“Prayer for an Inmate of RVJDC” by Danielle Spratley

Danielle Spratley


God is probably a Belgian endive,
which is a vegetable I don’t believe in.

A fist-sized, tender, lettuce-looking thing
that sprouts from chicory, under covering

of dust and darkness. If it’s lopped from the root,
another grows and grows, until some rot

takes hold. That’s the point, most likely,
when someone cleans and grinds the chicory

to make the coffee you’re drinking, which looks
almost good—thick as ink on a handmade book—

but lots of things appear as what they’re not.
Once you’ve snapped the endive’s huddled

leaves from their whiskered base, there’s no hiding
the kind of bitterness you’ve got.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011
2012 Neil Postman Award Winner


Danielle Spratley: “I started this poem as I was familiarizing myself with the RVJDC waiting room. It’s unsettling to see a kid locked up, especially when you were supposed to help him stay out of detention. As is the case more often than I’d like to admit, I wrote to convince myself I hadn’t failed someone—or, at least, that I hadn’t been the only one to do so. When I saw my client, he was upset, sure. But they had the best food there, and did I mind coming back later? It was almost dinnertime.”

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