I was late to the Lyceum
Awkward, lingering in the back,
sinking to the floor
that none might note my tardiness.
I’d paid for the privilege
of hearing this address,
took out my pen and notebook
to catch every useful word
running in articulate rivulets
from the speaker’s mouth.
My specs I had not on me,
and his face was but a blur at the far end of the hall.
While his audience was rapt,
his speech swung pendulum-like
between profound and impertinent,
the noddable and the ‘Eh?’
Exerpts on the screen were of Symonds, Freud
Lacan, Wilde and Derrida–
kai Thucydides, Homer and his scholiasts.
Mad wide-ranging leaden with new philosophies
and the logging of fruitless seafaring.
Freud’s text posited Christ a myth,
the present age
and First Samuel Eighteen One
was hung like a rag from a flagpole
denuded of its context and wrung tight
molded brutally into a convenient meaning
and then left flapping in the stale wind.
The speaker praised his hearers, exhorted them
to continue battle:
we must always be ready.
experience has taught us,
justifying our existence
as scholars of the Classics,
heirs of the Academy!
and yet allusion to warring
against the powers, principalities
of the endarkened humanities-hobbling Establishment
elicited only silence–
the ultimate unsettling
mark of non-recognition.
They all could read Greek,
and yet none knew Ephesians.
‘There is value in understanding
the Greeks and the Romans,’
the pontiff of history said,
‘because thus, we understand ourselves.’
Classical Antiquity, our ancestor, our shaper.
our more immediate relation,
the exemplary grandfather,
had been snipped
from the family photo,
and nobody noticed
With all the sounds of affirmation
and the third appearance
of the tainted
Scripture on the screen ahead,
I could bear it no longer!
When question time came
dropping my notebook and up
on my feet, I cried,
my gaze toward the front,
‘But you all must see:
it’s grotesque! preach, preach the
after casting aside
the best of Tradition–
only trot out shards of it–
shattered by your vandalism, neglect–
the worst of our decline!
You’d not treat Vergil or Plato
or even Petronius with
such shameful contempt!’
As if they were one body, with one neck, one head,
all the hall turned to look at me,
and seeing the faces of those
in the last pew,
I recoiled against the wood-paneling
On the left side of each face,
clear, bright, a myriad of colors,
either brown, blue or green,
was an eye, where and as it ought to be.
On the right, bless me, for it is the truth!
was an orb fit for Poe,
shining, yet white with fog, with film,
not unlike polished marble.
I gasped as those dead orbs
paired with living
stared at me,
some in confusion, in anger,
yet not a few in pity–
and heart racing
I could only declare the apparent:
‘Heaven help you, you’re all blind
in the right eye!’
There were murmurs then, but a singular voice
I heard above the hum:
‘What can she mean? For each of us only has
There was no time to scream at the shock
of pure Madness;
my feet found the door, found the stairs,
bore me quick to the street.
Somehow, in open air, I didn’t mind
that in the hall I’d left my notes behind.