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Why Latin Should Still Be Taught in High School

Christopher Bursk

Because one day I grew so bored
with Lucretius, I fell in love
with the one object that seemed to be stationary,
the sleeping kid two rows up,
the appealing squalor of his drooping socks.
While the author of De Rerum Natura was making fun
of those who fear the steep way and lose the truth,
I was studying the unruly hairs on Peter Diamond’s right leg.
Titus Lucretius Caro labored, dactyl by dactyl
to convince our Latin IV class of the atomic
composition of smoke and dew,
and I tried to make sense of a boy’s ankles,
the calves’ intriguing
resiliency, the integrity to the shank,
the solid geometry of my classmate’s body.
Light falling through blinds,
a bee flinging itself into a flower,
a seemingly infinite set of texts
to translate and now this particular configuration of atoms
who was given a name at birth,
Peter Diamond, and sat two rows in front of me,
his long arms, his legs that like Lucretius’s hexameters
seemed to go on forever, all this hurly-burly
of matter that had the goodness to settle
long enough to make a body
so fascinating it got me
through fifty-five minutes
of the nature of things.

From The Improbably Swervings of Atoms by Christopher Bursk © 2006. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

From The Improbably Swervings of Atoms by Christopher Bursk © 2006. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Christopher Bursk

by this poet

poem
Sundays, your father climbs out a window
            onto the roof, 
      looking for somewhere
there are no women,
            nothing else to do
      but undress,
lie down and open his arms wide,
            spread his legs
      and make an X,
a target for the sun
            to concentrate
      all its
poem
It didn't take a Harvard Medical School degree
to detect you and I were not lovers destined to wed
but two viruses doing their best to infect each other,
two fevers that'd spread, different symptoms of the same
sickness. Past cure I am, now reason is past care.
Did I really wish to die? The doctor