Rep. William J. Pascrell
Dear Mr. Pascrell:
Before you were the Honorable (D, NJ),
back when you taught history and psychology
at Paramus High, you were one of the foundrymen
who melted down our formless minds and gave them
rough shape. Detail and polish were up to us.
You told a story, about leaving for the prom,
your father said, “Be careful.” Eventually,
I think, I got the point. Did any of us
understand? Later I decided we were not
meant to understand, not then, but to
ponder and find our own meanings.
It was a rare peek into the personal.
one that other teachers never granted us.
And what was a social studies teacher doing
as one of the advisors to the high school
literary magazine? Something else to mull.
Changing the world, one student at a time,
must have seemed too slow. We needed
a good example, so you made yourself one.
But how different, really, is governing
from running a classroom? So much
patient explanation, filing down rough edges
for the easier acceptance of complex machineries,
so much talking to people who won’t listen.
And the greatest failure is surrendering the effort.
The snow off the plow would blast
the mailbox off its post, down the hill,
until I learned to bring it in
when I heard the forecast. Another time
the esthetic vigilantes painted it black.
They didn’t like pink. You couldn’t see
the house from the road — too many trees.
I worried about the big maple. If it fell
the wrong way, the house would splinter.
It was in a named place, no town or village,
but a post office and a train station
immortalized by Edith Wharton. Someone
saw a bear, once, behind the library,
and many of the roads were named
while I lived there. I lived quietly,
with a dog, and was mostly happy.
Until 2003, David M. Harris had never lived more than fifty miles from New York City. Since then he has moved to Tennessee, acquired a daughter and a classic MG, and gotten serious about poetry. His work has appeared in Pirene’s Fountain (and in First Water, the Best of Pirene’s Fountain anthology), Gargoyle, The Labletter, The Pedestal, and other places. His first collection of poetry, The Review Mirror, was published by Unsolicited Press in 2013.