Thanksgiving Letter from Harry
I guess I have to begin by admitting I'm thankful today I don't reside in a country My country has chosen to liberate, That Bridgeport's my home, not Baghdad. Thankful my chances are good, when I leave For the Super Duper, that I'll be returning. And I'm thankful my TV set is still broken. No point in wasting energy feeling shame For the havoc inflicted on others in my name When I need all the strength I can muster To teach my eighth-grade class in the low-rent district. There, at least, I don't feel powerless. There my choices can make some difference. This month I'd like to believe I've widened My students' choice of vocation, though the odds My history lessons on working the land Will inspire any of them to farm Are almost as small as the odds One will become a monk or nun Trained in the Buddhist practice We studied last month in the unit on India. The point is to get them suspecting the world They know first hand isn't the only world. As for the calling of soldier, if it comes up in class, It's not because I feel obliged to include it, As you, as a writer, may feel obliged. A student may happen to introduce it, As a girl did yesterday when she read her essay About her older brother, Ramon, Listed as "missing in action" three years ago, And about her dad, who won't agree with her mom And the social worker on how small the odds are That Ramon's alive, a prisoner in the mountains. I didn't allow the discussion that followed More time than I allowed for the other essays. And I wouldn't take sides: not with the group That thought the father, having grieved enough, Ought to move on to the life still left him; Not with the group that was glad he hadn't made do With the next-to-nothing the world's provided, That instead he's invested his trust in a story That saves the world from shameful failure. Let me know of any recent attempts on your part To save our fellow-citizens from themselves. In the meantime, if you want to borrow Ramon For a narrative of your own, remember that any scene Where he appears under guard in a mountain village Should be confined to the realm of longing. There His captors may leave him when they move on. There his wounds may be healed, His health restored. A total recovery Except for a lingering fog of forgetfulness A father dreams he can burn away.
From Unknown Friends, Copyright © 2007 by Carl Dennis. Reprinted with permission of Penguin.