Share This Poem: “Volterra,” by Ron Smith.

BROAD STREET invites you to enjoy this poem from our “Maps & Legends” issue.

Volterra, from Wikimedia Commons.


She was saying, “One arrives to the horrid

of the Balze . . . corrosion provoked by atmospheric

agents, steep and deep precipices . . . the Balze

terrible shelter for the desperation of

so many suicides . . . have engulfed . . .” But

there she was and there it was, falling away

below the walls toward the defenseless sea,

wasteland of sand and clay, crumbling even

as we watched, she, a daydream of mine in profile

facing off against my nightmares . . .


“We go,” she said, and walked — oh, she walked —

ahead: “Teatro Romano — theater — the curtain rolled up

in low, thanks to a complex system of telescopes . . .

dressed in marble, where the choir found its place,

therefore, . . . a double order of columns Corinthian,

Carrera stone, brought to light in the years fifty by

Professore Enrico Fiumi with opportune structural

interventions, in an epoch in which it was thought

that worktherapy” (here she smirked) “might be

effective remedy for psychic throngs . . .” — and

she a dead ringer for that girl in Tallahassee

forty years before, down to that rousing, erect

posture and tiny wrinkles round her dry, ironic eyes . . .


. . . sweeping her lovely hand: “From the top of the

mighty blocks of tufa an unforgettable and unusual

show can be admired, as the result of the yielding of

the sandy, em, layersof the Pliocene. Above all at sunset

the precipice engages unusual and suggestive colorations

when the shadows of the brooms, found on the gray

clays, gives the rosy blue off from the sky background.

There, beyond the abyss, on the frontal cliff tops, Badia

Camaldolese, assembled 1030 and surely abandoned

by the monks in the last century for fear that the building

will collapse . . .” Nothing made her smile like Volterra’s

teetering on the edge of this geological catastrophe.


Regretting all the week’s Negronis — “. . . so, the building

of housing the Pinacoteca entertains the Pinacoteca and

the Civic Museum: Here are exposed important paintings

deriving from monasteries and city churches. Here, Room

eleven– Ah! Displays the masterpiece of the Tuscan man-

nerism, the admirableDepositionof Giovanni Battista di

Jacopo, famous as the Rosso Fiorentino (em, 1494–1540),

genial and uneasy personality the Rosso performed this work,

definitely the highest expression of his talent, in 1521,

as shown by the inscription in low to the right on the

table here, see, on commission of the Cappella della

Croce di Giorno — Oh! please, no, no — not to touch.” A

guard turned toward us. Strikingly handsome, he looked

directly into her gray eyes, and I was a sagging ghost again,

a phantasm who had gone to Italy to warehouse spolia.


Ron Smith recently served as the Poet Laureate of Virginia, and he is the Writer-in-Residence at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond.

His books are Running Again in Hollywood Cemetery, Moon Road, Its Ghostly Workshop, and The Humility of the Brutes.


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