Back to Issue Thirty-Nine

Praise Song


for my teachers, for day, hines, rabern, downey, nelson, & carey,
for peeling back the bitter rind of academia to reveal the sweet
pulpy world it keeps hidden away in a locked room           thank you
for giving me a key, a flashlight, a journal for my discoveries,
& thank you for showing me that if a lesson can be found
in every small & delightful thing, then every small & delightful thing
is also my teacher

praise the fox that padded across my backyard
draped in snow in early february           how have i lived
here for years and not known you were my neighbor?
the sight of you and the snow and you in the snow was enough
to hold me still, my hands pressed against the cold window,
my breath a tropical country on the glass           i stared at you—
auburn omen, mammalian flame— until you vanished from sight
& then i stared at your footprints, little caesuras in the snow,
not looking for anything in particular, but still refusing to miss it

praise the clerks at the local post office who, by now,
all know my face and greet me warmly, the way you would a little cousin
who brings you a drawing that they demand you keep before bolting off
only to return moments later with more gifts you must accept           i am
the little cousin, childishly excited to give away what i have made,
and the clerks, older & wiser than me, are always ready, always eager to receive
whatever it is i have to offer

praise the way peanut butter hits when it comes straight from the jar

praise every place that is walking distance from my home

praise the color dance of chameleons, of octopus, of a good kiss, of trees in the fall,
& meadows in the spring

praise the birds: the toucans & hornbills & hawks & puffins & gannets & starlings
& finches & ospreys & peacocks & falcons & egrets & penguins &
hummingbirds & cormorants & condors & eagles & herons & storks
& pelicans & doves & ostriches & flamingoes & owls & nightingales
& kingfishers & ducks & parrots & swans & larks & roosters & crows
& swallows & magpies & ravens & macaws & every winged, feathered thing

praise my father, early in his sobriety, but still sober

praise the copped meal, the warm weather, the familiar barista, the collective ooooh!
after the jenga tower falls, the well-worn shoes, the belly laugh, the singular way
a frisbee can slice through the summer air

praise the current joys, boygenius, bon iver, and their music that sometimes makes me feel
like i am surely going to die or, at the very least, become something more than this frame
is able to hold           after all, how can such sound, huge & loud, be contained by something
as diminutive as this body? the answer, of course, is that it can’t, the same way a balloon cannot
hold too much breath without bursting           praise the music that makes me feel like bursting

praise abdurraqib & smith & gay for all the times i have turned to their books,
when i was in need of saving, to be reminded that the catalog of gratitude is long,
that despite the blood & loss & times being what they are, you can still choose
to write about the flowers           that the rich trust of friendship will buoy you always
to a warmer heaven

i would not call myself religious, but against this kind of gospel, what can i possibly do
but throw my hands up in worship? so find me, dear reader, at the front of the church,
eyes closed, stomping and swaying with the choir, my throat           full of song.



Blackberry Tree


There’s this blackberry tree at the end of my block
that, when the days finally begin to stretch into summer,
and that Virginia humidity settles in for the season,
loves to deposit what I can only assume is every fruit
it has bothered to grow that year onto the sidewalk
and it isn’t long before the birds and squirrels and shoes—
mostly the shoes— turn the pavement into a dark and sticky mess,
the purple stain becoming the surest sign of summer,
remaining, for yet another year in a row, a spot holder
on my list of minor annoyances as I perform my bizarre
hopscotch routine to avoid ruining my new kicks
even though we know there is so much less pressure in not trying
to keep new shoes new, but not everyone shares my concern,
like my neighbor’s baby who, having just recently learned to walk
and still very much in the phase of touching everything, I saw
yesterday with both of her palms pressed firmly onto the sidewalk
and making with her body a triangle or an adorable downward dog
and when her parents helped her up, there, on the underside of her hands,
was summer’s grasp: dark and sweet and holding tight.


Jonny Teklit is a winner of the 2019 Academy of American Poets College Poetry Prize as well as the recipient of the 2019 Aliki Perroti and Seth Young Most Promising Young Poet Award. His work has appeared in Mixed Mag, Dishsoap Quarterly, Alien Magazine, The Susquehanna Review, Catapult, Glass Poetry Press, The New Yorker, and others.

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