Poems

ALEXANDRA TEAGUE Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

Admitting, I’ve never stopped wanting
the misheard line—my knives—those blades
graced with handles and sight. About glory:
who knew anything in kindergarten? At best, a plastic bucket
of chlorine water dumped over my head: apocalyptic
(I didn’t know the word yet) and baptismal. Atheist
child: this was the closest I would get. Pool tiles in cool
Texas morning: the swim teacher shocking us into submission,
bravery, freedom, glory: whole countries
of abstraction I only saw with mine eyes wringing, winging, stinging
water. I mean, with my body and its sudden
blindness in the face of.
About this country: who gets to dive and rise
and who gets trampled like the vintage, I still can’t see
the justice at forty-three. Madmen keep singing on TV: It’s all an act;
those children never died for real. New mouths keep
mouthing: We’re praying for the victims’ families. We are
praying. . . This is freedom. We used to sing,
facing the flag like it could hear us. We used to sing
His truth is marching. We once held ice cubes shaped
like Texas in a Texas schoolroom
where no one shot us. Just water dripping from our fingers. Glory
glory to the playground
hippopotamus with its rusting springs
we bounced on. Glory to the air a child leaves
and then returns to: mine knives have seen
the pool headfirst: the concrete, the drain’s dark suction, but then
the bubbling back, sweet surface breaking. Hallelujah
to the desks shaped like desks
a child has no reason to dive under: the fiery
gospels of cinnamon jolly ranchers, the trumpets of ice cream cones,
then Texas melting down to clean our fingers. About naivety
and 1980: we were all mid-air, headlong,
this country heading where it’s gone
(as the saying goes): If we don’t change direction. . .
My jubilant feet above my head—with you my grace shall deal
as I hit the pool water. Let us die. Let us die. Let us dive
to make men free. We used to sing upside down. We used to
face the flag like it could see us
as we builded Him an altar. As He sifted our hearts
like playground sand into a bucket. (We never asked what if He
or he or he loosed the fateful lightning; there were sides
straight as stripes on the flag; we were the future
said Whitney Houston. We were the world, said Michael Jackson.)
If our eyes got rusty, someone—glory glory—
would polish them, wouldn’t they?, until we reflected stars.

 



Alexandra Teague
is the author of the novel The Principles Behind Flotation (Skyhorse, 2017), and two books of poetry—The Wise and Foolish Builders (Persea, 2015) and Mortal Geography (Persea, 2010), winner of the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and 2010 California Book Award. She is also co-editor of the anthology Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence (Beacon, 2017). She is an Associate Professor in the MFA program at University of Idaho and an editor for Broadsided Press.