The Prayers Of Agnes Sparrow
Joyce Magnin

Joyce Magnin is the author of the popular and quirky Bright’s Pond novels. She is a frequent conference speaker and writing instructor. When she’s not writing or reading Joyce enjoys baseball, needle arts, video games and cream soda but not elevators—especially glass ones. She listens to many kinds of music, shamelessly confesses to enjoying American Idol, has never eaten a scallop or sky dived. Joyce has three children, Rebekah, Emily and Adam and three grandsons, Lemuel, Cedar and Soren and one son-in-law, Joshua. Joyce lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania with her son, Adam and their crazy cat, Mango, where she cares for an eighty-year-old onion plant. You can also visit her blog at:

An Ode to the Allergic Nose

Here’s the thing, April showers might bring May flowers but for me they bring copious amounts of distress.

I suffer with terrible spring and summer allergies. I spend the majority of my days and nights from April until early August sneezing, blowing my nose, itching my eyes, and wishing there was a way to scratch my throat. I know what you’re thinking—take an antihistamine, Joyce. Well, I do. The trouble with antihistamines is this: They don’t work! At least not for me for more than an hour or so. Then it’s right back to the sneeze fest I so enjoy. And besides, no matter what the box says about the drug being “non drowsy,” it’s a lie. I get so tired and loopy on the drugs that I cease to be functional. Seriously, if sneezing were an Olympic sport, I would medal every season.

I’ve had this problem forever, the allergies. I was so allergic to grass as a toddler I wasn’t allowed to play on the lawn. True story. I have a picture of me standing in a baby wading pool on the grass in my little pantaloons. My allergies were so bad, my mother strung barbed wire around the pool to keep me from getting out and onto the grass. How sad is that? To think I never touched grass until I rebelled as a teenager and sat down on the lawn. Much to my dismay, however, I broke out in hives the size of canoes. My mother hollered at me, gave me Benadryl, and I went to bed until Christmas. While the rest of the kids were playing lawn darts, I sat on the sidelines watching.

It was shortly after that I underwent the dreaded skin testing. Honestly, how ridiculous. The doctor inserted needles under my skin and deposited trace amounts of several known allergens. Then we waited—but not long. My skin began to swell and soon resembled a sheet of bubble wrap. Turned out I was allergic to several types of grass and trees, not to mention dust and dust mites. I ask you, how does a person live in the world and avoid these things?

And so while most people frolic freely on the grass, I approach events like church picnics and the Fourth of July with trepidation. A pick-up game of volleyball on the lawn can send me screaming into the night. I must sit on a blanket and watch (and sneeze) or incur the wrath of the hives. I am so allergic to poison oak that it could actually kill me. In kindergarten I came down with a case of poison oak. I have no idea how. It was as if the evil oak spores sought me out. It was all over my body and my face. My mother, not wanting me to miss too many days of cutting and pasting, sent me to school still swollen. I walked into the classroom and a classmate took one look of me and screamed like I was the creature from the black lagoon

But it doesn’t stop there. I am also allergic to bee stings. I swell up like a zeppelin. I was maybe seven years old and my sister and I were standing outside church in our Sunday dresses. Mine was purple because I believe that was also the year I refused to wear or eat anything that was not purple. A bumblebee about the size of a bus had been buzzing nearby when all of sudden, and without provocation, I might add, it went zinging up my dress and stung my belly. It hurt sooo bad. I stood there feeling insulted when all of sudden the world began to spin in a funny direction. The next thing I knew my lips were as big a Steven Tyler’s, maybe bigger. My father whisked me off the hospital where I received two, maybe seventy shots (it felt that way) of something that quickly brought the swelling down. Gee, that was fun. The only consolation was that the bee died.

So yes, allergies are my life, especially this time of year. I love spring. I enjoy watching the flowers bloom and the trees bud and leaf. But my upper respiratory system just doesn’t get all the hoopla. For some reason my body recognizes the various pollens drifting on the air as the enemy and takes what it deems as appropriate measures; i.e.: everything I mentioned above.

And so, for all you of you who can enjoy the spring without sneezing, I say, bully for you! But to all of you who share my plight, I understand. I know. And since I should bring this article around to writing somehow—which I am not allergic too, I wrote a poem dedicated to all my fellow allergy sufferers. My sincere apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Ode to Pollen

Oh, pollen, oh pollen
How do I loathe thee?
I loathe thee to the depth and breadth and snot
My nose can make when feeling
Out of sorts with itchy throat
And itchy skin
And watery eyes to boot.

Oh pollen, oh pollen
How do I loathe thee?
You make me sneeze and cough
And clear my throat
And scratch my eyes incessantly.

I loathe the way you turn
My car, a most disgusting yellow
And float around on wind and air
And settle on the ground
And make me sneeze and sneeze and sneeze
And sneeze and sneeze some more.

Oh pollen, oh pollen
How do I loathe thee?
’Tis every spring I dread your
Very presence and wish, oh wish
I were a fish
And lived down in the ocean.
Where no pollen can attack
And no degree of wind
Can carry you upon it’s back
And make me swell with hives.

Oh, pollen, oh pollen
How do I loathe thee?
I loathe thee more than
Mayonnaise and ants upon my feet.


Carrying Mason

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