Jon McGill

Mrs. Weatherhead and the Jews

I would not say “those were the days”

In the schoolyard where someone

Chanted, off-key, the words to Cherry Pie

And challenged me to throw hockey cards

Up against the wall.

 

Closest to the bricks was the winner

And that’s where I met Shapiro and Schulman

The first Jewish kids

I knew but didn’t know.

We called them names

We threatened them and bullied them

Hurled “kike” into the learning air

When we knew nothing

And cared less.

 

Mrs. Weatherhead, whom we loved,

Had one lung, a romantic condition

For us, if not for her.

We regarded her as tragic

And our fate as the stuff of unrequited love

Which she would return one day if

She survived.

 

She overheard us call out “yid”

One day in the cruel schoolyard,

The vast expanse of an arctic wind

Of ignorance and inheritance.

We were marched without feeling

From the yard to the holding cell

Of the man with large eyes and a vein

That ran red along his forehead.

When he lifted the strap high

And whipped it across the fetid air

With none of the love between us that

We knew she felt, there was no smiling breathless

Eagerness, the way most mornings began.

 

©Jon McGill

Jon McGill is a career educator who was born in London, England but raised in Toronto Canada: he has worked as a teacher and school leader in both the United Kingdom and , since 1988, in the United States.  He has taught and been a Head of School in Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore and is now the Academic Director for the Baltimore Curriculum Project a charter school operator in Baltimore..  He has been writing poetry since he was a teenager, and was the co-founder of a poetry newspaper, entitled The Inkpot Monkey, at the University of Waterloo, .  His short collection, entitled The Glass Bone, was published in 1987 by the UK based Poetry Foundation and a small number of his poems have appeared in the Poetry Foundations quarterly Journal.  Mrs. Weatherhead and the Jews is his first U.S.- published poem.

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