Dan Curley: “Remuria”
2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize Finalist
I’m a sucker for a beautifully told tale, and Dan Curley’s “Remuria” delivers. This poem about his students and his friend and her devastating diagnosis, interwoven with Rome in all her beauty, kept pulling me back into its sad embrace.
— Alexis Rhone Fancher
The day you were diagnosed
You came to my class and told
Stories of your Roman summer,
How you ascended the Aventine
Hill and looked out over the city
Beneath a canopy of stone pines,
The perfume of oranges honing
Your senses, making you alive
To the crunch of gravel tamped
Under heels of passersby, the cool
Comfort of the stone balustrade.
You made my students yours
And inspired nostalgia for somewhere
They had never been. Afterwards
I invited you for coffee. You said no,
Then changed your mind, and we
Whiled away the morning trading
Memories. The language barrier.
The triumphant meals. The work
Of immigrants in the tourist trade.
The awful squalor that somehow
Renders the beauty of the city
All the less bearable. I mentioned
Remuria, the settlement Remus
Would have made on the Aventine
Had he beaten Romulus to the punch.
Makes me wonder, you said, where
We’d be right now. You knew
The phone call was coming, yet
You sat with me, as though nothing
Were urgent. There would be time
For grief, and for rage at the doctor
Who dismissed you all those months,
Told you the bleeding was nothing.
The week after we landed, I sent
A photo of our students sheltering
Under the orange garden trees.
Remembering you from Remuria,
I wrote, not knowing what else to say.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan Curley grew up loving Greek mythology, which became a gateway drug to Latin, which turned him into a serial classicist. He has worked in the Classics Department at Skidmore College for over twenty years, but his interest in poetry has been lifelong. For a long time he taught and wrote about other people’s poems, but never gave much thought to writing any himself, his days as a garage-rocker notwithstanding. Things change, and somewhere along the line, like Juvenal, he got tired of being just a listener. His first book of poems, Conditional Future Perfect (Wolfson Press, 2019) is now available from Amazon.
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