Thursday, June 30, 2011

After School, In Free Verse

Growing up in a Catholic family can be difficult for a rambunctious and inquisitive little boy. Although God was always a choice in our house growing up; and although my parents were very liberal with their views on religious tolerance; school was a much different story.

My parents did not administer religion with the same enforcement as did the parents of some of my friends and relatives. Religion was ever-present but treated with the same importance as, say, water – you couldn’t live without it, but too much and you’d drown. But, alas, that was at home… we attended Parochial school and regardless of what the views were at home… at school they owned us – and I nearly drowned.

Nuns, priests, and Brothers of the Order were my charges at school. For years I didn’t know a teacher could even be non-clergy. I was a very smart boy who could not seem to avoid trouble. I was constantly being kept after school for something that by most rational standards was not even punishable…

I wrote this poem around the time my daughters started school as I reminisced about my own experiences; but I suspect it has always lived inside me. Ultimately, I suppose, I got a lot out of my years of the uber-disciplinary ways of the cloth as it played a role in making me who I am today; and if nothing else, I mastered the art of selling tootsie-roll tubes and magazine subscriptions door to door in order to finance the church’s new roof – with the unanimous endorsement of all three members of the holy trinity, of course…  I still remember those afternoons after school silently riding home in the back seat staring down at the paste on my hands – formed from chalk residue and tears…

After School
The blackboard glowers upon the wall
Deleted words now clouds and specks
The unclean blank slate thirsts for chalk
Before a crowd of empty desks
A small hand reaches high to scrawl
To one abbess staring – vacant –
Through the window at clouded skies
The child glances; the hand begins
To atone for sins with a hundred lies
“I will not daydream in class again,
I will not daydream in class again...”

I felt the ironies within this poem (the daydreaming abbess, the atonement through sin, etc.) was best revealed within one more irony – the use of free verse to frame something as structured and formal as a Parochial school punishment… hope you enjoyed this one…


  1. i did enjoy this one scoop :)

    jeeeeeeezus the horrid catholic school. sorry to hear you had to go there

  2. @Big a - You know your opinion always means a great deal to me, thank you! - Adversity makes us stronger (I suppose that's the silver lining) so it did help to shape me; but it was hard to reconcile from time to time the godlessness of getting in trouble there. In our over-active imaginations there were times we'd think the inquisition had come back around... very conservative institution, it was!

  3. Awesome poem! Unfortunately, I have been there myself - many times as a boy. :)

  4. I wonder how many lives HAVEN'T been 'touched' by religion in some form in their formative years??

    But one of the benefits of adulthood is the ability to choose which influences to develop and retain - experiences like this just make it easier!!

  5. @krouth - Thanks for the comment! Oh, the memories, right?

    @Red - Well said. I had a lot of good experiences in Catholic school as well... I, fortunately, never had to experience the evils that you hear about in the news today... but damn, those nuns were scary. Still to this day, if I see nuns I lift my chin and stand a little straighter...

  6. Very well written, so reminiscent of 'the good ol' days'!!

    Just a little side note: If you'd make your profile pubic, we could find you much more easily from your comment on our blogs.

  7. @bettyl - Thank you for reading! I have made my profile public... thanks for bringing that to my attention! I have been blogging since 2008 on my other blog Scoop's Rant but never realized the profile wasn't visible - I owe you one!


  8. Great poem. Great post...although you had to suffer when you were younger to write it.

  9. I just wanted to say hi. I haven't heard from you in a while. I wish you wrote more often, I really dig your writing, poetry too.

  10. @Shanimals - Thank you for enjoying the poem! Luckily for me there are some good memories there too... and I certainly can't claim the abuses that some in the news have endured. However, what they say about the discipline certainly is true in my experience... glad you enjoyed the read...

    @flip - you are so right brother! I really need to write (and read) more in the blogosphere... look for some new stuff here and over at Scoop's Rant very soon... thanks yet again for the inspiration and for enjoying my work!