This poem is very special to me and is the most important of these four poems. It is a poem
about forgiveness and unconditional love without bounds. It is a quiet poem with a loud message
and fitting to end this poetry series.
OF GROWING OLD IN ROME
Of this I am only an observer,
for I am young, and have not seen the evil that
was done under the sun in Rome.
I see two old men in the park,
still wearing clothes they had worn in better days,
they are old and tattered now,
but their spirit is young.
I sit and listen to them at times,
though I pretend not to,
under the heat of the midday sun,
but they stay under the shade of the sycamore trees,
as if they had seen too much sun,
and what goes on under its glory.
At a glance they look the same,
each with the same poor English,
each with the same German accent,
each with the same winkles on their brow,
but they are from different worlds,
two totally different worlds,
one was born into persecution,
the other was one of the persecutors,
yet they talk as if they have been friends all their life.
‘I knew of Rome in its better days–‘
the first would say,
‘when the wickedness done under the sun was but a
glance in the future, I knew of Rome before it fell,
and I was there in its hell.’
‘I knew of Rome in the dark days–‘
the second would remark,
‘when the sky was maccabre and gates of wire
separated the living from the dead. I was one of the dead,
there was a moral battle raging inside of me,
a battle that never ended.’
The first man was a Jew,
the second a Nazi,
yet both told similar stories of dark days
long forgotten by many,
of wicked doings under the sun,
and both wished it never had happened,
both were victims of that far-off land called Rome,
too close for their liking.
not about those days in Rome,
not of the horror that lay in that great city,
they laugh of those days after the madness,
when they were stranded children in an unforgiving
They had shared the same clothes,
had lived in the same apartment building for the last
and each had known the other’s past,
and both had forgiven the other,
knowing the madness was more than a Nazi and a Jew,
a gentile and a child of Moses,
it was man against man.
They had cried together in those days of mistrust and anger,
in those nights alone when the screams of those lost souls
cried out at night for a better world,
of forgiveness in an unforgiving land.
They had stormed out of their apartments at the same time,
each wanting solace over a cup of tea,
each wanting to forget and forgive,
each knowing the other’s thoughts,
each knowing of the same screams,
the same black and white blurred images of charred
skeletons and pits of death,
each knowing the true answer to the other’s problems.
Forgive, but never forget.
The latter promise could never be broken,
they agreed over tea,
but they had to forgive–
what the other was a part of,
the mental suffering and anguish that both had
And with that they would sip the last drop of healing tea,
and for a moment their wounds of the mind and soul would be
They laugh while I cry at their memories,
they laugh in soul-healing retrospect,
knowing that they will always have each other.
They are two children who know no predjudice and can
only look at each other in question at the predjudice they
only wonder why such things could happen.
They sit in the shade to escape the sun,
the wicked sun that they had betrayed by their friendship,
the sun that shined upon the many faces of the wicked and
they are gods in a world that cries out for salvation.
They have survived Rome and its horrid aftermath,
to them Rome is not a place,
but a warning–
a warning to those that dare stress the wickedness of the world,
for they will be burned by the sun,
that same sun that had shone upon their brows
and given them strength in soul.
I know no more of Rome,
I have heard enough of its horror,
and can only watch its aftermath.
They are done talking for a time,
no doubt they will return home to those apartments that
have seen so much,
to those walls that have heard too much.
They walk away from the shade
and the sun and the solace of the old park trees,
they leave and smile at each other,
and they pat each other on the back as they walk away from
the sycamore trees.
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