Herculaneum        

 
What shall we find among the ashes?

     The irreducible turned to stone?

A small resort, where summer people

     Watched, as the great went by in flashes

Of chariot wheels, while dog and bone

     Fled through the columns - a place to couple

With any transient Ocean Beach:

Wishes forever out of reach.

 

Now weary searchers lift the glass

     Of solid wine set down too soon.

That dog, that bone, alike preserved

     In antique fire as hard as brass,

Slowly are sought all afternoon

     Through iridescent bottles curved

To hold less ashen scent than seems.

And cinder poetry stacked in reems.

 

Think of the picture-books to show

     The Sunday classicist how well

Restored he may be too. This chair,

     Much like his own, reminds us how

The one he sits in will dispel

     When dug from dust, the long despair

Of scholars wondering if he read

All Sunday seated on his bed.

 

The past in print: the present, still

     Unsteeped in lava, flickering on -

The doom of empires televized.

     Those oriental statues fall

On one another, smashed and gone,

     Like these from Greece which Pliny prized.

Ah, dear my listeners, much is told

By summer places in the cold.