Sunday School Lesson
I was eight years old and this boy (whose name I don’t remember)
touched me more than I wanted – as if all the flesh that made me
was a buffet for the hungriest hands. They fluttered up and down,
agitated wings of a scavenger bird, furiously searching.
When I used the word bastard to teach him that his hands
were not allowed, he cried. Our Sunday School teacher saw
the boy’s snotted, wet face. She was mean! he howled. No one
asked why I was mean. Finally, the teacher read to us
from a book with watercolor white men in long robes, beards.
A woman was in trouble for loving too much. She stood in judgment,
facing fistfuls of stones. Her guilt was undeniable, but I wondered
if she was really as bad as they said. If I would end up on the felt board
next to our teacher with cut-out prophets, farm animals. In one panel
a felt me seducing the felt boy. In another, a felt me facing a fistful
of stones for allowing the felt boy to touch more than was right.
Later, a full-skirted mother in cat sweater & hot curler locks stomped
down a close-carpeted hall under harsh fluorescent light. She demanded
I apologize. Said You called my son names, and nice girls don’t talk like that.
What happened next may have been my apology. Or maybe
a shy quietness – me, hidden behind my father’s legs
as my mother publicly grieved my words to such a nice boy.