Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Latin Lessons

Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Latin Lessons

Article excerpt

The daughter of the local florist taught

us Latin in the seventh grade. We sat

like hothouse flowers nodding in a mist

of conjugations, declining nouns that

made little sense, and adjectives that missed

the point. She was elegant, shapely, taut.

She was dazzling and classic, a perfect

example to us of such absolute

adjectives as unique or ideal or perfect.

The room held light. Suffering from acute

puberty, we could still learn case by case

to translate with her from the ancient tongue

by looking past her body to the chaste

scribblings she left on the board. We were young

but knew that the ablative absolute

was not the last word in being a part

of something while feeling ourselves apart

from everything that mattered most. We chased

each other on the ball field after class

though it did no good. What we caught was not

what we were after, no matter how fast

we ran. …

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