This article is taken from Stand 231, 19(3) September - December 2021.

John Grey Saints Preserve Me
Saints with their halos
nailed to the wall above the blackboard.

First grade,
can’t quite reach the coat rack,
drop my orange,
my books.
My hands have the grip
of a dog’s paws.

The bell clangs loud
and fierce.
Children run in all directions.
I feel as if that brass tongue
is thumping against my head.

Saints as dead as great grandparents
but to me they’re breathing.
They’re lucky.
They’re beyond having to understand

I’m trying to understand
the concrete all around me,
the ringing in my ears,
I walk.
The bell keeps on clanging.
One note sounds deliberately off-key.

That song turns my hands into tangerines,
my coat into a restless bat.
And yes, my head is now officially a coconut
in this drama
of ignorance and knowledge,
due diligence and daydreams.

The saints look down on me,
piously insinuating.
Look to the teacher first, they say.
But, if that doesn’t work, there’s always us.

Then comes the breakthrough.
Twelve times twelve is one hundred and forty-four.
As God is my witness.
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