Teacher is bewildered when packages
and letters come from far to say how brave,
how visionary, how stare-down-the-beast
is Prudence Crandall of Canterbury.
Work, she says, there is always work to do,
not in the name of self but in the name,
the water-clarity of what is right.
We crave radiance in this austere world,
light in the spiritual darkness.
Learning is the one perfect religion,
its path correct, narrow, certain, straight.
At its end it blossoms and billows
into vari-colored polyphony:

the sweet infinity of true knowledge.

“Allegiance” from Crave Radiance by Elizabeth Alexander. Copyright © 2012 by Elizabeth Alexander. Used with permission of the poet.

Listen to Elizabeth Alexander’s On Being interview, “Words That Shimmer.”