Going to the Catholic School
Lyn Lifshin

once a year, bundled in wool
pea coats and snow pants,
mufflers dotted with ice crystals
tightly around our faces so the
incense we were sure would be
too thick to breathe in wouldn’t
make us sneeze. Under our
snow pants, soft corduroy jeans
and our thickest gloves, covered
mittens: we had heard about
rulers smashing bones and skin,
that patent leather shoes were
forbidden. Something about the
stained glass light on the pale
nuns with enormous crosses
and rosaries kept us huddled and
close, walking with only side-
long glances at the Jesus with
bleeding chest, as scary as The
Thing where Jessica, whose
father was a minister, shrieked
when the blob filled the screen.
We didn’t know why the Catholic
girls couldn’t come to our school
but would come later, in high
school. Or why everything
had a smell we never smelled
anywhere else, wondered how
we’d ever catch up in Latin when
we had to. The dark haired girls
with their dangling faces of
Mary they kissed before a ball
game and tests seemed as exotic
as what was hidden under their
white confirmation dresses,
flesh later we heard would writhe
and twist and do the wild thing
since it would be ok once
they confessed

 

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