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Monday Meditations

I've been thinking about Ireland's Magdalene laundries lately (again), and how much that sad history is like the oppression of America's Indian schools. This week's prose poem first appeared online in Sheila-Na-Gig, Winter 2021

I COULD HAVE BEEN MAGDALENE

 

when in 2nd grade Masturbator #1 sat in his car in the Safeway parking lot and wanked off while he smiled at me, or in 4th grade when I stole a Troll eraser and tiny notebook from Florence Variety Store and they saw me walk out with it and where my grandma had to shop regularly for fabric and nylons, or in 4th grade when I plagiarized my mother’s poem about birth control pills, or in 6th grade when I let Kenneth Bennett kiss me during track practice in front of Mrs. Funk, or in 9th grade when Bruce Sheffield tried to cop a feel at Mike Spring’s dance party so he could tell the other footballers how easy I was, or at 13 when Masturbator #2 ran me off 30th Street on my bike so he could drool and wank off, or at 15 when I smoked a joint in the janitor’s closet at Notre Dame Academy for Girls and Sister Alecoque called my mom, or at 16 when the cops woke me up in Memorial Park and said I couldn’t sleep in the grass, or at 16 when I finally gave it up to some faceless boy in an empty lot in Ponca Hills because I was just so fucking tired of the relentless prodding, or at 14, 15, or 16 when I skipped school to hang out at Tis Shanahan’s house and drink Boone’s Farm, or at 17 when I took up with a Vietnam vet with bad PTSD, or at 19 when I ran off to New Mexico with a guitar player, or at 21 when I got pregnant. 

 

Born Irish Catholic, born sooner or later or orphaned, and I might have been scooped up for what I’d seen or knew or done or thought about doing, sent to the Good Shepherd in Omaha, or the sisters in St. Paul or Kansas City, or one of the other refuges. I might have spent a year or thirty in steam and silence, washing Egyptian cotton sheets for the Diocese or the VA, followed by decades of nightmares and mistrust, instead of sitting here in my own back yard, our garden a map of the sun, playing Red Rover with babies of the babies I never had to give up.

 

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