The Gravedigger

In Trastevere, a suburb of Rome,

I awaken to a revelry of garbage trucks

and grocery strollers, you know those waste-

basket-carriages women use to drag home

eggs, milk, and other ingredients

for Friday night's spaghetti Bolognese.

Thirty seconds to dress, yesterday's sweat-

soaked and soil-stained get-up hangs loose

over steel-toed Desert Storm boots that lace

up my calves, but I'm no war hero; no,

I board a bus with the men who run

the machines, punch the time clocks, and work

the assembly lines, the men whose ears hold

a week's worth of soot and wax, who

sit in the back reading their Novenas or stand

too close, while I wait thirty minutes

to make a transfer that takes me to Ostia,

two stops before Stella Portare, the slate-gray beach

where swarms of sex-starved regazzi spend

their days renting pay-by-the-hour private cabanas,

smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and browning

their olive skin more brown. But I don't go

there with them, I go to work. So I get off

at my stop and walk a mile to the site, the place

my bosses call scavione, where I practice

what my professors call archaeology and spend

yet another day sifting through dirt, avoiding

busted beer bottles and rusted syringes,

so that I can dig up amphorae that are filled to the brim

with soil and ash and the broken bones of children,

which I scrap, in order to scrape clean, wash, and dry

their graves, which will one day sit in glass displays,

collecting dust under the florescent glare of museum lights

with all the other ancient things taken out of the ground

for educational purposes and cultural studies.

Because this is how we learn.