Poetry: Christmas alla Romana by Anthony Tao

How can you a poet write of Rome without writing of its food? Anthony Tao takes us on a sprint through the spaghetti, the pandoro, the Caravaggio—we devour the language of “Christmas alla Romana” as we would the delicacies of Italy, as we would the history, the sights, the gush of family undergirding her culture.


Christmas alla Romana


The day after Christmas in Rome,
after the spaghetti with clams and sea bass,
the pandoro, panettone, wine and grappa,
having wolfed down fried cod alla romana and lamb,
tortellini, gorgonzola, pangiallo,
one could excuse us for saying no
to ruins, history, the dank
dark Catacombs on the Appian Way
or that monastery of cloistered nuns
still functioning, with its wheel where
the scandalized abandoned their babies.

We considered walking to Monte Testaccio,
a terraced hill near the east bank of River Tiber
with a landfill of amphora, trash
ancients so considerately left us
to gush and fawn over, to say of history,
Look how alive, and shake our heads,
because If Rome was so great…
but we were too stuffed, so we spent

St. Stephens Day in the sitting room
sated, preparing for another meal, Aperol
spritz and meatloaf. Our tribute would be
humble, the family unit as unsaid prayer,
a direct line to another time, its stone walls
preserved with religiosity, culture
polished evident as marble. Besides,
it’s not as if they’re going anywhere,
not as if the naves are getting profane
or that Caravaggio grown legs.

Rome will always be there, imperishable,
unlike cheese or the tender heart
inside those already-browning artichokes,
our days and our lives.




Anthony Tao

Anthony Tao's poetry has appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Borderlands, Kartika Review, Cottonwood, Asian Cha, Switchback, Poetry East West, etc., plus an anthology of China writing called While We're Here. You can find more of his work on his website, anthonytao.com. He formerly coordinated the 2015 and 2016 editions of the international China Bookworm Literary Festival, and is currently Asia managing editor of the China news website SupChina.com. He is based in Beijing, where he captains an Ultimate Frisbee squad and roots for Kansas City sports teams. Follow him on Twitter @anthonytao

Close Menu