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 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 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.