Learning Latin

What language tumbles from dead mouths
in pointless re-invention?
Two years of steady drip by drip,
each week in detention.
“Meet me beyond the Pedagogue’s House.”
-all language is convention
each “Gauls attack the burning ditch”
forgetting my declensions
Sir speaks nonsense, doesn’t mean
a thing beyond his generation
Nineteen-hundred and Canteen
already steeped in slow reflection
“Agricola, agricolae-”
through punishment, correction
suffer the little children cry-
ing for some liberation
But that can only come with time,
with heavy years of condemnation
blundering through a sea of lime
randomly pinning combinations:
“Caesar adsum jam forte
Brutus et erat
Caesar sic in omnibus
Brutus sic in at.”


22/08/98, Leicester


In memory of the horror of compulsory Latin lessons at King Edward VI School, Stratford-Upon-Avon. At the time I wrote this I was living in Highfields in Leicester with my Big Gay Cousin, grieving for the death of my father and for being disinherited.

I had actually forgotten about the poem but recently found it in an old notebook on a visit to the UK to see my sister.

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