The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Maryanne Hannan

What Latin Has that English Doesn't

Ablative absolutes with their no-nonsense stage-setting: that being the case the best we can do

Respect for the passive verb evading responsibility: pugnabatur, it was fought, and no one to grouse about it

The brilliant ubiquity of purpose and result clauses: pax Romana while it lasted

With its handy-dandy moods, Latin can lie without libel: o tempora! o mores! Cicero's case is won

Subjunctives willing to count, not prance around as if it weren't true: Would you could be here

Passive periphrastics with their genteel implication of duty, obligation and necessity: nunc est bibendum or maybe you can't drink now because of your agenda

Desidero, not so much about desire, but a vacuum of absence: sorry, untranslatable

Granted: We both have God the Father, homo sapiens, patrimony, bellicose and we both like to shout, Veni, vidi, vici



My Other Grandmother

That's what I called her, although
only to myself. She believed in family,
what gets passed down. From her ancestors
she got a pair of china Dalmatian dogs,
                                    and silence.
My grandmother generated silence,
even around the dinner table.
Conversation with her was brief, pointed,
as nuanced as the mountain shadow spreading
over the lake's surface where each year
I'd spend a week at her summer cottage.
In the absence of my mother, whose speech
wove webs around me, I discovered
my own silence. My grandmother would sit,
staring at the lake, and I'd sit a few feet away
on the ground, watch ants feast on peonies,
or the "pineys" as she called them.
I'd wonder what I'd do if the supper silence
went on too long, if my spoon striking
the plate echoed until my throat closed.
I'd trace figure-eights on the ground,
know I could bury the scurrying ants
in streaming sand, never say a word.
I could get up, walk down to where
the men tied their rowboats after fishing,
wade in the lake without permission,
inhale the quiet: Could it really be like this?
Maybe we'd have dumplings for dinner.
My mother never made dumplings, big
delicious lumps slopping on the plate.

One August, coming to take me home,

my mother saw the bubbled brown spots

on my sun-poisoned shoulders, whispered:

You will never be the same.

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