Prayer Circle


“Prayer Circle” by Sa Whitley is the first runner-up of the 2024 Previously Published Poem Prize, selected by Palette editors. We’re honored to share this moving poem with you.

Missus Kathy say, Jon gonna be alright. Miss Leslie say, Jon gonna be alright.
Miss Brenda say, Jon gonna be, he alright. Missus Linda say, gonna be alright,
that Jon. Missus Paula with the big eyes, Jon gon’ be alright, and call me
baby girl after. Miss Helen from down 16th Street give me and Jon our first
Bible. She say, Jon, he alright. Jon is going to be alright, say Missus Gail.
Miss Mary, she say, God is good, and Jon gonna be alright. My late Grandma
Dorothy in my dream say, Jon Boy, he alright, and her hands covered high
yellow in batter from frying us fish for breakfast. Grandma Minnie Pearl
say I gained a little weight and then, Jon Boy, he gonna be alright. Jonathan,
he alright, say Aunt Phyllis with bright lips always beet-blood reds or bold
shades purple. Cousin Carol says Father God when she pray, and she say,
Jon gonna alright. Aunt Erma and her tea nobody say too sweet if they wanna
live, Alright, Jon Boy. Aunt Anne and Aunt Jean are talking again now. They
say, Jon gonna get right. Granny on my father side, her name Daisy. She say,
Jon gonna be. Cousin Diane say it too, if the rain is right then so be Jon.
Aunt Pocahontas with the good hair say, Jon, he alright. God is walking with
Jon right now, say Missus Joyce. Missus Fanny say, Alright Jon, and everything
she say she mean, she so old. Missus Crystal say, Alright Jon. Aunt Blondie
got her own line to Jehovah like a hem she sew, say, Jon alright. Almighty
God is with Jon, say Misses Evelyn as she goes about her business of the Lord.
Mama worry herself sick straight into next week say, Jon. She say, Jon,
he alright. She say, Even if he ain’t now, he gonna be, our Jon.


Sa Whitley