The Altar of Loneliness

Sherman Alexie (b. 1966 –

The Facebook Sonnet

by Sherman Alexie

Welcome to the endless high-school
Reunion. Welcome to past friends
And lovers, however, kind or cruel.
Let’s undervalue and unmend

The present. Why can’t we pretend
Every stage of life is the same?
Let’s exhume, resume, and extend
Childhood. Let’s all play the games

That occupy the young. Let fame
And shame intertwine. Let one’s search
For God become public domain.
Let become our church.

Let’s sign up, sign in, and confess
Here at the altar of loneliness.

This spring will be my 40th anniversary of graduating from high school.  I have only attended one reunion  in the intervening years, the 20th.  So there would be something symmetrical about attending again if some type of gathering actually occurs this fall.  I have several good friends that remain from growing up that I have stayed in frequent touch, but given that I left my home town the day I graduated from high school and never lived there ever again, its not like I have this incredible urge to reconnect.  

During COVID and the presidential election I abandoned Facebook.  I eliminated 3/4 of the people I was connected to simply because we weren’t really friends.  I cut it down to a very small group and I rarely if ever go and read it any more.  I don’t post anything and barely read anything. For me Facebook’s real value was a way to know about friends of mine upcoming gigs who play in a band.  Since live music temporarily doesn’t exist, I have no real motivation to go on the site. 

My mother graduated from the same high school my daughter graduated from 60 years later, the same town I live today.  When she was going to her 55th High School reunion she was still teaching Kindergarten full time in a private school.   On grandparents day in June, (the vast majority of them younger than her) she told all the kids that she was going to Minneapolis that summer to visit some of her childhood friends at a reunion, two of which she met in Kindergarten. There was an audible gasp by the children and then silence, as they looked wide eyed up at my Mother and then to their grandparents, who must have seemed ancient beyond understanding, and then around the circle of faces of their classmates on the floor.  My Mother watched their internal gears turning, deciphering which of their friends today might still be their friend 68 years hence, a sudden determination in their eyes that this business of friendship carries some serious long term obligations.  

The First Day of School

by Roger McGough (b. 1937 – 

A millionbillionwillion miles from home
Waiting for the bell to go. (To go where?)
Why are they all so big, other children?
So noisy? So much at home they
Must have been born in uniform
Lived all their lives in playgrounds
Spent the years inventing games
That don’t let me in. Games
That are rough, that swallow you up.

And the railings.
All around, the railings.
Are they to keep out wolves and monsters?
Things that carry off and eat children?
Things you don’t take sweets from?
Perhaps they’re to stop us getting out
Running away from the lessins. Lessin.
What does a lessin look like?
Sounds small and slimy.
They keep them in the glassrooms.
Whole rooms made out of glass. Imagine.

I wish I could remember my name
Mummy said it would come in useful.
Like wellies. When there’s puddles.
Yellowwellies. I wish she was here.
I think my name is sewn on somewhere
Perhaps the teacher will read it for me.
Tea-cher. The one who makes the tea.

I Like A Good Poem, One With Lots of Fighting

Roger McGough

A Good Poem

by Roger McGough (1937 – )

I like a good poem
one with lots of fighting
in it. Blood, and the
clanging of armour. Poems

against Scotland are good,
and poems that defeat
the French with crossbows.
I don’t like poems that

aren’t about anything.
Sonnets are wet and
a waste of time.
Also poems that don’t

know how to rhyme.
If I was a poem
I’d play football and
get picked for England.



by Roger McGough

I vow to honour the commitment made this day
Which, unlike the flowers and the cake,
Will not wither or decay. A promise, not to obey
But to respond joyfully, to forgive and to console,
For once incomplete, we now are whole.

I vow to bear in mind that if, at times
Things seem to go from bad to worse,
They also go from bad to better.
The lost purse is handed in, the letter
Contains wonderful news. Trains run on time,
Hurricanes run out of breath, floods subside,
And toast lands jam-side up.

And with this ring, my final vow:
To recall, whatever the future may bring,
The love I feel for you now.