I Introduction (Where We Went)
II Sons And Daughters (Who We Were)
III Dress Codes (What We Looked Like)
IV Extra-curricular Activities (How I Fit In)
V Sisters (Holy Cow)
VI Academics (What They Taught)
VII Brothers (Exceptions To The Rule)
VIII Graduation (What I Learned)
IX Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience (Keep Parachute Handy)
X Alumni (Outstanding Balance Due)
XI Alma Mater (Dear Old Battlefield)
XII Addendum 1 (Parting Thought)
XIII Addendum 2 (Update – July 2008)
Xavier High and Mercy High School actually exist,
the other names are altered to protect the essayist.
First written summer of 1991, revised and expanded winter of 1992
© Copyright 2008, Vice-Versa, Jas Hilsdon
(Where We Went)
I entered Xavier High, Catholic school for men-to-be,
the very year it opened back in nineteen-sixty-three.
Fresh out of Catholic grade school, my blithe anticipation
consisted of a mixture of dread and fascination.
I’d had first-hand experience with knuckle-rapping Nuns,
I thought to be more mean than they, you’d have to be the Huns.
But one remarked to me on my way out of there at last,
“Wait till the Brothers get you! They’ll straighten you out fast!”
“Who? Me?”, I asked aghast.
Xavier was a brand new school of great and far renown.
I watched it rise across the valley in our little town.
It’s very presence lent our small community esteem,
the likes of it not seen before in all of academe.
Everything was spanking new the day we started classes.
The blackboards, like our squeaky minds, were Tabula Razas.
The desks had not accrued a single ink stain, and as yet,
the locker rooms had not absorbed a single drop of sweat.
The plaster was still wet.
Because we were the first of students to matriculate there,
the honor fell to us of being first to graduate there;
the first to use, abuse, and carve our names into the bleachers,
and those who followed after say we broke in all the teachers.
The teachers were referred to as Xavierian Brothers,
a group of men who joined the clergy to escape their mothers.
The Brothers were reputed to have had a fine tradition
of teaching youth the difference between Heaven and Perdition;
for which they charged tuition.
Sons And Daughters
(Who We Were)
Our sister school, Mercy High, five miles down the street,
would need another two full years before it was complete.
We couldn’t let the Catholic daughters just stay home and wilt,
and so we shared our brand new school with them while theirs was being built.
We welcomed them into our halls the frosh and sophomore years,
it would have helped to mitigate the all-male atmospheres,
but Brothers stayed upon the first with all the Catholic sons
while all the girls were kept upon the second-floor with Nuns.
At general assemblies, to which both the schools would come,
the students all fit nicely in the new gymnasium.
The girls would all be ushered to the left side of the hall,
the boys were guided to the seats on the opposing wall.
The teachers noticed all the guys compulsively would stare,
as if they couldn’t stand to not be seated over there
where all the Catholic daughters sat, and that the girls from their side
seemed equally as eager to be sitting here on our side.
So next time they assembled us, they had the wise foresight
to put the guys along the left and the girls along the right.
We found it unfulfilling to be seated opposite
and merely staring back upon the sides we used to sit.
But this arrangement, sparing both the sexes from contact,
should keep our lustfulness in check and chastity intact.
I needn’t mention this was not the case in all respects.
It also helped produce some very interesting effects . . .
we all developed rubber necks.
Of course, there were the after-school events, but to be honest,
knowing that the eyes of Nuns and Brothers were upon us,
mixing with the Mercy girls at football games and such,
was just like going water-skiing leaning on a crutch.
But watching all the Mercy High cheerleaders jump and scream
produced more than enthusiasm for the football team.
Nor did the yearly Musicals, so thoroughly-rehearsed,
cause our maturation processes to be reversed.
Now if our rules were stricter than the rules at Public Highs,
considering instinctive drive, it was just as wise.
As Catholics we were taught that lust was there to counteract,
but if we kept it all in check, we barely held it back.
Most would think of sex no more than any starving soul.
Most appeared to keep their appetites within control.
But some might think that even though they weren’t supposed to do it,
the best way to remove temptation was to give in to it.
Sneaking round in risky, surreptitious rendezvous
underneath the bleachers or behind the chapel pews
could only fuel a craving. Fear of being caught
just heightened the experience, but Co-ed it was not.
Our wild and caged libidos had to be content with bits
of furtive glances of the female species in our midst.
The one thin floor between us was to keep our minds on class.
But for all the good it did, it could have been of glass.
When Mercy High was finished and our guests moved out for good,
Xavier High assumed it’s purer state of bachelorhood.
We spent the first few months of junior year adjusting to
the campus life without the females messing up the view.
The Brothers missed them too.
(What We Looked Like)
The dress codes made you wonder what ascetic recluse thought ’em.
The lasses had to turn out in a brown-plaid top and bottom.
Dress-shirts and sunday-shoes were standard for the guys.
It didn’t hurt if you procured a set of power ties.
The “cool” guys started wearing tapered pants constructed of
irridescent “shark-skin” cloth that fit just like a glove;
pants that might have hinted at testosteronic lockets,
that fit so tight you couldn’t shove a comb into the pockets.
The principal declared right off, this fashion was unsightly.
He devised a test to determine if your trousers fit too tightly:
You dropped a golf ball through the leg from the waistband to the cuff.
If the ball got stuck along the route, your pants weren’t loose enough.
You received a warning if the ball got hung up in your thigh.
If the ball got hung up in your calf, they’d sometimes pass you by.
But if you came attired in such that the test you could not pass,
‘cuz the ball got hung up in your crotch, they’d send you home from class.
I rushed right out and bought some pleated pants of navy blue
with legs with so much room you could have dropped a beach ball thru.
But now and then a few of us attempted to indulge
in styles that barely passed the test, yet still betrayed some bulge.
Upstairs the girls were warned about the length of skirt they wore.
When they got down upon their knees, all hemlines had to touch the floor.
But on the buses after school, away from the Sisters’ eyes,
they hiked those brown-plaid hems up to the middle of their thighs . . .
in front of all the guys.
Hair was expected to be neatly combed and trim
as did befit the most outstanding Catholic gentlemen.
Elvis Presley sideburns, duck-tails and pompadours
were promptly seen to exit if they entered Xavier’s doors.
Brother Rabbit said these styles were all out of the question
because the very sight of them brought sexual suggestion.
I’d say, in affirmation of the Biblical reprise,
that he could solve the problem by removing both his eyes.
My mother always told me since I can’t remember when,
that hair was often used to hide a multitude of sin.
So I supposed a crew-cut then was such a saintly item
‘cuz you would not commit ’em(?) if you had no where to hide ’em?
But everything went haywire when the Beatles hit the scene
and introduced a new way of rebelling as a teen.
Not only did their music give me hope for my survival,
they caused a universal, tonsorial revival.
The “Beatle-do” began to rear it’s ugly head at school.
Brer’ Rabbit quickly ushered in an anti-moptop rule.
God himself had sent him word to not let guys appear
with hair so long the ends “caressed” the brow or “touched” an ear.
But little did he reckon what inclined us to ignore ‘im,
was not some passing fancy, but a new trend in decorum.
His hands were full with portions of the student population,
providing us with haircuts as well as education.
It wasn’t easy to rebel against Brer’ Rabbit’s norm.
We knew he’d “disappear” us all if we did not conform.
Each time my ears began to make the slow ascent chapeau-ward,
he’d pluck me out of class and send me out to get them lowered.
I combed my crew-cut forward.
(How I Fit In)
The colors of our Xavier High were merely black and white.
They signified the fine, grey line betwixt darkness and light
and symbolized the struggle between God and Satan’s pack,
which manifested mostly on the football field out back.
The varsity was famous for it’s power and it’s skill.
It’s not who wins or loses, but how many rivals you can kill.
Their symbol was the Falcon and it wasn’t such a bad one.
It would have been a mascot, but we never actually had one.
The Falcons played the game with such a sense of divine mission,
they swooped like holy birds of prey down on the opposition.
And sent a tacit message to all challengers state-wide
that God was the almighty and was on the Falcon’s side.
The faculty encouraged us to boost our educations
with any of the after-school athletic occupations.
But right away these intramural areas became
the provinces of those who liked to torture, kill, and maim.
I went to football tryouts once. I ran out for a pass.
I lost sight of the pig-skin till it hit me in the . . . pants.
I tried my feet at soccer, but I changed activity
the day I stopped the ball with my center-of-gravity.
In track and field, I wasn’t even close among the hopefuls
who saw nothing odd in chucking spears or running ’round in ovals,
or risking life and limb to fling themselves through space, face down,
from handstands at the ends of poles, twelve feet off the ground.
“I’ll see you guys around.“
Intramural basketball did not fit the description
of anything you might mistake for friendly competition.
The way those jocks would slam each other on the court, I swear,
you’d think they all had half-a-dozen shins and knees to spare.
I thought perhaps ‘cuz I was tall, the team would love to use me.
But when I finally got the ball, their yelling so confused me,
the one point that I did score, I’m embarrased to report,
was for the other team. They shamed me off the court.
The guidance counselor told me I was not cut out for murder,
something less competitive for me, perhaps “sheep-herder”.
I joined the school’s newspaper staff and lasted just a day
reporting scores and broken bones to games I couldn’t play.
I don’t begrudge the school for giving sports such emphasis.
If I had had the killer instinct, I’d have been in bliss.
But while I had to sacrifice my grand Olympic dreams,
I saw no need to go to any opposite extremes.
If sports was the epitome at one end of the scale,
Photograpy Club offered all the passion of a snail.
I thought I’d rather stay behind and clean blackboard erasers
than hang with camera-toting, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker chasers.
I knew Library Club was for the pointy-heads at Xavier,
but never thought them capable of blasphemous behavior,
until I caught them cerebrating wildly in the nooks,
committing bibliolotry with magazines and books.
Then down there at the bottom of the non-scholastic coffer,
I found one last activity they almost didn’t offer.
I almost missed it there myself, but took another glimpse,
then went and joined the Glee Club with all the other wimps.
I’ve never joined one since.
The Nuns were living symbols of the Holy Virgin Mary,
and struck fear in the heart of every Tom, Dick, and Harry.
You’d swear their long black gowns and veils were hammered on with tacks,
and on each big, black, leather belt there swung a hidden battle-axe.
They all had eyes behind their heads in constant lookout for
the Xavier lad who may have wandered to the second floor.
Their job it was to keep the Catholic daughters chaste and pure,
if you contracted ‘love sickness’, the Sisters had your ‘cure’.
Like gargoyles at a castle gate they stared you down, unblinking,
as if to say, if they so much as caught you even thinking
of any Mercyite without appropriate repentance,
you wouldn’t have to wait till judgment day to get your sentence.
Their rosary beads and crucifixes hanging from mid-section
were menacing as laboratory tools for vivisection,
and must have come in handy, given such efficiencies,
if needed to perform emergency vasectomies.
They X-rayed you with loathing if they caught you in the hall
with eyes that bored right through your skull and pinned you to the wall.
Their tendency to come out of the shadows would remind you
that God may be omnipresent, but Nuns were right behind you.
In ‘sixty-five they moved away from Xavier’s hallowed halls
and into Mercy High before the paint dried on the walls,
which brought a sigh of thanks to every Tom, Dick and Percy.
Guess that’s why they called themselves the Sisters Of Mercy.
Their patron saint was Circe.
(What They Taught)
Education is a way to make us busier.
The price we have to pay for things that make life “easier”,
is spending our entire childhoods in captivity,
committing all the data that we can to memory.
If I had then what I have now of academic raptures,
I would have earned an even lower average from my captors,
unless they would have given passing grades if just to show
that I learned more in school than I would ever need to know.
Every Brother specialized in his selective science,
and taught a secondary subject: Physical Compliance.
Brother Lord-Don’t-Hurt-Us taught Humility and Math,
from Brother Concubine we learned Salvation History and Wrath.
Brother Aunt-Jemimah taught us English and a version
of public oratory, also called: Casting Aspersion.
It didn’t take us long at all to get the basic thrust,
and see that the aspersions he was casting were at us.
Brother Clam-hand’s method made you wish you could avoid
his reading from the text aloud with stuffed-up adenoids.
The most important thing he taught, and constantly repeated,
was: Those who don’t know History are doomed to hear him read it.
Not all of our instructors, though, were robed and brotherhooded.
A half-a-dozen men and women, as I understood it,
were members of the laity, which meant they must be paid.
The brothers, on the other hand, were not considered laid . . .
which meant they must be . . . spayed?
Coach I.Q.’s adventures as the football coach revealed
that facts were ‘goals’, grades were ‘scores’, Science was the field.
The class was the ‘team and ‘huddled’ over ‘diagrams’,
he ‘passed’ the lessons to us, we ‘tackled’ the exams.
We got some basic Physics and a good game on the side.
But once I saw the Newton law of gravity defied.
A student made a crack in class the coach just didn’t get.
It went so far above his head, it hasn’t come down yet.
Brother Filler-up taught us French, but I soon took the stance
that I could do without it if I never went to France.
And I believed, in spite of passing nearly all his quizzes,
to speak it right, you had to have a nose as big as his is.
(But . . . ten years later when I met une jeune fille de Marseilles,
I changed my mind, tout de suite, mon Frere, mai oui, Je parle Francais.
There’s nothing like a femme fatale, when all is said and sung,
to teach a guy appreciation for the foreign . . . tongue.)
Mister Bill Magenta did his darndest to secure
our deep abiding reverence for Classic Literature,
the books that everybody wants to have accumulated,
but no one really wants to read, unless they’re illustrated.
I learned to read between the lines to get at something groovy,
and that you cannot judge a book by looking at it’s movie;
but mostly that the paperbacks were more apt to engage us
with stories that were written for remunerative wages.
Pass the funny pages.
Art at least was something I so much looked forward to,
I couldn’t quite believe that we got credit for it too.
Mister Lunar-land was so good-natured and sincere,
I used to wonder what in Hades he was doing here.
His encouragement brought out our latent skills and graces.
We painted landscapes, sculpted clay, and sketched each other’s faces.
I got straight A’s for drawing objects, almost like in trade school,
things that used to get me into trouble back in grade school.
Brother Rabbit edified us to his pet reflection,
to have the proper ‘diction’, we must first achieve ‘inflection’.
His Grammar classes could be hot and heavy expeditions,
exposing us to all of his suggested prepositions.
Along with good grammatic models of adulteration,
he made us look at genetives in the act of conjugation.
From these explicit samples we were taught to recognize
all the copulative verbs, with our naked eyes.
In Music with Miss Gauza I was actually astounded
to learn classical music sounded better than it . . . sounded.
But for composers to be worthy of our teacher’s ears,
they had to have been dead and gone at least two-hundred years.
In Chemistry I learned to read the writing on the wall.
The science that gave man gunpowder, atom bombs, and alcohol,
induced in me a wish to see the book, sooner than later,
convert to carbon atoms in the school incinerator,
along with it’s creator.
What I recall of Algebra is easy to relate.
You simply take the formula where two unknowns equate.
How much I learned divided by the ways that I confused it,
is equal to the times in life I’ve needed to have used it.
In freshman year Religion we became enlightened to
the finer shades of dogma in the Catholic point of view.
We learned at least to use our minds in every other ‘ism’,
but got no points for rationality in Catechism.
If you ‘think’ something is a sin and do it, then it will be.
It doesn’t matter if it was or wasn’t, it’ll still be.
But if you think it’s not, it doesn’t matter what you thought.
It all depends on if it’s mentioned in the book or not.
Our senior year discussions had a tendency to blind me.
One day I got so lost in thought, they had to come and find me.
We pondered that if God is omnipowerfully great,
He should be able to create a rock of such God-awful weight
that even He can’t lift it, so in either case it’s wrong
to say there’s nothing He can’t do. He isn’t omni-strong.
I think this must have strained my over-burdened confidence.
My faith flew out the window and I haven’t seen it since.
Now in our quest to gain a college entrance level status,
I wasn’t sure I had the right cerebral apparatus.
But if I’d known how much I had of academic scruples,
they could have had me teach a class, and made the Brothers pupils.
They promised us with Knowledge there’d be Power to our credit.
But those who know this History are doomed to not forget it.
So one thing I allowed myself to go through school ignoring,
was: If you can’t learn something nice, you must learn something boring . . .
if not downright deploring.
(Exceptions To The Rule)
The Brothers were the representatives of Francis Xavier,
and sacrificed their happiness to emulate Our Savior.
They gave up an assortment of desires and ambition
to put the fear of God in us, with the Pope’s permission.
They all wore shoe-length, drab, black cassocks throughout all the seasons.
They carried licenses to do mean things for holy reasons.
They taught Faith, Hope, and Charity, but if they didn’t trust
that we absorbed it properly, they beat it into us.
They bid us be forewarned of their uncompromising measures.
But how were we to know that they indulged in them for pleasures?
Not all of them were mean, but some were mean as they could be,
and ill prepared to handle their responsibility.
Take Brother Aunt-Jemimah, what a lovable old cuss,
one quarter ton of raging, wounded bull rhinocerous.
This Falstaff had to heave and hustle such a heavy hip-load,
if he were any bigger they’d have given him a zip-code.
You couldn’t help recoil when his anger would appear.
He’d hear a noise in class and bellow, “THERE’S A BIRD IN HERE!”
His bear-sized mitts and frequent fits would fill us all with dread.
Half the time the “birds” that he heard were in his head.
One day he yanked a classmate by the hair and shook his jibs,
while at the same time brought his knee up in the student’s ribs.
The kid, still clutching to the desk amid this reprehension,
rose up six inches, desk and all. We called this “The Ascension”.
It got the kid’s attention.
Then there’s Brother Clam-hands, just a sentimental guy
who had a special way of bringing tears to your eye.
He grimaced like Three Stooges while delivering his censures.
(The hair inside his nose was long enough to floss his dentures.)
He puffed his cheeks and squeezed the air out through his baked-on frown.
Sometimes I didn’t know if not to laugh or cry at such a clown.
But if he caught you fidgeting, he’d grimace, puff, and scoff,
grab you by the sideburns, and try to rub them off.
Brother Concubine was mechanically inclined,
but the warning light did not come on till after this one lost his mind.
You heard the cogwheels turning as he got you in his grip.
His ears went ‘Red Alert’ and a trigger switch would trip,
a spring released a rocker arm, a tumbler dropped in place,
and with precision torque he let you have it in the face.
It left the brains inside your skull scrambled, rattled, mushed,
and quite uncertain just which button you should not have pushed.
Brother Rabbit was the High School’s chief Xaverian.
His purpose was to make sure we weren’t having any fun.
His business was to know what sins young Christian men preferred,
but he seemed to be more interested after they occured.
His tactic was to get you to confess the juicy details
of what went on in private between you and any females.
His duty was to stand out in the hall or in the lobby
before and after classes and survey the ‘Student Body’.
Or was that just his hobby?
Brother Lord-Don’t-Hurt-Us, that peccant-sniffing creeper,
who also had a part-time job moonlighting as Grim Reaper,
would prowl the halls and classrooms like a spectre of doom.
The temperature dropped ten degrees when he walked in the room.
If he did not like your haircut, if he did not like your stance,
if he did not like your pointed shoes or tapered, stove-pipe pants,
if he found fault with your conduct, or thought your smile was rude,
if he had burnt toast for breakfast, or just felt in the mood,
if he just plain did not like you, why, Son, your name was ‘Mudd’,
he knew just how to break your spirit without drawing blood.
He grabbed you by the neck-tie to insure you couldn’t duck,
and he left his bony fingerprints embedded where he struck.
It’s one thing when you lose your temper and reach out to whack me;
another to derive sadistic joy as you attack me.
Officially they called it ‘Attitudinal Exorcism’,
but what you really witnessed was ‘One-way pugilism’.
He slapped you once upon the cheek when you were reprimanded,
and then as if to underscore the words that Christ commanded,
he slapped you once again so hard the red remained a week
before you ever had the chance to turn the other cheek.
They vehemently, systematically reduced your stature
with words that would humiliate a Teamster’s truck dispatcher.
They took you for a scape-goat if you couldn’t be elite,
or part of rock-jaw, Coach I.Q’s prestigious football fleet.
They used you for a skeet.
They brought you to your knees within their byzantine regime.
They sized you up, they dressed you down, they trashed your self-esteem.
They sent you to confession where the Chaplain would appraise you.
He said a prayer above your head and if that didn’t faze you,
they sent you home to Mom and Dad who had to hear the story
of how you ‘coiffed’ your hair at school and now you think you’re sorry.
The one thing you fear even more than being reprehended,
is telling Dad your status as a student is suspended.
You don’t want to upset your Mother more than you are used to,
and so you just don’t mention how the Brothers have abused you.
You know your folks have worked and slaved to pay all that tuition.
And so you try and please them with a good act of contrition.
Your parents then would have to go and talk with Brother Rabbit,
and pay the standard ransom for your self-indulgent habit.
For once you went so far as to get yourself ejected,
only death upon the cross could get you resurrected.
But when your parents came to school, the Brothers acted ‘nice’,
all full of smarmy handshakes and meek as pious mice.
Adopting mannerisms born of old Pecksniffian prudence,
they’d heavenwardly glance and say how much they loved their students.
Yet when they’d threaten to withhold the prized diploma from you
unless you’d yield to uninspired attempts to overcome you,
it made you feel like education’s costing you a fortune,
paying for ‘protection’ by submitting to extortion.
They made my father sign in blood on pain of mortal sin,
that I would never let my hair get near my ears again;
nor would I be allowed to comb it forward with exemption.
Such were the terms agreed upon that ended my suspension.
I called this my ‘Redemption’.
(What I Learned)
By the time we graduated there in sixty-seven,
I wanted a refund on my deposit into Heaven,
for though I stood there holding the diploma I had earned,
the things I had been taught weren’t quite the things that I had learned.
I left there having figured out, albeit rather slowly,
the Holy Roman Empire is anything but holy,
and if that didn’t qualify it as a miscognomen,
it neither is an empire, nor is it really Roman.
Though I could easily recite the Fifteen Mysteries,
and rattle off the Ten Commandments quickly as you please,
recite the Seven Virtues and the names of Twelve Apostles,
the Fourteen Stations of the Cross and half a dozen Gospels,
the Seven Sacred Sacraments and how one must apply them,
there’s only one good reason why I simply didn’t buy them;
I knew I’d rather live in sin and happily be tainted
than go through life a scape-goat, to end up being sainted.
I understood the church was fondest of a mystery
that hadn’t the least shred of verifiability,
but not how when you give your life to things of such pure essence,
there’s little else to do for kicks than bashing adolescents.
I knew enough to not react to people out of spite,
and that, unlike our High School colors, things were never black and white,
but failed to grasp the proper way to redefine a virtue
when someone who professed it promptly came along and hurt you.
Is that how they convert you?
I’d just begun to realize that nothing’s carved in stone,
but what convinced me to rely on my beliefs alone,
was all the theists selling stocks at fluctuating rates,
just betting on your odds of getting through the pearly gates,
and this reverberating, unforgettable suspicion,
if Christ were here, alive, today . . . He wouldn’t be a Christian.
I’ve yet to learn how they expected us to be inspired
by models whose behaviour left a bit to be desired.
I’ll grant you that a good old-fashioned Catholic education
will broaden you and quicken your scholastic maturation.
But don’t go counting on some special “goodness” sent from Rome,
the faith and hope and charity I learned, I learned at home.
If Catholic schools are better, it’s because they always drill you
with things that make you stronger if they don’t, in spirit, kill you.
Whatever else the Brothers had in mind when they contrived it,
I now could hold my head up high and say that I survived it.
Deliverance arrived on graduation afternoon,
while classmates beamed like butterflies emerging from cocoons,
I looked more like some insect with it’s wings clipped to the minute,
and felt like an elastic band stretched to it’s very limit.
I’d gone with my emotions put on temporary ‘coma’,
I only stuck it out to get the coveted diploma,
till after I returned the graduation gown and cap,
and with the sudden freedom came a loud elastic snap!
What happened next would merit neither infamy nor fame,
although it may have caused some tarnish to the family name.
Suffice to say, according to the great conservatory,
I’ve earned about ten-hundred-billion years in Purgatory.
But that’s another story.
Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience
(Always Keep Your Parachute Handy)
It’s been some time, I don’t know where the Brothers all are now.
But now and then another one’s renounced another holy vow.
Some have traded chastity for matrimonial bliss,
preferring real affection to “self-abuse”, I guess.
Some cashed in their poverty to take a shot at wealth.
Financial independence is a state of mental health.
And some, because you aren’t allowed to have your own idea,
unless it’s been approved by the Council of Nicea,
have ceased to swear obedience to the Roman Catholic King,
or kiss the papal buttucks or the Bishop’s stupid ring,
in order to pursue an old and long repressed ambition
of doing what they please without a written requisition.
But many sorely tempted men who are not dead and gone,
have managed to maintain their firm resolve and stay upon
the Apostolic path, no matter how the path unfurled,
because they couldn’t hope to make it in the outside world.
Ironic, these protected, cloistered persons of the cloth,
these misbegotten throwbacks to marauding Visigoth,
with all their toxic venom and their unconfronted fears
should be the ones to have prepared us all for our careers.
The Church will call these faithful few, “obedient and chaste”.
The rest they’ll classify as having “fallen out of grace”.
If it were me, in neither aggragate would I be lumped,
for when I realized that all that nonsense could be dumped,
I didn’t fall. I jumped!
(Outstanding Balance Due)
Nowadays when I speak out on how they were so cruel there,
people sometimes tell me that I shouldn’t have gone to school there.
But that’s not how I look at it, I wanted to attend
not what Xavier High School was, but what it should have been.
Some underclassmen think that I exaggerate because,
they too attended Xavier, but it’s no longer like it was.
And if you didn’t go there at it’s earliest stage,
you can’t imagine Xavier in it’s darkest age.
Perhaps you think we asked for what we got along the path?
We must have tested limits or provoked the brothers’ wrath.
I’m unaware of any explanation or provision
that justifies their vitriolic, immature derision.
Though many years have passed and I’m not one to hold a grudge,
it’s unresolved, like something in the craw that doesn’t budge.
And many times I’ve fantasized about how to repay them
for every personal attack and private act of mayhem.
What would I say? I’ve often wondered, if I had my druthers,
and I should chance to meet one of those venerable brothers.
I’d like to see him scold me now for my length of hair,
or try and castigate me for the cut of pants I wear.
If he could see the man that I’ve become this interim,
he’d understand I’ve overcome a whole lot worse than him.
Of course he wouldn’t dream of launching into some attack,
now that I’m fully grown and big enough to smack him back . . .
don’t think I wouldn’t, Jack!
Now that he can no longer use the power of his station
to force me to comply with some unwanted transformation,
and I’m no longer subject to the cowardly attacks
he carried out on Christian sons behind their parents’ backs,
no doubt he’d treat me differently, according to the plan
of standard sociability, smile and try to shake my hand.
Would he remember his abusive treatment long ago?
or be surprised if I returned his treatment blow for blow?
Sometimes when I recall I get so angry I could spit,
but still I haven’t one desire to hurt the little twit.
Perhaps I’d blow cigar smoke in his face and ask him, “Sir,
would you mind just explaining who the (bleep) you think you were?”
Or then sometimes I think perhaps I’d do as Christ would do,
gaze on him forgivingly and utter, “God bless you“.
For Christ in all his wisdom said to, “Love your enemies“,
I wonder if that must apply to hypocrites like these?
It doesn’t give me goosebumps now or fits of joyous laughter
to hear they slackened up the rules on those who followed after.
So what! if they’re more tolerant and currently upbeated,
they never sent apologies to all those they mistreated.
They may be fine fair fellows now but much mistaken men
to think I’d ever turn the other cheek to any of them again.
I think that even if they feel remorse or have demised,
they still deserve to have their past behaviour publicised . . .
before they’re canonized.
( I get alumni newsletters every month or so.
Whoever writes them never fails to hit you up for dough.
With all the wealth locked up behind the Vatican door,
I can’t imagine why the brothers have to beg for more,
unless it’s used to help defray the ponderous expense
and rising cost of torture chamber tools and maintenance,
or else it meets improvements in the next edition
of their monthly periodical, “The Inquisition“.
Some alumni may feel indebted to those bullies
for straightening their backbones out with racks and pulleys.
But I think all the gold inside their tabernacles
could easily be made into new chains and shackles.
I don’t claim to be Christian, though it’s not a quarrel with Christ.
I just don’t hold with celebrating human sacrifice.
I won’t endorse religions that condemn my appetites,
nor will I ever care to practice superstitious rites.
So, no, I will not fund the inculcation of their youth.
They hit me with their best shot and never touched the truth.
I haven’t anything to give them other than disdain
for urinating on my shoes and calling it ‘rain’.
The one suggestion I detest the very most
is sending thanks for making me a whipping post.
They charged us all admission to their living requiem,
so if the fees already paid aren’t thanks enough to them . . .
melt down their diadems.)
And sometimes it occurs to me that they were only human.
There’s only so much knowledge any one man can illumine.
So if someday there is a Brother I should chance to meet,
perhaps at some reunion, or in passing on the street,
and we should get to talking of the good old ways and means,
and he asserts that he regrets his old contemptible routines,
it’s likely then that he will voice a common point of view,
he’ll say he learned from his mistakes and I’ll say, “I did too“.
“No matter how far you progress in seminary college,
it can’t begin to substitute for spiritual knowledge.
And that no matter how much one believes in what he teaches,
he who understands it, lives it, he who doesn’t, preaches.
“I learned, at least for all you moral character molders,
obscenity is something in the eyes of the beholders,
and that no matter how hard you denounce what you despise,
it doesn’t make the thing obscene in someone else’s eyes.
“I learned, according to the rule of doing unto others –
the punishment decidedly preferred among you Brothers,
for being so vindictive and malevolently strict,
was to be smacked upside the head and have your rib-cages kicked.
“They say we must forgive ’em to forget ’em to abide.
If I have not forgiven you, it’s not because I haven’t tried.
I may have got the order accidentally reversed
and tried to put the sooner half, forgetting you, first.
“They say we live and learn, well, Brother, does it not surprise you
that I have found an antidote your venomed faith denies you?
What grade would you award me now for learning to possess it,
in spite of all your past religious efforts to suppress it?
Don’t bother. I can guess it.
(Dear Old Battlefield)
When they first opened up the doors and registered the scroll,
we freshmen were the only class permitted to enroll.
It seemed as if we were the favored of the deity
to be so lucky as to come of age in sixty-three.
The upper grades would have to wait for Xavier to debut them
until the proud inaugural classmen were promoted to them.
Each year we took the next grade up as it became instated
and others came and filled the lower grade we just vacated.
For all those first four years at Xavier, under these conditions,
our class enjoyed the most unique and rarest of positions.
We were the only underclassmen I have ever found
who hadn’t any upperclassmen pushing them around.
No matter which grade we were in, it was the highest one.
But there was little privilege in that upper eschalon.
For if exempt from upperclassmen getting in our faces,
at Xavier High the Brothers took the older bullies’ places.
They must have thought we’d miss not having any class above us,
and felt they had to beat us up to show how much they love us.
I think they learned from those who were in turn taught to assert,
if things that hurt us teach, then things that teach us have to hurt.
When all is said and done, the Brothers do deserve some credit
for helping us to recognize theology and dread it.
And in the end they did us all an everlasting favor,
and spared us the expense of emulating their behavior . . .
It paid to go to Xavier.
We are the one and only class in Xavier’s history
to have no class before us, but it didn’t come for free.
We came to learn and learned we had to challenge their adherence
to over-rigid, dated codes of conduct and appearance.
And so the class of sixty-seven ought to be revered
not for having finished first, but having pioneered.
We wore the brothers down for all the rest with our defiance
and taught those men the meaning of malicious compliance.
We were the front-line infantry, the Vanguard of the corps.
We took the brunt of their assault and begged them all for more.
They gave us all they had until they’d spent their ammunition.
And when they had no more to shoot, they softened their position.
They reconsidered and decided almost overnight
that longish hair and tightish pants were actually alright,
then came to the conclusion with a sudden, violent jerk,
that when it comes to teaching Virtue, Violence doesn’t work.
By then the class of sixty-seven had it’s graduation
and never got to benefit from this capitulation.
But as we passed the torch on to the class of sixty-eight,
we had the barest glimpse of changes we helped instigate.
And though we never saw direct results from our response,
without the darker ages there could be no Renaissance.
At least we have the satisfaction knowing that the others
who followed us received a better treatment from the brothers.
I hope they all appreciate that it was not so easy
to blaze the trail and pave the road they ride along so breezy.
But if some underclassman tried to thank me, I would say,
“No thanks are necessary. I’d have done it anyway.”
Vide et te nosce!
Xavier High School
1 9 6 7
Be A Man
Our high school motto, “Be A Man”, was truly unforseeing.
Was there some other gender they thought we might end up being?
As if there weren’t already such great chauvinistic pride,
to show your weakness at this school would get you crucified.
In honor of our silver anniversary of Xavier,
I now propose a maxim of a more panhuman nature.
Although you spend your life collecting trophies on the shelf,
you’ll be mature when you can learn to … “See And Know Yourself“.
Xavier High School
1 9 9 2
See And Know Yourself
As to the part of me you tried to save with your rebuffs,
I sometimes think you simply didn’t beat me hard enough.
But last I checked, I’m still a man, though not among the he-men,
I must suppose I’ll be a man as long as I’m producing semen.
I’ve gone through life with one important all-abiding dictum,
I will NOT fall upon your sword, I will NOT be your victim.
Any loss I suffer, you will NOT be my EXCUSE.
any triumph mine I won’t ascribe to your ABUSE,
I’m cutting myself loose.
© Copyright 2008, VICE-VERSA, Jas Hilsdon
All Content © Jas Hilsdon, 1949-2014
CONTACT JAS HILSDON at:
jashilsdon [at] gmail [dot] com