Sarah Wetzel: “Postcard from the Expedition”


Eight lampposts, listing this way and that, lead me up

the Campidoglio’s one-hundred-twenty-four steps like a line

of tipsy priests on their way to confession.

The morning ignores the lamps’ unnecessary

light, its attention filled with trees

under which the city imperceptibly breathes.

6AM appears to me as the first hour of an expedition

that might take years.

Back home, my father had promised my mother

Verona and Rome. That was before

we understood the quick work of cancer.

How fast landscapes change—

the branches, bones, a pilgrim’s grandiose

ambitions. In a photo I take, a woman strides away from me

into an empty piazza wide enough, deep enough

for a flotilla of seventeen ships

under full sail. The woman holds an open umbrella

though it has long since stopped raining.

The sun is cracking the clouds of Rome—a city

I’m still trying to find. Look how the wet cobblestones

under her feet shine                 like eyes.

Sarah Wetzel is the author of River Electric with Light, which won the AROHO Poetry Publication Prize and was published by Red Hen Press in 2015, and Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and was published in 2010. Wetzel currently teaches creative writing at The American University of Rome, Italy.

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