Poem: To Nwk

Michele Herman, of the Norwalk High School Class of 1975, was added to the NHS Alumni Wall of Honor on October 14.   Herman, a writer, lives in New York City.  At her induction ceremony she read her original poem “To Nwk”. 

“From 1983 (when I moved to NYC) until 2017 (when my mother died on Christmas morning), I went to Norwalk regularly, always marking in my calendar: to Nwk,” Herman wrote in an e-mail to NancyOnNorwalk.



To Nwk


I arrived in Norwalk in utero

when my parents set up camp

in a tiny walk-up on Cedar Street

later condemned for a Turnpike ramp.


Over three centuries old but still not quite sure

who she might grow up to be

with her poor Norwalk Mall and her town green not near town

Norwalk tries so to plan and to please.

I wasn’t sure either who I might be

and I often erred on the side of timidity.

But I also loved fiercely in this town

that was mine, town of first friendships,

of tall tulip trees, town whose blacktop

scraped up my knees.


Town full of immigrants from much warmer worlds

how harsh they must have found the Yankee cold

many worked their way to much better lives

but many struggled to gain a hold.


And now for the first time in my long adulthood

when I return from my life away

I have no family left to visit;

there’s no one who shares my DNA.


But I know that when I exit the train

I needn’t feel quite so adrift

for I share Norwalk DNA with 80,000 others

it’s modest but it’s also a gift.


Norwalk has left her marks on us all

and now I like to think it’s true

that the arrangement is reciprocal,

and we’ve all left our marks on her too.


So roll the car window down,

stick out an arm,

take in the good smells of this town

lilac and just watered lawn,

rolls in the oven

at Pepperidge Farm.

Sniff toward the east

where sand replaces ground

concession stands, seaweed

lucky us to grow up on the Sound.


Cut me open and

here’s some of what’s inside,

same as many of you:

Doctor Heafy,

Yankee Doodle, Old MacDonald,

Belldock Popper, Tristram Fuller,

Calvin Murphy, Art Perschino,

Johnny Sopczak, Harry Miller,

Jenny Cave and Mayor Zullo,

oh, the dreaded Miss Gianinno,

Champy Howell

(whose lesson every fall

was that Woodrow Wilson

ruined us all).

John’s Best Pizza

which didn’t deliver

endless days when our hardest choice was

Rip Van Winkle or Broad River.


Town of ridges, town of rocks

to the west and rocks to the east,

Town bright with rhododendron,

azalea, enormous copper beech.


Maple seed pods falling thick in the fall,

each day at noon the alarm

Hurlbutt apples, milk from the milkman,

corn from Four Winds Farm.


Town of names so ingrained —

St. Johns and Shostaks

Horns and Kaides

MacMahons and Leonards,


Fitch and Roodner,

Winston Dong, permittee,

Marcus, Marvin, Ludlow, Katz

and everywhere a Gregory.


New York Bakery’s black and whites

Mister Amazing’s deals

Cove Marina’s mini-golf,

loud white buses known as “Wheels.”


For yard goods go to Lieff’s,

for boating the Pastime Club

for cannoli only Angela Mia

for a pickup scene, Safari Pub.


Kiddytown for your first two-wheeler

for tchotchkes go to Green’s

for prescriptions go to Windsor Drug

Jet Variety for magazines.


Shore Points Diner, Swanky Frank,

Fairfield County Savings Bank.

And halfway down West Avenue

in a luncheonette called Kay’s

in an office building labeled Frost

my father ate his pie each day.


I moved to the city and it’s long been my home

I learned to talk faster and loud

but I come from people who don’t put on airs

it’s held me back and it’s made me proud.


Norwalk people made us us

From Elmer’s Town Line down to Roton Point

From Post Road East to Silvermine

I’ll never fully blow this joint.


Admittedly I’m a nostalgic sap —

I like being with people who speak my tongue

who put the right accent on Quinnipiac,

who mist up at the name “Genung.”


A city slicker is not always what she seems.

In the treads of my shoes

you’ll find Norwalk mud.

Wound me and

I will bleed Norwalk blood.

Sing me to sleep

and I’ll dream you reams

of born-in-Norwalk dreams.


11 responses to “Poem: To Nwk”

  1. Donna King

    Beautiful! Thanks for the memories.

  2. Harry Rilling

    What a wonderful ode to Norwalk. Reading through this brought back wonderful memories and many smiles. I’m so sorry I missed the Wall Of Honor luncheon. I usually attend however I was not able to this year. Hearing you read it would have been even more delightful. I image you were given a standing ovation. Thank you for sharing your love for our beautiful city.

  3. Jeff

    Love this. Happy to be a Norwalk native.

  4. Ron Morris

    The funny thing is as much as things change many stay the same. I guess that’s why I stay.. Proud of Norwalk.

  5. Susan Wallerstein

    Proud to be among those who nominated Michele for Wall of Honor. She hasn’t changed much since she was my French student @ NHS in the early 1970’s – smart, thoughtful, talented.

  6. Jeffrey Katz

    The Power of the Written Word.
    Thank you for the memories that you have brought to us of our great city.
    Happy that your name will be placed on our Wall of Honor.
    An honor well deserved!

  7. Janet King Williams

    Michelle said it all. I moved from Norwalk 7 years now and still refer to Norwalk as home.

  8. carol supak-gordon

    fabulous Michelle!!You certainly nailed the common experience of our blessed childhood.

  9. Sharon Gardella

    Thank you Michelle for these wonderful words and memories. So glad we share this history and I can call you a friend. And Congratulations for your Hall of Fame award.

  10. Nancy (Siegel) Minerva

    Thank you for reminding me of so many details of my Norwalk life, the place of my roots.. So many more places and people are now coming back to mind to send you for inclusion in more verses and poems. And Congratulations on the Wall of Fame. Hurray!

  11. David Eyes

    Well we moved from Rowayton to Westport in 1959. Beautiful poem and touched by how much it resonates.

    Had a dream about Johnny Sopczak’s last night and googled to here. We would pass it on the way to Dr. Minor’s office who we continued to see growing up. Always found the saxophones in the display cases intriguing …

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