Learning by Rote

Luki at six is learning the names of dinosaurs—
Giganotosaurus, Titanosaurus, Pteranodon.
He marvels at their massive jaws, their claws

and teeth, their appetite for widespread mayhem.
Marvels too at my ignorance of prehistory
science, anatomy, almost everything.

At six I had to memorize the Maynooth Catechism,
learn words like sepulcher, crucifixion, calumniate.
Recite the litany of the seven deadly sins

seven sacraments, seven gifts of the Holy Ghost.
Cudgel my conscience to deduce
the destructive consequences of my crimes.

Luki prefers the Cretaceous to the Jurassic period.
I liked the names of obscure saints
who were fed to lions in the Coliseum.

He peoples new planets with Lego, colored pencils, paper.
I mapped angelic choirs of Seraphim and Cherubim
Thrones and Dominions, Virtues, Powers

and Principalities, laying up for myself treasures in heaven.
Both of us true believers in what we are told—
spectacular vertebrates, stupefying monsters, flying saints.

from In Praise of Usefulness by Angela Patten