Dena Simmons

Subway Prayer 

From her neck, a plastic rosary dangles
like a child, swinging.
With poker-player precision,
she rations coins and cigarettes with her man
who drinks Jack Daniels
on a Bronx-bound 2 train.

Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.

On-lookers drink in faded lipstick lips,
older white woman,
her younger black lover,
his hair, small,
cotton-ball knots,
crimson eyes and lipstick-stained lips.
Intoxicating lust.

Blessed art thou amongst women,

A beggar, heavy, duck-taped like his wheelchair,
stumbles into the train car,
fragrant with human waste.
He speaks of a world that hurls him
into subterranean fundraising.

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

He makes his rounds,
wheelchair, clinking against iron poles.
Open hands,
in front of potential donors.
He wishes God blessed him
with a winning deck of cards.

Holy Mary, Mother of God.

To the lovers,
he huffs.

Pray for us sinners.

The gambling-pair captures him
in the midst of trading nickels and Marlboros,
gives the begging man
hoping for a better hand.



Dena Simmons is an activist, an educator, and also a student. Born to a resilient mother who escaped Antigua to come to the US, Simmons was raised in the Bronx and hopes to stay there. After graduating with honors from Middlebury College, Simmons returned to the Bronx through Teach for America as a middle school teacher. While she may teach in a classroom, she often learns outside of one. In 2007 she traveled to Antigua as a health volunteer for the Directorate of Gender Affairs to provide better health services for Dominican sex workers. She received a Fulbright grant to study the collaboration between schools and health agencies to prevent teen pregnancy in the Dominican Republic. She is also a 2004 Harry S. Truman Scholar and 2010 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow. She is currently studying for her Doctorate of Education at Columbia University, Teachers College. Her research is focused on teacher preparedness as it relates to bullying in the school setting.