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.

Garrison: Nostalgia

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.