That School in Athens

Meredith Benjamin

Williamstown, MA

Concord Academy

Poetry

In the painting the men argue 

In a phosphorescent room. 

 

I have spent all morning staring at Jesus on the cross. 

The silence was tense and awkward 

So I asked him oh my god how’ve you been? 

And have you heard from your dad lately?

Which was cringey, I know, but in my defense 

The past few years God has been a little off the grid. 

 

He says I could be the Virgin Mother Mary, that the resemblance is uncanny 

I bite my tongue, pretending there is no gaping flaw in this belief. 

It seems most of my time these days is spent 

Negotiating the sexuality of womankind

And I simply didn’t feel like getting into it today. 

So when he said that for him it’s been awhile, 

I just said Yeah, I’m waiting for the one. 

 

In the painting the men argue 

And compared to all that Jesus stuff 

I guess it’s more relatable? 

 

By far the most erratic of all erratic things, 

The hysterical thirst to be recalled 

As more than carbon and dust. 

 

And Plato says to Aristotle 

That Alex kid is Great but

Kick his ego down a notch. 

‘Cause even in antiquity, 

No one likes a tool. 

 

Because there’s Ptolemy with his celestial orb 

And we all know I would just come out and say it:

Eclipsing the space of those with less power won’t make you the fucking sun. 

And yes, I could’ve been more tactful. 

But you could’ve had my back. 

Forgive me for not believing

In the power of waiting a century 

For a man to come around and say the same. damn. thing. 

 

But do you think Aristotle has ever broken down 

At the arrival gate in an airport? 

 

‘Cause all his robes are packed away

and even with all this in the news 

about those two degrees of global warming 

(And the ice is melting and the polar bears will croak) 

It is so much colder here than he remembered. 

And he really missed his mom. 

 

The whole fiasco breaks at a quantum rate 

And Plato calls him up before he even gets in the cab. 

 

Dude he says, drunk and starry lipped and drooling.

You finally hit bottom this time.

 

And I’m sure Plato deserved admission to that famous school in Athens

And perhaps he really did get there on his own. 

But probe at a possibility in which luck has been stitched into his very DNA 

In which three trillion is spent annually by American leaders

To undermine my authority as an independent brain. 

In which the painting shows nothing more 

Than the vastness of the western frontier. 

 

So I like to think after that, 

Every prolific contribution he made 

Was honestly just the marijuana talking.

Was the goosebumps he woke up with 

After that dead boy hugged him in his dream.

Was accidental and anonymous.

Was him just trying to crawl out of a hole. 

 

So maybe Raphael can paint me too? 

 

I swear if I had a buck for every time I lapsed my own religion 

‘Cause I was trying to make a bitter man feel less sad 

A note for every night I didn’t sleep 

Baptized by his indecision 

I wouldn’t even need to buy my way into that painting

‘Cause I’d buy the Vatican itself.


EDITORIAL PRAISE

There is something really fresh and offbeat about the idea of looking at Ancient Greek philosophers in a contemporary context. It’s powerful in its rage.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meredith Benjamin is a high school senior from Williamstown, Massachusetts. During the school year, she boards at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. Meredith loves volleyball, singing, smoothies, and spontaneous dance parties! She will be graduating in the spring of 2020.