Praise Song (after Lucille Clifton)

to shy Miss Parker

who stood up to the school board

and demanded in her wavering voice

her students be allowed to read

that book.

Praise her bravery.

She believed in me even if I didn’t—

oh I thought I was smart but I wasn’t


She was, though. She ignored the slights

of foolish teenagers and ignorant parents.

She plowed right past the sly laughter and grumbling.

Praise the books that gave her strength.

One afternoon in summer we brought an unwashed ungrateful

through-hiker to her mountainside home.

She took him in for the night.

Praise her open heart.

Can you see her, her ancient mother, and the hiker

sitting round the kitchen table,

eating homemade bread and soup?

Praise the lamp that encircled them in light.