Michael J Shay

A page to explore the words of the Poet

Left out of 2021

It is hard for me to

Think I didn’t just betray

You, Huck. Left you to fend 

Off Pap in those Illinois woods. 

Or just left you, Jim, standing

On that raft looking out at

Nothing, holding the oar,

Learning us a new song.

It all, America, got so bad

Though, and I know if 

It was just us in that library,

Like the first time I smelled

Huck’s pipe and heard Jim’s

Cackle laugh; you’d forgive me,

Since you guys could spin 

Yarns without the worry of 

Exclusion – they were private

For Jim to pontificate and Huck 

Always saying “that’s not the 

Way I remember, or that’s not

Way the widow said or Tom.

Damn, I almost forgot Tom.

Somewhere I think in this June

Sun, with the wind coming of

My river, and the heat being 

Almost gone for the day, you

Would say, Shay,  it’s all right

To go to hell if you thought 

By giving up teaching the book, 

You make more peace, lessen 

Hatred, provide for another voice,

More sensitive to critical race 

Theory than old Twain just

Telling how it was – the whole 

Stink of it – but of love and 

Friendship and change too if 

We just got past feeling our own

Wounds. I know that’s not right;

I can’t explain, and I already said

Too much for a poem, and Huck 

Has wandered off, and Jim’s lit

The fire and cooking us the best

Damn catfish we’ll ever eat 

Under these stars. Nobody will

Follow us now; adventure’s over.

I sure wish we could go back, 

Read those words, free and easy, 

Knowing it was the last time.


Writing Exercise

What is your favorite book, movie, song that may be outdated? What makes it out of fashion? Would a younger generation reject it? Why do you believe it shouldn’t? Write a letter to a child telling them why they should read or listen or watch the work.

Poem of the Day – “A Study of Reading Habits” by Philip Larkin

Word of the Day – Meringue

What I am Reading – Red Azalea by Anchee Min

What I am Listening to – History of the English Language Podcast

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”

― Mark Twain

About Author

I am a poet, father, writer, teacher who lives in the Philadelphia area. I have taught high school English for over 20 years and believe that the practice of writing and reading each day makes us better humans and thinkers.

Get In Touch

  • michaeljshay@gmail.com

Please send any feedback or comments to the email address above.

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