My focus shifted from the antiquities
the moment I noticed her - young, beautiful,
alone, in sandals, and hobbling on well-
worn crutches over hardpacked dirt
and gravel in the granary section
of an ancient villa south of Rome
as clouds and sun kept trading places.
Against the wind and along a honeycomb
pattern of ruined brick walls, she hobbled
insistently on the rough surface peppered
with stray blades of short waving grass.
I envisioned her as the wounded mortal form
of a Roman goddess, hair loosely curled, back-
swept. Taking its turn center stage, the sun
floodlit the ground, casting a shadow
like a flowing cloak trailing her steps.
In the courtyard, unable to bend down
to scrutinize the mosaic of leaping dolphins
and sea foam, she slid her right foot out
of its sandal, caressed the marble and directing
closed eyes downward, opened herself up
to my stare. Her foot rubbed the dolphins’
faces where the gray stone was worn smooth.
Except for a swaying leg, the rest of her body
rested limply on the crutches. She had taken
no notice of me until, opening her eyes, she couldn’t
help but glimpse my own shadow overlapping
her bare toes. She raised her head. Our eyes met.