Living here in the empire’s last days
Waiting for the next act of terror
The next friend to discover a lump
The next insult to civil discourse
I listen to a Palestrina mass
Descend slowly from 1569
To the desolate summer of 2008.
Stunned by its beauty,
I learn that 635 copies
Of the compact disc were sold last year,
A year when 31 million people a week
Watched “American Idol” and 10 million more
Hoped for blood on “Ultimate Fighting.”
I long to meet the other 634.
It’s in Latin, of course, which I
Do not understand. And there are
No drums, even though in modern times
Everything must have drums.
My heart is keeping its own beat
Roughly in line with Palestrina time.
A new history of Rome informs me that
In the fourth century senators and
Citizens had no clue the end was near.
Just the usual gripes about taxes and foreigners.
A poet, Prosper of Aquitane, wrote:
“Everything rushes headlong to its end.” The Senate
Responded with more gladiator shows.
In Florida, students, inspired by their pastor,
Announce they don’t believe in evolution.
They bring their own books inspired
By faith. Their music thumps
Like a boot to the chest:
Thus, it begins.