Canisius High School Class of ’63
They say that armies are always trained
to re-fight the war that they last won.
Four years of Latin and a whole homeroom
lost to Greek; Father Riesert’s giant
slide rule above the blackboard of his
physics classroom; the unheated pool
where we naked water polo warred.
All the past was invested in us—
Caesar’s Gallic Wars and Shakespeare,
authority’s unquestioned dominance,
the sport coats and ties, dictated haircuts,
pride of place, and fear of jug.
All that was before.
Before Nam and napalm,
before Jimi Hendrix and the pill,
before foot prints on the moon,
before Joan Baez or hash brownies,
before satellites linking and stealing
our lives, or all the glaciers melting.
We who were born with the bomb
can bear witness to the before and after.
We have watched it all change—
black holes replacing purgatory,
irony supplanting orthodoxy.
Even the number of dimensions
has expanded beyond comprehension.
Amo, amas, amat — the first Latin
we were taught in freshman year.
Those Jesuits, they just sent us out
as raw recruits onto a battlefield
that Ignatius could never begin to imagine.
Would he have a website or a blog?
It has all been an end-game of sorts.
Whatever comes next will be more desperate.
But we did the best we could.
The end of the past follows us & just as well.
The future will be its own orphan.