers. What is the rain
but a heartfelt message? Suddenly one
collapses upon the other, and the sea vanishes
in an instant. The marine god is weighing
its options after the extinction of water.
It could become kin to the new chimera
or retain its realm among the steam in
the atmosphere. It grieves for the blue horizon,
waiting for another intense bombardment
of comets. Then the new oceans will form.
The progeny of sand and cloud will
stand in them, isolated, as life forms
bubble up again from the vents in the floor of
the sea, and the hand of the marine god points
to the cover of the sky as a curious omen of
the impossible made irresistibly real.

Tim Kahl

Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books 2009) and The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, Parthenon West Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center.