Saint of the Broom, Teach Us Your Sweeping Ways
by Jennifer Clark
As the patron saint of public schools,
there you are Martin de Porres,
leaning in corners, unobtrusive, humble as a broom.
You amazed with your abilities
to levitate, bilocate, and heal, but it is your holy act
of sweeping that is most impressive.
For eight long years, you swept your way through the friary,
past the novice who called you a mulatto dog,
past the priest who taunted you for being the illegitimate son
of a former slave and Spanish nobleman,
and right through Lima’s dirty law
that forbid you from entering religious life.
Through all the snarling debris and whatever else blew in
from the streets, you made a clearing in the heart
of the Dominicans who finally ignored the law.
Then as a brother, you gathered in those brushed aside.
You tended the garden, planted orchards of olives and oranges,
lemons and figs. You kept sweeping.
Even in death, there is so much work to be done.
Take just this one math class—Lilly is hungry.
Be in the growl of her belly, fill her with grapes and grilled cheese
so she can dine on addition and add her brilliance to this world.
Bring Carlos a mentor. Help this prince of subtraction
learn he is more than the sum of a lost father and no home.
There, in the front row, is Demarcus, squinting.
Bring him glasses so he can feast on angles and light.
For those absent today—Taquavian, Mara, and Sarah
—sweep clear the darkness they tumble through:
depression, only one shoe, and younger siblings to care for.
Help them find their way back to school.
So much gnaws at us, Martin. When your fellow friars
discovered mice in the monastery chewing the altar linens,
they tasked you with poisoning them. As you did with the mice,
whisper into the ears of our children a safe path to your garden.
Greet them each day and feed them figs among the hollyhocks,
until they are as full and as ripe as pears.
Whisper into our ears, too.
Bundle us together,
we bristly brothers and sisters.
Let us be twined to your enduring motion.
Don’t let go, Martin.
There are so many paths yet to sweep.