About the Column:
Poems of Our Climate is a weekly poetry column run by Sofia Baluyut ’23. The column was founded by Oliver Egger ’23 as a part of the Route 9 Literary Collective. Submit and read past issues of The Lavender at Route9.org. If you are interested in having your poem featured in this column, please email your work directly to email@example.com.
Twenty-Fourth Annual Report of the Trustees of the Massachusetts School of Idiotic and Feeble-Minded Youth: October, 1871
“The daily morning prayer; the blessings at meals; the evening supplication, are not made in vain…these devotional habits do certainly sometimes make deep impressions upon their childish natures, and give them some comfort through life, and some hope in death. We have striking instances of this…A little boy who lately died became, during his sickness, an object of great interest to the Matron, teachers and attendants, who all became, by turns, his tender nurses. The approach of death seemed to awaken his spiritual life.”
It is not made in vain. The ritual:
the morning daily prayer, the blessings
at meals, the little ones at night, knees
bent by their beds, clasped palms up
and out to Him of whom they know nothing.
Doubtless there was joy in heaven,
when George Toby, the little idiot,
died. He put up those hands and muttered,
Me wanna go up. Me wanna go
up. As feathers spread like ash
among the thousand hands of nurses
who wept, and prayed, and pet the black
jet of his hair off the heat of his head.
Do our tears take his eyes?
Did he just want to be one
boy of many? Another gravestone
upheaved for the driveway of a new
four-bedroom? Do we not always
refuse his permission?
The room was filled with onlookers,
who stared and sweared that out of
that decaying body seemed to rise
the growing soul, some feathered
thing, some untethered tide, as he sighed
to some sort of heaven, They’ll say
here comes one of the boys from the South
Boston School for Feeble-Minded.
It is not made in vain. Every night
as the little ones kneel by their sheets,
they hear something higher and better
than men, the wings which rustle in a herd,
bound for a nothing, a heaven without tears,
where each stone is sunk without a story.
About the Poet:
Oliver Egger is a senior at Wesleyan and founder of the Route 9 Literary Collective. He was selected as a 2023 Connecticut Student Poet by the Connecticut Poetry Circuit.