A Psalm for the Sibyl

On the Occasion of the 2,757th Birthday of the City of Rome
Apollo shines bright on her dappled stucco walls,
Like a vast and blank and gold-spotted canvas
Ripe with a possibility as multiform as the City
(For there is only ever one City)
In which it hangs like a vast inhabited museum exhibit.

This City, Holy Roma, like a sentient artwork, like
A gilded Jesuit ceiling overfilling its lobèd, gilded frame:
Sant' Ignazio, armored with silver and lapis lazuli,
Dances on etherial clouds bleached to martyrial,
Apocalyptic light by the Holy Name
(The HaShem of the Ghetto,
The Theos of the Greeks)
Enthroned in a dazzling
Sunburst like a sacred klieg light full of swarming puffing
Cherubim like sweet lemon-gold puffins.
A son-et-lumière for the salvation of souls
Full of the light that is the life of men.
My chalice overfloweth.
Venite exultemus Domino,
In polyglot song:
Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum! Ihsous Nazoraios Basileus ton Ioudaion!
And the sacred tongue of His Own Flesh, O Adonai.
My chalice overfloweth.
It overflows, Rome overflows, with that spring light,
Once called Helios, now a pale candle to
The Sol Iustitiae,
But what a candle! Almost as bright
As the wreath of flame atop a mythical tiered birthday-cake,
Augustus's mausoleum crowned
With two-thousand-seven-hundred-fifty-seven torches,
For beautiful Holy Rome enthroned in her
Shattered niche
High over the Colosseum,
Forever young and marble-smooth
Like Mother Church her sister
Whose foam-white tiara crowns the City anew and anew
With every rising dome.
(Boire oilom bekinyon Hashleim ze habinyon Oi oi oi oi oi oi)
And they will celebrate (oi oi oi) amid
The amazons and fauns of the Capitoline
And thick-waisted, splendid bathing Venus,
With blank stony eyes:
Free entrance, 9.00-20.00.
And they will celebrate amid the tombs and wonders of the Ara Coeli
Atop its flight of merciless steps:
The throne of sulfured Sibyl who pointed out
The Son of God and His Mother to divine Augustus,
Holy Rome and Holy Church becoming one,
A being older than itself,
Warrior Virgin Mother with fecund breasts,
Like the militant she-wolf,
Spraying their milk and blood,
A chaste nymph in the baptismal grotto,
An oread of the Petrine rock,
Unlike so many near-succubae
Who once dwelt viciously in these parts
Like dragons in the margins of a map.
She has drawn them out, wizened and dying in the days of Diocletian:
Trivia, Althea, Salmacis,
Dryads, naiads, nereids, oceanids, she has drawn out
These pagan cripples in the dance and said to them,
Take up thy bed and walk.
Let us celebrate the marriage of Jerusalem and Rome,
Of David and the Sibyl, of our Hellenistic heads
And Hebraic hearts:
Et dodim kala et dodim et dodim kala Et dodim kala boi l’gani Parcha hagefen henetsu rimonim.
And these are the wedding guests, capering in the forum:
All these Etruscan demons with faces like goats and wings like angels,
These creatures of the mind,
She has taken them, and exorcized them
Into the sunlight, capering through
The Heculean columns of Peter's tholos,
And shown them Christ on His mosaick'd sun-chariot
Shining brighter than Sol Invictus.
(Boire oilom bekinyon Hashleim ze habinyon Oi oi oi oi oi oi)
You have conquered, O dark Galilean,
And turned old Rome gold with Thy breath.
—Matthew Alderman


  1. HV Observer says

    Oi oi oi oi oi oi. I do wish I understood what “Boire oilom bekinyon Hashleim ze habinyon,” et al., meant.