Here is the scent of layers of dust

and large dead black flies

a colony of wood spiders

caked white soap

urine stained panties

so much vomit

fluoride tablets that turn teeth hot pink

a maelstrom of salty

seven-year-old’s tears

spectacular fear and

over half a century of destructive, lost and life-altering words.

Here is the black habit

the black-framed bi-focals

the black rosary dangling

from that thick black waist.

Here is the devil.

I smell the camphor.

Here is the spittle sprayed in rage—it reappears on the desk, the floor, our shoes.

Here is the day I was laid bare on the stage.

Here is the flash of brutality

just before the punishment.

Here is the sadistic satisfaction.

Here is the pain.

Here is our shame.

Here is that day Keith Breen became our hero.

Here is the angry arm drawn back, ruler high overhead

eyes maniacal with anticipation before the shocked horror

at his single, sacrificial act —

a refusal

to accept the devil’s

self-serving penance.

Here is all of it behind the blackboard.

On the water-stained walls

in the frames of the giant, wired windows

on the transom above the massive oak door

in the memory of those communal tears

clapped out in a miasma of chalk dust that floats to the floor

from the smoky, soft felt


Here is all of it — still

squeezing shallow breath from weak-kneed children.

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