The Redeemed

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A poem by Baltimore poet Kathy Mangan, from her book Taprootpublished by Passager Books in 2019.
3 minutes


During the 42 years Kathy Mangan taught writing at McDaniel College, she was also doing her own writing. She said that the poems in her book Taproot were written over a 20-year period.

Here’s Kathy Mangan’s poem “The Redeemed.”

Whatever possessed sweet Johnny
Alexander to pluck the teacher’s gleaming
apple from her desk, then deposit its gnawed
remains dutifully on the corner he could reach
from the Bad Rug he’d been banished
to again—hunger, innocence, or boredom
bred by the numberless chunks of hours
he spent hunched on the furry black
rectangle contrived as kindergarten Hell?
My palms were aflame with orange fingerpaint
when Mrs. Ford’s yelp of dismay—she’d spied
the rusting core—called us to look up from our trucks,
toy stoves, and easels, and we witnessed Johnny
Alexander redden and start rocking, swiping
a hand forward over his carrot buzz-cut
the whole time Mrs. Ford kept chewing
him out. He was special, went home early
every day when his mother came to fetch him.
I’d watch them Sundays at church, Johnny
Alexander’s mother mysteriously smiling like the angels
I studied in my Illustrated Bible Stories, his face
a mask of bafflement uplifted to the preacher.
All his other sins have dissolved in the din
these fifty years—but I know I stood enraptured
that morning, gold Good Conduct star spit stuck
to my forehead—and when Johnny Alexander
and his mother stole back into our classroom
before lunch bearing for Mrs. Ford
a white plate upon which trembled a ruby
square of Jell-O, who was most astounded?

Kathy Mangan’s poem “The Redeemed.”

Poet Elizabeth Spires said that Kathy Mangan “masterfully writes about the ‘big’ and the ‘small’ moments that constitute a life with grace, force, courage, and humor.”

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To buy Kathy Mangan’s book Taproot or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to

You can also download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts, and various other podcast apps.