The Conference

by Thomas Rabbitt

Behind him, blackboards like grey palimpsests
Where his boys scrawled and erased glyphs and runes
Which, the mother saw, no one but a priest
Could ever read, would ever be allowed to.
Her son, she saw, was one of them and lost
To her forever. Now what could she do?
She lied: He reads books about dogs and horses,
Horses and dogs, nothing else. Chalk dust
Sifted through the air, built tiny dunes
In the corners and turned the priest’s hair grey.
No harm, the priest said, what the lad reads now.
She saw snow drifting and her son grown old.
In his soutane he stood outside the window
And shivered and stared at her through the cold.

The author of several books of poems—including Exile (1975), The Booth Interstate (1981), The Abandoned Country (1988), Enemies of the State  (2000), and Prepositional Heaven (2001) — Thomas Rabbitt has retired from his teaching career and currently lives and writes in Tennessee.  In 1972, he founded the MFA program in creative writing at The University of Alabama.  In Fall 2004 NewSouth Books will release American Wake: New & Selected Poems.

selected by Dan Albergotti