“Latin for the Motorman’s Daughter” by Sarah Mac Donald


I have fallen in love with Latin again.
Latin words – miserere nobis, Deo gratias,
Agnus Dei, pax vobiscum.

I studied Latin in high school.
It was supposed to be good for me, a classical education.
Appropriate for the motorman’s daughter,
who knew all the stops on the IRT
and rode the Dinky to school.

The teacher talked of declining verbs.
Decline – what does that mean?
Present indicative – I’d like to decline
you touching my breast.
Subjunctive – I would rather
you take your hand out of my pants.
Pluperfect – it would have been pluperfect
If you’d have gotten the hell out of here.

I memorized it all – amo, amas, amat.
all her words had different meanings to me.
Who loves me? Does he love me?
Does anyone love me?
But there was no perfect in my life, much less pluperfect.
I wasn’t loved. I hadn’t been loved.
I would not ever have been loved.

I learned it all.
I learned to decline verbs
And roll myself into a ball when someone touched me.

I learned the indicative of touch,
The perfect of grope,
The subjunctive of fondle,
The pluperfect of stroke.
All in Latin,
perfect for the motorman’s daughter.

Sarah Mac Donald

© 2010


  1. lkthayer · March 30, 2010

    I love your stark honesty & gritty truth, a brave poem, thank you for sharing Sarah. LK

  2. Alexis Rhone Fancher · March 30, 2010

    Damn! There’s a lifetime in this poem lived. I really enjoy your work, Sarah! Brava!

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