Palestrina Time

Palestrina Time


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.