Ekphrasis De Foro by Nancy Hoffman


At last we arrive at the age of retrospect, when ancient stones overturn to unveil their own ancestors. A revelation of carved stones, fluting and acanthus leaves, flows forth into the present day. They stood for ages supported by other rubble, and now gentle hands sweep dust from monumental letters. How much lies buried still, inaccessible under new old palaces, further treasures, winding their own passages and stairways atop the elder brother! Gaia stretches aged tufa fingers from one foundation to another. Years don’t weaken her mortar in the least. She sighs and columns sway, not fall; they were artifice when they rose, but with interregnum’s settling she reclaimed them. The city rose higher. A shame, we cry, as we lay down new paths and raise up capitols of our own. The barbarians will come and we will fall. Once more Gaia will swallow the highest peaks of state.

During this age, the sunlight drifts dusty upon reconstituted temple corners and fallen lintels and global people winding through the ruins. They point and glance and linger til the sun drives them inward, toward a cool and dusky lunch. Each feels so exposed in this old place, where the ghosts of senators and slaves–friends with all this time–sit atop the columns, laughing. They knew their own grandiosity, and they laugh to see it dwarf our age of quarter-mile Babels. We sweat among their time-washed temples and stretch to reach the Art, the History. Right there, is that the remnant of a gaudy coat of paint? Oh, dust. Imagined-past swims before our eyes, darting left to right, here a white majesty of marble, there a stinking, painted alley. Julio-Claudians wrapped in gilt overrun merchant streets, and the ghosts of the populus laugh.


—written by Nancy Hoffman in CW 350 Fiction Workshop, Fall 2010