For Bernard Iddings Bell

The birds began to circle when they heard
The lawyer ask the use of learning Greek.
And when Bell quoted Plato, they all jeered
And longed to toss him out with the antiques.

The dean in robes put up a fight to save
The young from rising fads and crowd culture.
The board shrugged off the words of this odd slave
To votes of dead men beckoning vultures.

He made boys stand when he entered the room,
Like good men who sought truth in ages past.
For this offense the board winced and consumed
The robes and books and dean, like carrion.

The blind priest heard confession with restraint
And spoke the words, a martyr and a saint.

“Harper Library” photo, courtesy of Rick Seidel via Flickr

Clinton Collister

Poetry Editor of The North American Anglican

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