Ed Werstein

Back to PoetryHolden Caulfield Kills Phyllis

Holden Caulfield Kills Phyllis
                        to Brother George Klawitter, C.S.C.

Dear Frere Georges,
It’s been a long time
but I need to write
to thank you for your influence
on my life.
I’m not fluent in French
but that doesn’t mean
the two years
were wasted on me.
Combined with Brother Thomas’s Latin classes
I feel rich in language
and rarely need a dictionary.

And thanks for seeing
something different in me
and lending me your Salinger books
that summer between junior and senior year.

The English teacher, Mr. Kominek
never saw that kind of potential in me.

How did you know that naïve boy
was ready for that?
I felt guilty hiding them from my parents.

Lastly, I want to apologize
after all these years for killing Phyllis
your philodendron.
You probably thought
leaving her with the farm boy
for the summer
was the safest bet for her survival
while you were away.

And if she’d been a tomato or pepper plant
she would have survived nicely
but I know now philodendrons
don’t need as much water
as garden vegetables
and I was so wrapped up in Salinger
I didn’t even notice she was drowning.


Ed Werstein spent 22 years in manufacturing before his muse awoke and dragged herself out of bed. He advocates for peace and against corporate power. His poetry has appeared in Verse Wisconsin, Blue Collar Review, Stoneboat and other publications. His chapbook, Who Are We Then?, was published in 2013 by Partisan Press.

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