The Old Poet — A Tribute to Verne Laswell, Principal, Poet, Teacher

Mr. Verne Laswell, long passed now,
Was my grade school principal.
I always thought he was a little weird
With his red hair, large freckles, and grey fedora;
Perhaps a little too aloof for a grade schooler.

It seemed, through my eyes,
That he was just putting in time
That he wasn’t all that interested in kids,
And that often his mind was far away
From skinned knees and bad behavior

In high school I dated his stepdaughter
We often hung out at her house
One day, while her parents were away,
She told me that he wrote poems
And showed me some of his work

Poetry! Yuck! It reminded me of high school Lit
With its obscure meanings and slights of hand.
Its meters and rhymes and iambic whatevers.
It seemed so stuffy and obtuse
Way too feminine for a football player.

So we snickered at how silly they sounded
And practiced exaggerated Shakespearean recitations
On an impromptu stage in her living room
Before getting round to more physical things
That shared giggles often bring on.

Older now, I write poetry
And I often find myself staring into far off spaces
Sensing exotic pulses and ancient voices from
Places where children don’t have to be watched
And getting the garbage out on time isn’t required

Now I know where he was all those years ago,
A principal, a poet, a dreamer,
He wasn’t aloof after all
He had just found his way
To a place that others only dream.

Marv Himmel
April 23, 2011 ©

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