Tuesday, October 14, 2014


The year of President Carter's malaise
and of the hostage crisis.

The year of the "Ayatollah Assahollah" t-shirt.

The year I spent at the Joseph H. Barnes Middle School,
waiting to get into Boston Latin.

The year of Mrs Watkins,
my first black teacher in white, unwelcoming East Boston.

The year of Common sense is the knack
of seeing things as they are and doing things
as they ought to be done.

The year of Mr Stein in Social Studies,
teaching us all the nations and capitals of Europe
(not forgetting Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania).

The year that Mom and Dad and I
visited Qu├ębec City,
saw the River Hudson, the Chateau Frontenac,
found cobblestoned thoroughfares
with art and restaurants and culture
and Francophonic charm.

The year that Eddie P and I
produced "Commie Comics"
after Mr Stein taught us about the Warsaw Pact.

The year of racial strife at Eastie High
(and not the only year, if truth be told).

The year that hooligans from the high school
capsized Mrs Watkins' car,
turning it onto its roof.

The year I saw Mrs Watkins
in uncontrollable tears.

The year that shot John Lennon dead.

The year of the Salesian Boys Club.
The year of Father Sid, of Masses in the chapel
where Brother Pat would croon "Let It Be"
while strumming a guitar.
The year of Jim and Dave and Wally.

The year of Zenyatta Mondatta
and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love."
The year of dark sarcasm.
The year of Blondie.

The year of Bobby Sands and his hunger strike
for Northern Ireland.

The year I dreamed of kissing
the feet of Mrs Watkins.
The year I turned eleven.

The year of designer jeans.
Sisley, Sasson, Jordache, Calvin Klein.

The year I wore rainbow suspenders
in emulation of Robin Williams' Mork.

The year that disco spent in intensive care.

The year that Mr Benedetto, the music teacher,
taught us the words to "Come Together,"
to "I Got a Name."

The year I finished second in the citywide spelling bee
and burst into sobs at the unexpected loss.

Reading William Stafford

Hearing Stafford's tone of voice, catching his peculiar song, like a murmur solitary, far removed from mob and throng --- but th...