“Let’s go to Italy,” said my friend,
an architecture student–
she would study and photograph the buildings.
I brought along my sketchbook.

Maybe Nero didn’t fiddle
while Rome burned, but he used the land
cleared by the massive fire to build
his Golden Palace and his Pleasure Gardens.

I did not sketch many buildings–
only one drawing of the Colosseum–
I did not know it had been constructed
on the ruins of Nero’s cruel rule.

From the evidence of my sketchbook,
I seem to have preferred the Borghese Gardens–
sculptural forms for me to sketch,
plenty of columns for my friend’s camera.

I did not go inside the Colosseum–
perhaps I sensed the bloodthirst still hanging
in the air, reflecting a world that continues
to devour itself with public spectacles of death.

Nine thousand wild animals, mostly African, were killed in the Inaugural Games at the Colosseum, which was largely financed by spoils taken from the Jewish Temple by Titus after the Roman defeat of Jerusalem in 70CE. The public spectacles of human and animal slaughter continued for nearly 400 years. It is estimated that 400,000 people, and millions of animals, died in the staged hunts, wars, and executions.

For dverse, where Merril asked us to write about a historical artifact. Since I’m late with it, I’m linking to OLN.

And also inspired by this post about the Colosseum from Manja. I knew I had drawn it when I visited Italy in 1976, and I found the sketchbook right away (falling apart, taped together, obviously seen better days…)