Palms and cypresses dance in the breeze
Beside marble columns and arches.
Galleys ply up and down the Tiber
Powered both by sail and oar.
From these are unloaded pots and crates
All displayed on stalls at the Forum of Rome.
Over the road tread thousands of sandals
That belong to men and women of all classes.
There march the legions with crimson shields,
Armed and armored with the finest steel.
But even more numerous are customers in togas
Who chatter in many tongues at the Forum of Rome.
From the countryside of Italy come the farmers
With the tunics and tawny suntans of native Latins.
They bear baskets of bread and vases of wine.
They keep pigs in cages and hang slabs of beef.
They are the plebeians who first built the city
And set up the first business at the Forum of Rome.
From the forests of the North come the barbarians
Cloaked with furs over their stocky white frames.
They bear armfuls of pelts and ingots of mined metal.
Some sell their swords and some will slay for profit.
Their ships with dragon prows have braved the icebergs
And crossed warmer waters to reach the Forum of Rome.
From the sands of the East come Persians and Mesopotamians,
Thick-bearded brown men in turbans and concealing robes.
They bring camels loaded with myrrh and spice and scripture.
Their scholars teach wisdom and their prophets preach salvation.
And on the street corners they twang their lutes and lyres
While their maidens belly-dance at the Forum of Rome.
From the sun-baked South along the Nile and the Niger
Come dark-skinned Africans with brilliant jewelry and brief attire.
They bring tusks of ivory and the hides of leopard and zebra.
Their sages share papyrus writings and their merchants shower gold about.
And to the rhythm of drums they shake and sway and sing
On the corners of the streets at the Forum of Rome.
And from across the vast ocean in the West
Wooden canoes bring in light brown strangers in buckskins.
They bear baskets of maize and tomatoes and squash.
They bring bowls of jade and headdresses with feathers.
They claim to come from a land that the others have not discovered.
Few would ever guess they came to trade at the Forum of Rome.