In the autumn of 1972 on the only tour i can remember taking during my Navy liberty, i rode a bus to Pompeii. Much of the city had not been excavated back then, and from recent television programs about the city, much more information has been revealed about what happened .

i was enchanted. Ancient places, things now gone always move me, like the Petrified Forest in Arizona. When i returned to my ship, the USS Luce (DLG-7), i wrote this:

i went to Pompeii today in the rain;
left Naples on a tour bus
where at the front of the bus,
a fat little man
mechanically spoke his piece
about squares and statues, history,
as pimps, prostitutes, hustlers,
little boys selling dirty pictures
while trying to pick the target’s pockets,
along with everyday people
moved in masses
along the promenades
as we passed:
innumerable puppets in a large box,
highly seasoned with the filth of a city;

until we escaped to a smaller city
with polished tables of intricate design
mother of pearl cameo necklaces;

then a quick dash across the inland roads
to Pompeii
where the rain gently gathered
for the vendors to turn out
their umbrellas and raincoats
for a few lira to add to their take
selling photos and guidebooks;
the little fat man in his bemused fashion
told of the grandeur and beauty
of the ruins
reeling off death statistics
dropping his voice suggestively
while showing rooms of licentiousness
among the ruins;
i wandered away from the tour
wondering about the people
they became death statistics
i was quiet, wondering;

i left Pompeii today in the rain;
near Amalfi, the clouds broke out
the sun in its harsh, unyielding glory;
the water far below the cliffs
on the narrow road
the hillside homes were bleached white
against the fury of the sea.

i left the bus to wait for hours
to make a telephone call
back home,
only to hear the unanswered ringing;
i walked to the pier
where i waited for the liberty boat
to take me back to the ship

at least the rain had stopped.

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