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
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 —
to accept the devil’s
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.