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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 6, Number 2, June 2012

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Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand


Holy Terrors

Flushed with holiness, our thighs prickled beneath black serge gym slips. Black stockings covered the red blotches on our knees from kneeling on hard wooden benches in the chapel, three times a day. At morning Mass the priest gave a sermon about "moths around a flame": most of us too young to fathom his meaning. "Turn to Jesus," he exhorted, "or the Virgin Mary, who see everything you do."

retreat day . . .
illicit chatter of girls
in the arbour
picking petals from roses
to sprinkle before the priest

During the lunch break, we hung over the wall ogling the boys going home at dinner time from a nearby school. One girl was expelled for sending notes to the gardener's boy who sometimes accompanied his father to prune the plants and trees. An illustrated book for married couples, Married Love, wrapped in brown paper, was secretly passed from one girl to another. A copy of Lawrence's banned book: Lady Chatterley's Lover was gloated over. In private, we examined our budding breasts and looked for signs of puberty.

behind the convent's
old stone wall—
nuns play hockey
robes tied neatly around
their waists with a rope

We were the Children of Mary, commanded by the nuns to keep our vows of obedience, chastity and "clean living." We lowered our eyes whenever a man, or boy or handsome priest, entered the convent grounds, but we were bold as Joan of Arc consumed by flames. Our innocence burning us from inside, as we waited, not for Jesus or Mary, but for our first lover to carry us away.

peals of laughter . . .
nuns in the corridor
laugh at a joke
bells for benediction
drown their voices

silently we wait
staring at gilded statues
of the saints
arms open to receive us
into their embrace

released from school
we head for the milk bar
full of boys—
hats and gloves in our bags,
records on the juke box

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