The calendar hangs on every souvenir stall in Rome,
beside Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck
circling Piazza Venezia on a Vespa.
January’s a simple seminarian from Akron, but March
smolders in his love of the Lord. A sullen Fabio,
his long black hair is brilliantined, a two-day growth loves his chin.
I check out the live ones, who stride purposefully
in their gray-black-brown-white robes across
the cobbled alleyways and mad boulevards of the city.
Young, buff, from all the wondering Christian world,
they come to Rome. They study, pray, live in beloved community.
Once I start looking I cannot stop: peak-faced or angelic.
Senegalese. Korean. Filipino. Italian. Their robes swish –
they swish – with their devotion. I am so agog I quit muttering about buses, reading the guidebook – how the Titus Arch celebrates Rome’s pacification
of the Judaic people – to gaze at their hard backs. I can’t help thinking
of all that Catholic flesh in the news. And the calendar pin-ups, are they
models or the real thing: beefcake, true and holy?
Previously published in the Delaware Poetry Review.
Sarah Browning is Executive Director of Split This Rock: Poetry of Provocation & Witness. Author of Whiskey in the Garden of Eden and co-editor of D.C. Poets Against the War, she is an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and a frequent contributor to OtherWords and Foreign Policy in Focus.