On the wall where I write some of these posts — crammed with memorabilia and photos stretching back decades — is a poem, date unknown, on the back of a letter. I only read both for the first time this summer. (In the photo, date unknown, is Tom Harris and myself at my parent’s dining room where Tom was a Thanksgiving dinner regular.)
Tom was a lifetime political activist and writer, including for the Rochester Patriot and the City. For the most part, Tom wrote his poems only for himself. Although I vividly remember — and he would like me saying this — Tom delighting us with impromptu invented limericks some of which — after a glass or two of wine — dipped into the man from Nantucket genre.
After his death, his wife Julie Everitt (see Marketview Heights) organized some of his work. Julie used the poem as part of letter asking for donations for Project Bueno, a Rochester group dedicated to supporting the peoples of Latin America. One of Tom’s favorite sayings was in Spanish, Por La Paz: never, never give up.
In the letter, Julie wrote:
This year you are being asked to make one last donation in memory of the founder, editor and publisher — Tom Harris. For those of you who may know, Tom died on August 5th , twelve days after being diagnosed with cancer. One morning, shortly before his death the doctor asked him if he knew where he was. His response was, “In a clinic in Paiwas.” The doctor looked bewildered and said to me, “I do not think he knows where he is.” My response was, “He does.” For the past fifteen years much of his life was with the people of Nicaragua.
While Tom was in his 60s when the poem was written (and untitled), Julie and I agreed to title it:
In a clinic in Paiwas
The winds protest his passing by
The sun holds still behind the sky
And I too feel I have begun to die
The land murmurs in open repose
Welcoming back the one who from her arose
The land is deep
the sky is high
live and die
This I do not comprehend
Why the beginning
and why the end?
Tom was also a member of the Rochester Veterans for Peace On Veteran’s Day at Buckland and Highland Parks. And the Moral Equivalent of War/
see other poems (links and pics) “A Phone Call to Manhattan”