Poetry Drawer: Studies in Language by Robert Demaree

Language, quixotic, carries weight
It cannot bear.
A boy spent hours in practice—
Tennis, piano scales, free throws.
Later he practiced medicine,
His sister practiced law,
Always getting ready, it seemed,
For something else.
At the restaurant
He thought of a bad pun
And made a note:
He also waits who only stands and serves.

Language tells you what it sees,
So pejorative becomes
I want to hear about people
Who are ept, couth,
Ruthful, clueful souls with
Shevelled hair.
Do you remember when we
Worried about creeping -ism’s?
An ancient word, meant to
Mock the sound of
Those who do not talk like you.

The English teacher had asked
A Latin student of mine
About the mood of a piece;
Dark, foreboding were answers
He had in mind.
Subjunctive, the boy replied. Others laughed,
As though wit might somehow lie in
The hand tools on my father’s bench,
Which I could neither name nor use.
If I was you, I joked,
I’d pay more attention
To the future less vivid,
The present contrary to fact.

As a teacher of high-school Latin
I insisted to fourteen-year-olds
That a knowledge of arcane grammars
Would help them in later life.
The ablative absolute, for example,
Which, in translation,
Makes you seem a bit pompous.
That said, I would proceed to explain
The imponderables of limit,
The accusatives of extent of space
Or duration of time,
And my favourite usage, which described
The fragile and random way things connect,
One life with another,
One moment with the next,
The ablative of attendant circumstance.

Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.

You can find more of Robert’s work here on Ink Pantry.

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