The Study Of Latin

In Latin Club, we created togas
From bedsheets and translated Cicero,
Tales of the Punic Wars, how Caesar
Conquered all Gaul in three words.

Sang Dies Irae, Dies Ila.
The priest raised the chalice
To the crucifix over the altar
Where Jesus hung in ceaseless agony.

We stood, knelt, genuflected.
We blessed ourselves.
We, the Latin scholars, repeated
The beatitudes. Gloria in Excelsis.
The organ aired its tones
Like holy laundry.

In time the priest was turned around
Like a doll on a pedestal to face the congregation
And speak in their common tongue.

I’ve forgotten almost
All that Latin
Thinking how I could have
Studied Spanish and would now be able
To read Neruda in the original.


The Child Who Ate Words


Congealed, coruscated, corresponding

To a frozen branch overhanging barb wire

Blistered with teardrops. Or a redtail hawk soaring

Over winter-blasted pastures

Or the old oak flooring

Creaking its hundred year lament.


Vessels of phrases cascading

Like  the lower falls of the Yellowstone

Or choked in retention ponds

To invite the drowning child

Or perpendicular as the hickories

Ragged as beggars. Or indiscreet

As a woman in a negligee

Watering the lilies.


Surrounded by taunters,

I licked my ice cream cone

A vocabulary of sweetness.

Acknowledged their cant,

You swallowed the dictionary


Vanilla, vermillion, vanquish,

Venomous, violent, vamoose.

Presentiment, palpable, precocious.



by Joan Colby


Seven books published including The Lonely Hearts Killers, The Atrocity Book, etc. Over 980 poems in publications including Poetry, Atlanta Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, The New York Quarterly, South Dakota Review, Epoch, etc. Two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards (one in 2008) and an IAC Literary Fellowship. Honorable mention in the 2008 James Hearst Poetry Contest—North American Review and the 2009 Editor’s Choice Contest–Margie, and finalist in the 2007 GSU (now New South) Poetry Contest, 2009 Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize, 2010 James Hearst Poetry Contest and Ernest J. Poetry Prize Joan Colby lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois with her husband and assorted animals.

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