A Child’s Book of America Kathleen Flenniken
By the time I could read,
starting with its title—My Prayers—
I’d already learned religion
from my favorite illustration inside—
a blond girl gazing from a hilltop
at her American town below.
American because of the white church
with its prominent steeple,
but also the wide streets
and paved sidewalks that led
to church and school. The artist
implied under the gabled roofs
garden rakes put away
and comfortable rooms pungent
with furniture wax and clocks
that chimed, and in the kitchen,
butter on a dish, and in the closet
a button jar and dozens of bright
spools of thread. I memorized
and itemized and resolved
to be just the same—blond,
with a clock in the hall and a father
who came home to dinner
served in clouds of steam.
I learned America is a religion
and praying feels like envy.
The spirit has moved me again and again.
Originally published in Moss: Volume Three.