Three Poems: What the Classics Teach

by Temple Cone

Marble bust of Julius Caesar

photo: Andrew Bossi

What the Classics Teach

For thousands of years, they have searched
fresh parchment or yellowed pages,
human eyes bright with youth
or bleary from too many nights
reading by dim candle or lamplight,
seeking answers to ancient questions:
how to stab a man, how to die shouting,
divide a community, collapse
under the dark madness of revelation,
how to run from a burning city
while bearing your father
on a back weary from combat,
your household gods in your pocket,
your child clinging to your arm
as you rush to the safe harbor,
how to lose your wife,
while always learning how empires begin
in the loss of one’ s homeland,
in exile, in savagery.



<< The Soldiers                    Burning Sappho>>


Temple Cone is the author of two books of poetry, The Broken Meadow and No Loneliness. An associate professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy, he lives in Annapolis with his wife and daughter. Visit him at