Bernadette Hall

(Alexandra)

The Lay Sister


The lay sister slides her hands
through holy water. Chops
onions, carrots, celery

in that order. Splits
blocks of wattle. Her hands
are fat on the axe handles.

‘Good God,' says the Bishop,
slipping another smoke ring
round the crystalline throat

of the Portuguese sherry
decanter. ‘That woman
would knock you down as good

as look at you!' The lay sister
is as rough as guts, speaks
Irish rather than English,

sleeps through the mission,
eats by herself in the kitchen.
Sometimes however

they do let her answer
the door and it's ‘Excuse me,
Reverend Mother, there's

a piano in the parlour'
(that's the given code word
for a man) and she's not able

to keep herself from laughing
then, imagining knocking
a fine old tune out of him.

Submitted: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Edited: Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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