My Cart 
Login 

Previous

If You Don't Know the Words Just Hum, 1963
by
Gail Fishman Gerwin


Next
 

Second graders sweetly singing,
I the young teacher in front,
waving my arms, tapping my feet,
swaying to the beat.

Winter musicals,
tunes for all seasons,
noting the months,
Thirty days hath September,
April June and—

November twenty-two,
rehearsing rehearsing,
Mrs. D. at the piano,
Miss Me at the helm,
pale blue wool dress,
stylish sprayed tresses
mimicking Jackie K’s,
baton swaying
down-left-right-up,
pouring music into
gap-toothed faces,
reminding openmouthed robins,
if you don’t know the words, just hum.

In the second-grade wing
at Somerville School in
Ridgewood, New Jersey,
where raw November grey
hovers over leafless oaks,
sudden silence, sudden horror.
Mrs. J. runs down the hall, crying

 

                  THE PRESIDENT’S BEEN SHOT

                  THE PRESIDENT IS DEAD

Chaotic dismissal, confused children
holding hands of grieving parents,
rushing toward the nation’s gash.

Unable to grasp the day’s enormity,
not knowing what words to sing,
we all hum.

From Sugar and Sand (Full Court Press, 2009).
Used here with the author’s permission.

Purchase a framed print of this poem.

Gail Fishman Gerwin (1939 - 2016), a “Jersey girl” from birth who claims to have channeled Dorothy Parker and Sylvia Plath on occasion, authored three poetry collections: Crowns (Aldrich Press) was inspired in part by her four grandchildren; Sugar and Sand was a Paterson Poetry Prize finalist, and Dear Kinfolk (ChayaCairn Press) earned a Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. founder of the writing/editing firm Inedit, Gail was also the associate poetry editor for Tiferet and frequently participated in workshops and panels on the creative process. Learn more about her at www.gailfgerwin.com.


Post New Comment:
Linda Lee Konichek:
Over forty years ago, I, too, was a young teacher (grades 7-11), in Bexar county, outside of San Antonio, Texas. I remember comforting kids of all ages, many of them band members, who had almost made it to the ceremonies for the motorcade. It almost seemed surreal for days; everyone was in shock. It was a horrible, heart-rending time for everyone. Perhaps it's a good reminder of what happens when people choose to follow their dark side. The contrast and image of the singing/humming is profound.
Posted 11/25/2010 10:26 AM
APACHEJOEH:
GAIL: I WAS 36 AND WAS STATIONED AT THE MARINE CORPS RECRUITING OFFICE IN PORTLAND. WAS RETURN FROM LUNCH AS NOTED EVERY ONE STANDING IN FRONT OF MEIRS DEPARTMENT STORE WATCHING TELEVISON. THEN ONLY THEN DID I LEARN THAT PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY WAS ASSASSINATED. AN AWESOME TRIBUTE. THANK YOU. THREE YEARS LATER I WAS ON MY WAY TO VIETNAM.
Posted 11/22/2010 09:40 PM
Buckner14:
You take me back to that horrific day...begun so simply, ending in tragedy. Neither I nor the country has gotten over it. Thank you.
Posted 11/22/2010 07:54 PM
Jo:
Thank you for this poem. How had I forgotten the day, Nov. 22--I was in the kitchen with a new baby and my husband, a republican called to say the president's been shot. My first reaction was anger at his "joke." When I believed him and turned on TV my baby and I rocked in silence. Jo
Posted 11/22/2010 01:45 PM


Contents of this web site and all original text and images therein are copyright © by Your Daily Poem. All rights reserved.
The material on this site may not be copied, reproduced, downloaded, distributed, transmitted, stored, altered, adapted,
or otherwise used in any way without the express written permission of the owner.