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.
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