Written on the eve of my 20th high school reunion, which I was not able to attend

By A. E. Stallings b. 1968

For the Briarcliff High School class of 1986

Just what I needed,
Just when the dreams had almost totally receded,

The dreams of roles for which I learned no lines and knew no cues,
Dreams of pop quizzes with no pants on and no shoes,

Just when I understood I was no longer among
Those ephemeral immortals, the gauche and pitiable young,

Suddenly come phone calls, messages sift out of the air
To ask who will be there:

Names I haven't given a thought to in a score
(A score!) of years, and names I used to think about but don't much anymore,

And those I think of all the time and yet
Have lost somehow like keys to doors I've closed, and some I have tried to forget—

And some who will never arrive at this date
Here in the distant future where we wait

Still surprised at how
We carry with us the omnipresent and ever-changing now.

We wince at what we used to wear,
Fashion has made ridiculous the high hubris of our hair.

Heartbreak, looked at through the wrong end of distance's glasses,
Is trivial, and quickly passes,

Its purity embarrasses us, its lust,
The way we wept because it was unjust.

Why should we travel back, who've come so far—
We know who we are.

How can we be the same
As those quaint ancestors we have left behind, who share our name—

Why have we inherited their shame?

Source: Poetry (June 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2008
 A. E. Stallings


A. E. (Alicia) Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia and has lived since 1999 in Athens, Greece. She has published three books of poetry, Archaic Smile (1999), which won the Richard Wilbur Award; Hapax (2000); and Olives (2012). Her new verse translation of Lucretius (in rhyming fourteeners!), The Nature of Things, is published by Penguin Classics. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Growing Old

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