September, the First Day of School by Howard Nemerov 1920-1991

Nate Johnson

Happy birthday, Nate

Here’s a poem in honor of my son, Nate, on his twentieth birthday. It’s part of a poem titled September, the First Day of School by Howard Nemerov. Born in New York City, Nemerov served in the Army Air Force and taught writing at Washington University in St. Louis.

September, the First Day of School

A school is where they grind the grain of though,
And grind the children who must mind the thought.
It may be those two grindings are but one,
As from the alphabet comes Shakespeare’s plays,
As form the integers comes Euler’s Law,
As from the whole, inseparable, the lives,

The shrunken lives that have not been set free
By law or by poetic phantasy.
But may they be. My child has disappeared
Behind the schoolroom door.  And should I live
To see his coming forth, a life away,
I know my hope, but do not know its form

Nor hope to know it. May the fathers he finds
Among his teachers have a care of him
More than his father could. How that will look
I do not know, I do not need to know.
Even our tears belong to ritual.
But may great kindness come of it in the end.

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2 thoughts on “September, the First Day of School by Howard Nemerov 1920-1991

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