Joshua Jones

Villa Poppea

Another American with a camera says Rothko
was a hack, just copying Rome,
and these walls are better than his
awful chapel any day. The artist
in our group fumes, goes over to set
him straight as I flee around the corner

looking for a tiny flying squirrel
stenciled on the wall—one got into the house
when we were kids, and mom beat
it with a broom, or tried to until we managed
to chase it up the chimney where it chirped
to death—but instead, I find a peacock,
hooked head and neck turned away
from a waxy tragic mask, toward me.

I look away. Look back. Unembarrassed,
he keeps his royal tail down. Why wasn’t he
stolen, chipped out of the veneer
like any number of Venuses or shipyard
landscapes? The pomegranate rolling off
the table from the still life down the hall
hangs in Naples; why shouldn’t he?

I can see the Bourbons now in their ruffles
and tights packing the slabs stacked
like decks of playing cards into their anachronistic
suitcases along with flasks of grappa, leaving
Poppea’s peacock out of the dusty sunlight.


Opening the door of the van, we smell
the hell the locals come to camp out for.

We tiptoe across the stone trampoline,
but half the group heads back to the gift shop

after the first fumarole where some kid shoves
in a cigarette to watch it puff past the filter.

The English sign tells us a weekend here can help
certain circulation disorders, that the martyr

San Gennaro prays for those who take
the pilgrimage this far.

Author Portrait

Joshua Jones, originally from the Shenandoah Valley, is a third-year candidate for the MFA at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Some of his poems appear in Fourteen Hills, The Mayo Review, and The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review. While he currently lives in Dorchester with his wife Lesleigh and their dachshund Guinivere, the family is looking to head back south for more graduate study.