Charles Chaim Wax

Traversing The Summit - Poem by Charles Chaim Wax

Principal Norr put a Letter of Reprimand
in Joe Ward’s file.
As UFT Chapter Leader at Spinoza HS
I could not let that stand.
We marched into the conference room.
Principal Norr began, “I walked into Mr. Ward’s room
and saw a student wearing a hat.
I said, “Larry Sutton’s a mental case.
I know it. You know it. His mother knows it.
Strangled his cat at home. Unpredictable.
If Joe told him to take off his hat
no telling what mayhem might have ensued.”
Norr stared at me, then continued,
“Another student had his feet on the desk.
Mr. Ward did nothing.”
Norr smiled, looked at his notes,
said, “I asked for a lesson plan.
None was provided. Late twelve times
last month.” He slid a Xerox copy
of Ward’s time card in my direction.
I flipped it back without a glance
saying, “That all you got.”
Again the notes: “The man ate
a bucket of fried chicken
all during class, never taught a lesson.”
“Lemme take this one, Bernstein, ” said Joe.
“Be my guest.”
“I bought the bucket,22 pieces, original,
with the thought to give the kids
a taste of the good life,
but, well, after that first morsel
I became weak, this I admit
before God and Country
and munched on and on,
but as for the lesson, by my actions
these bright and yearning scholars
learned more than mere words
could ever say: Greed, my own,
for which I apologized the next day
with a bucket for the class, and the class
“I believe a Letter of Commendation
is in order, ” I said nodding at Norr.
Almost a smile on his thin lips, not quite
then: “And the most serious charge:
Mrs. Landau accused Mr. Ward
of staring at her breasts.”
“I stare. I’m sure you’ve stared…”
“Watch it, Bernstein,
just because you’re Union
doesn’t mean you can’t be
brought up on charges.”
“Is that a threat? ”
I stopped, stared hard,
stood, looked down at Norr,
my eyes bulging, finally saying,
“You threatening a duly elected
Union official?
You coming after me now?
I been here thirty-six years.
You coming after me now?
I can retire tomorrow
but before that happens
I will bury you.
Ask Principal Blum why he left.
You want his number?
I’ll give you his number.”
I paused, sat down, said softly,
“This place is an insane asylum
all I ask is a little decency,
and if not, I already said what
would happen,
and it will happen.”
Norr shuffled papers,
blinked several times
at last whispering,
“Just make sure
Mr. Ward arrives on time.”

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 22, 2006

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