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.
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:
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,
(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.
Donna King November 10, 2018 at 7:24 am
Beautiful! Thanks for the memories.
Harry Rilling November 10, 2018 at 7:27 am
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.
Jeff November 10, 2018 at 9:20 am
Love this. Happy to be a Norwalk native.
Ron Morris November 10, 2018 at 1:27 pm
The funny thing is as much as things change many stay the same. I guess that’s why I stay.. Proud of Norwalk.
Susan Wallerstein November 11, 2018 at 7:00 am
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.
Jeffrey Katz November 11, 2018 at 7:57 am
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!
Janet King Williams November 11, 2018 at 10:01 am
Michelle said it all. I moved from Norwalk 7 years now and still refer to Norwalk as home.
carol supak-gordon November 11, 2018 at 12:10 pm
fabulous Michelle!!You certainly nailed the common experience of our blessed childhood.
Sharon Gardella November 11, 2018 at 4:30 pm
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.
Nancy (Siegel) Minerva November 11, 2018 at 6:44 pm
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!
David Eyes December 21, 2019 at 7:40 am
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 …