George Moore, "St. Agnes Outside the Walls"




If you mention Rome, the girl

on a particular night, the café, 

of course, a cappuccino as only

Rome can make, swirl of cream 

in the impending darkness,

what name do you give her?


At twenty there was all the world

before you. Now there is history,

a dull spark at the back of the skull.


But at thirteen she is gone.

What name do you carve on these walls,

on the catacombs beneath her grave?


The girl at the table across from you 

smiles. It is night and the café is full,

and the light from the streets

makes catacomb of the stones.


If you think back to the moment

then it is a passage back,

a way through.  To martyr oneself

at such an age. The night diffuse

with electric lights.


There is nothing to do but wait.

The café has emptied, the crowds

dispersed, faces slowly ebbing away.

The girl whose name you remember

as Agnes, in a Rome of which

not a stone remains.


George Moore has published poetry in The Atlantic, Poetry, North American Review, Colorado Review, and elsewhere. His fifth collection, Children's Drawings of the Universe, is released by Salmon Poetry.