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poetry Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

Idaho poet Alexandra Teague takes us back to a child’s innocent, albeit cloudy, view of the world (in contrast to its perverse current state.)

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Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

By Alexandra Teague

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 beneath: 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 Or What We’ll Call Desire (Persea, 2019), and two prior books of poetry—The Wise and Foolish Builders and Mortal Geography—as well as the novel The Principles Behind Flotation. She is also co-editor of Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence. A former Stegner and NEA Fellow, Alexandra is a professor at University of Idaho.