Wednesday, February 6, 2008

prayer poem

Dear Jonathan Kozol
God of Urban Education Reform
hear my prayer:

Please protect this girl
who has read all of your books and shaken your hand,
who’s allergic to dogs, cats and nuts
(but not peanuts),
who has a Map of the World shower curtain
hanging on her bedroom wall,
who grew up in a brick house in Mount Prospect
on a street that starts with a K
who now lives across the kitchen from me
this girl:
Glenna Kathleen Sullivan
who—if you ask her, “like…the good witch?”
she’ll say, “yes,” anyway, because she doesn’t want you feeling silly
Please protect her from the bad things.

Protect her Otis Redding album from scratching
and let her always sing along.
Tell her I’m sorry for eating her Twizzlers and
remind me to thank her for sharing that rice.

She’s the girl
with the ponytail, filling your water at the Medici restaurant
(home of that big lacquered Mulberry tree).
Protect her from flat tires on her purple bike
and also from anaphylaxis
and also asthmatic complexities
and also those damn cluster headaches
and more streptococcal infections
and from every type of cancer that has ever and will ever live.

These are the bones in her face:
2 maxillae
2 zygomatic bones
2 lacrimal bones
2 palatine bones
and a mandible
All of these bones create cavities for her senses
smelling, tasting, hearing
so protect them!
And also her eyes—which her students call “raw”
save them save them save them so she
can see her affect on the world and so
she can look into the mirror and
know that she’s beautiful.

Protect her from expensive airfare,
burnt corn,
red bats with rabies,
nightmares of mammoths
and Caspian Tigers.

Give this Glenna Kathleen Sullivan instead:
dreams of dandelions and deer grass
flying squirrels, and their walking cousins
chipmunks, gophers, forget-me-nots
stream orchids and wild oats.

One day, one day, sweet Jonathan,
let Glenna’s childhood wish come true:
send her up through the tropo-
into outer space
but not until they’ve drastically improved
Astronaut food
yes—protect her from dehydrated chicken dinners
and she should look down from her shuttle
and see oak trees and magnolias
and rivers and the lakes that she only knows are there
Then her smile will warm the Earth
when the sun gets too tired.

Protect her from crying while reading this poem.

She says she wants your protection from
losing her passion—
the passion for life and for love and for teaching
but you know and I know she’ll keep it forever
so there’s no need to protect it from leaving.

Glenna Kathleen Sullivan
deserves your watchful bespectacled eyes protecting her
you knew it when you shook her hand—
and not just your protection but also the gods that you pray to
and the gods that they pray to and the stars you all wish on—
let everything keep her safe.

Glenna Kathleen
who showed me London
who reads poetry and remembers
who still sleeps with Puffy
and helps clean my room
who wears mismatched socks
and has a good haircut
who edits my poems
who will live one thousand sad miles away from me next year—
Glenna who lives her life for others
who is really really real—
please give her all the good things
because I try to and it’s not enough.

No comments: