The last night we were in Rome, Italy
I’d been reading 2 guidebooks with maps
one in English and the other in Dutch
I was lost in the overwhelming plethora
of churches until finally i read about
San Giovanni’s the actual seat of the Bishop
of Rome who is, of course, now the Pope
who normally resides in the the walled Vatican
but goes out on carefully scheduled visits
to seven different Cathedrals and Basilicas
so I walk all the way down to the old wall
of Trajan through a very working class neck
of the roman hoods with all these folk out
on Friday night with blow torches welding
cars and beggars with arsenal of fundraising
techniques besieging the way down the hill
to the wall and round square hulk of Lateran
Palace of bureaucracy I see in the very center
the biggest Egyptian obelisk I’ve ever yet seen
looming up above me across the street still
I can see how exquisite is its hieroglyph glory
sitting in front of his first great Christian Cathedral
for a faith that had been hiding in people’s homes
and in the depths of the catacombs a persecuted
minority becomes suddenly favored faith as in
under this sign will you conquer a mutual aide
society quick transmuted into official dogma so
only after I turn past St. Helen’s that is Constantine’s
mother and her Holy Basilica of the Sacred Cross
of Jerusalem as I walk into the sun setting over
the huge form of the Coliseum will i (eventually)
find out that Constantine ordered the obelisk brought
to Rome and his son put it up in the Circus Maximus
as pylon marker for the chariot races where it fell
over when the city was left in ruins when then empire
collapsed until a thousand years later Pope Sixtus the V
put it up in front of San Giovanni Cathedral and it actually
is one of the largest, oldest Egyptian sun god obelisks
standing now for almost half a millennium in front the
church still the seat of the Bishop of Rome AKA the Pope.


James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. Van Looy leads the Labyrinth Creative Movement Workshop, which his Labyrinth titled poems are based on. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.