“In a clinic in Paiwas” — Thomas W. Harris (1925 – 1999)

“In a clinic in Paiwas” — Thomas W. Harris (1925 – 1999)

Thanksgiving Dinner, Tom and me, date unknown

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 and 1

Tom and me, date unknown

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.arketview

In the letter, Julie wrote:


San Pedro de la Norte, Paiwas, Nicaragua

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 [1999], 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


in between


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/vet day


tom with lucian2

Tom (left) and Lucian Wadell (right). Lucian, one of Tom’s close friends, is a Thanksgiving and Sunday Dinner regular. In Woodstock, NY this year but says he will toast Tom from there.


Tom’s poem on wall

see other poems (links and pics)  “A Phone Call to Manhattan” dand les

and “November” IMG_1219

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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