Fall to Your Knees and Thank God for Your Eyesight

was my mother’s usual response
to my bouts of childhood whining.

I can’t find my other sneaker.
Fall to your knees and thank God for your eyesight
There’s no one to play with this early.
Fall to your knees and thank God for your eyesight
My bicycle only has three gears.
Fall to your knees and thank God for your eyesight

It’s a line best delivered in a rural Irish accent,
but my mother didn’t have one of those
growing up on a farm in Ontario, Canada.
Nor did she have much Canada in her voice.
Fall to your knees and thank God for your eyesight, aye?
was not heard in the hallways of our house.

Needless to say, I never fell for it,
though it did create pauses in my trickle of complaints
and maybe cleared some room in my room
strewn with toys—small tanks and smaller soldiers—
a little space to think about God and eyesight
but not for long, of course, the demands of childhood

being what they are.  And the repeated words
sometimes made me think twice before
whimpering about a bruise on my knee,
or foolishly I would say the line just when she did,
the two of us chanting Fall to your knees…
which is as far as I got before she appeared

in the doorway and pinned me to the floor with that look.
No surprise to know that nowadays
I say it every chance I get:
to everyone under this roof including the dog
and under my breath to people on the street—
this one grousing about the price of eggs or gasoline,

that one furious that the bus is late,
especially when I realize those voices are mine—
me peevish in the bedroom, me bitching about the rain,
me and my broken shoelace, me in the sand trap,
me forgetting to fall to my knees to thank her
for giving me the eyes to see the world, to regard these words.


(To return to the Fall 2013 Table of Contents, click here.)

 

Source Citation

Collins, Billy. Fall to Your Knees and Thank God for Your Eyesight. Tikkun 28(4): 72.

tags: Culture, Poetry, Poetry & Fiction   
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