high school reunion

The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.


A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis

17.1 (Winter 2017)


Fiction & Poetry


Decline, Without Regrets
George Shirley

The poet responds to an invitation to attend a fortieth high school reunion in terms that leave us wondering (among other things) how we can revive childhood unless we have never left it behind.

“Reunion Number Forty
Since Graduation Day;
Come one, come all to party
And dance the antic hay.

“Such joy, to see who’s balding,
Who’s gray, who’s cheating time<
(Or what cheat’s only mauling
The suspect of the crime)…

“Which follies have been chastened<
And which resist wise age
(And which with lubrication<
We may lure back on stage).

“Has Enid still a beauty
That crowfeet have not robbed?
Does Randall still seem phony
Because his laugh’s too loud?

“Is Chloe’s second husband
A real-life billionaire?
(Is Rachel’s third a woman,
In fact, with crewcut hair?)

“Of granddads, we’re the fittest—
And sculpted grand’mamans
By trainers trimmed, and tennis,
And AIDS Aid walk-a-thons.

“You’ll find to Facebook posted
Our smiles on Aspen’s slopes,
Our leis on Mauna Loa,
Our kilts at plaid Glencoe.

“There’s one uploaded selfie
Of Mandy in Capri;
There’s one of my son’s rally
For Bill and Hillary.

“As for our diapered minions,
I won’t bore you with that.
Guys don’t come to reunions
To talk of teething brats.

“We’ll leave that to the women.
Brad has a field trip planned:
The scene of our oblations
When we were Conference Champs.

“RSVP. Let’s hear it!
No ‘prior commitment’ bunk.
Let’s see that old school spirit.
Go, Saint Jude’s Fighting Monks!”

Appreciate the thought
(If no more deep it went
Than matching roster spots<
With invitations sent).

Someone of your name once
Knew someone who had mine.
Their boyhood, by a chance,
Shared common place and time.

They went their separate ways…
Or one stayed, one left town.
With him, he took my name—
But ditched his cap and gown.

And how he sought his god,
And what truth found him bare
And dressed him for the road—
That’s nothing I will share.

The boy I was is dead—
The one you thought you knew.
Your kindly card was read
To something in a tomb.

Me, I remain alive—
But not where beads are pearls.
Appreciate your time.
Right name, but not right world.

 George Shirley lives in the Clemson, South Carolina, area, where he teaches part-time while enjoying semi-retirement