To Ithaca, To Cayuga, To Cornell
Many will see you graduate besides the living
In the sunny field above the world,
Above the waters of the lake, the gorges
Rimming the colleges, the waterfalls:
You will walk to the stage
With your mother’s mother and your cousin, the judge
And your great aunt who finished here in 1904
When women rarely got a degree.
I’m thinking her father found himself,
Whether he came to Ithaca by train or horse-drawn car,
Reminded of home, of Ireland,
In the round rural spaces, the jagged gorges,
The green mats of the grass
Like the unspoiled world of the places we come from.
I think he must have been comforted
On his daughter’s graduation day,
To think of the vast beauty of the place where he was born.
Anna studied Latin to teach high school,
And her Cornell degree helped her keep her job
In the Depression, when there were two families
To feed. And when she lay dying,
Her sister Alice, a fine singer,
Sang her the Cornell alma mater to comfort her:
Far above Cayuga’s waters,
With its waves of blue.
I remember her, Anna, from my earliest days.
I remember her father through the stories Alice told.
You will remember these people too,
And the rock, the cross, the star, Cashel, Jerusalem.
You will remember everything.
Cayuga will look the same
When you return, a ten year adventurer
Along the lakes and shores of the world.
The deep, calm, brilliant
Waters of the lakes will reach to you
To hold you in the bowl of their hands,
With all the power of the armies of Brian Boru,
With all the power of the armies of King David.
I hope it will comfort you
That Cayuga is so hard to spoil.
And the sun beating down on the convocation field today
Is saying hey, the answer is tapping your shoulder.
The earth is battered, it is fragile,
It is scarred and bears the brunt of awful tides.
But it’s not too late to do something epic.
It’s not too late.
For Brendan Fogarty, B.S., Biological and Environmental Engineering Cornell 2015