Sister Mercy

This poem was published in the Sonoma Mandala in 1987.

trembling
I would watch
Sister Mercy’s
weathered hands
work the soil
in the convent garden

I would hide half
behind the bird bath
till the stark white
of my anklet
among green weeds
would
confess
my presence

Hello child was all she’d say

the smile in her eyes never faltered

as I watched
weathered hands
make halos
for flowers
out of dirt

children were not allowed
in the convent garden

Sister Mercy
the old retired nun
pruned the convent roses
and fed the seven
hungry goldfish
swimming in the concrete pond

I would watch
the light
hit them
iridescent

as Sister Mercy’s hum
echoed like the chapel bells

and weathered hands
made rows of halos ’round
the flowers in the dirt

Sister Mercy let me linger there
though she knew

children were not allowed
in the convent garden

then: out from God’s bowels
like a hawk from the sky
I would see

Sister Francetta’s glare
emanating from her blacks
as she swooped
down
the chapel stairs

to retrieve me

from Sister Mercy’s sacristy

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