Taylor Collier

The Latin Professor

The safety of the people is the highest law.

I saw the professor every day that semester,
heard lectures about whether Cicero's final words were--
there is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier,
but do try to kill me properly--

or--with me dies the republic. Then, one cold afternoon
when the professor's hands were entwined
with amabam and amabo, I saw his left
middle finger missing its dactyl's second short.

Afraid I might embarrass him, or worse,
that he might reveal a gruesome story
about a radial saw or a lawnmower,
I never asked what happened to his hand.

I pictured him as a boy, scurrying on the tiles
of a grocery store. He cries out, salus populi suprema lex,
just before a stranger's cart runs over his fingers,
slicing the tip of that middle one clean off--

like the head of Cicero, which they propped
so neatly on his severed hands.

Taylor Collier recently graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of North Texas. His work has previously appeared in places such as The Oklahoma Review, Plain Spoke, Main Street Rag, and others.

"My favorite front porch would have to be at my dad's house in central Texas, where something keeps nibbling at the wood on the rocking chairs."


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