Hilary S. Jacqmin

Ode to Our Magister


God bless Bob White, whose first-born son, convinced
he was Odysseus's hound, barked, shook loose
his golden curls, and licked his old man's shoe.
How gently Mr. White, that Monte Bianco
of a man, his tits like glacéed chestnuts, swiped
the putto's head with Sunday's furled Plain Dealer.
Our Latin teacher lacked all classical
proportion. His skin was marbled Parma ham.
His hair was blond, chaff pulled from ancient cereal.
Athena only knew how Mrs. White,
who taught Pythagoras's theorem down
the hall, could bear to touch that shrouded gut.
It seemed heretical to picture him,
a happy nude, sprawled in flagrante
on an Alban grape-embowered lectus genialis,
not just because the mind's eye wept to conjure it—
our noble magister blanched at the barest hint
of sex. Catullus, in Bob White's softcore sixth
period translations, turned literal and flaccid
as a textbook out of Mr. Chips. Stammering,
Mr. White reluctantly allowed that Lesbia's
pet bird could symbolize some masculine part,
a rousing organ with a proper name—
he beat his palms together in remorse
at such a crass confession. Fiddlesticks!
In truth, it was a boon to know there'd be
No rides!, per pedagogical decree,
for bright young things in Mr. White's sedan
while panpipes bleated from the stereo,
no late-night Dionysian orgies masked
as AP study breaks, no civil suits.
Bound by the words—Semper ubi sub ubi
the secret lingo (always wear underwear)
of Roman mystery, we metamorphosed
into acolytes, each pupil primed, in strict
devotion to an antique temple's rites,
to sing of chalk-streaked arms and of the man.