Poem of the Week, by Keetje Kuipers

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 8.44.01 AMLong ago I left behind the simple prayers of my childhood, the ones spoken in unison with others in church, or around the table at a special meal when everyone named something they were thankful for. I’ve never known what God is, and I don’t know what God is to others. If forced to come up with a definition, my definition of God would be something like the feeling of my children on either side of me in bed as I read them to sleep when they were little. God would be the high school students I used to teach, ringed on the floor in our classroom on the giant pillows  I’d made, still and silent and sometimes falling asleep on Friday afternoons as I read them stories. God would be the idea and the feeling of peace, of a place where nothing bad can happen, where only love and comfort dwell. God would be the poems that swell my heart open in a way that almost hurts, like this one below.


Prayer, by Keetje Kuipers

Perhaps as a child you had the chicken pox
and your mother, to soothe you in your fever
or to help you fall asleep, came into your room
and read to you from some favorite book,
Charlotte’s Web or Little House on the Prairie,
a long story that she quietly took you through
until your eyes became magnets for your shuttering
lids and she saw your breathing go slow. And then
she read on, this time silently and to herself,
not because she didn’t know the story,
it seemed to her that there had never been a time
when she didn’t know this story—the young girl
and her benevolence, the young girl in her sod house—
but because she did not yet want to leave your side
though she knew there was nothing more
she could do for you. And you, not asleep but simply weak,
listened to her turn the pages, still feeling
the lamp warm against one cheek, knowing the shape
of the rocking chair’s shadow as it slid across
your chest. So that now, these many years later,
when you are clenched in the damp fist of a hospital bed,
or signing the papers that say you won’t love him anymore,
when you are bent at your son’s gravesite or haunted
by a war that makes you wake with the gun
cocked in your hand, you would like to believe
that such generosity comes from God, too,
who now, when you have the strength to ask, might begin
the story again, just as your mother would,
from the place where you have both left off.


For more information about Keetje Kuipers, please click here.


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