I was the witch of Religion class,
because my hair curtained
my face, when I read aloud,
and when this nun interrupted me
to ask whattt? I didn’t get it,
and I repeated my version of
what, with its softer ending,
back to her three times,
until she turned red and said,
I was saying that word all wrong.
My T’s, back then, were Paterson T’s.
They fell short of the sound on purpose.
They were about a slow fade
which is better than the sudden
death this city was trying to avoid,
and so was I. What with no money
for college, the future was pretty uncertain.
But she insisted I hit those T’s
so hard, every time I got to a what
or a that in the Old Testament,
that I giggled throughout
my passage, which was
sacrilegious on top of ignorant.
That’s when she called me a witch.
So yeah, this felt like Gunsmoke,
and her bullets bounced right off of me,
because I was a witch, a strega, in fact,
from a big Sicilian neighborhood.
I pictured her shredding her veil
every time she passed a nail, and
wished it so. Then I made myself
disappear for the rest of the year.
I scried into the future and knew
some day at a high school reunion
I would walk right past her,
and her little cowboy swagger,
as if none of us had ever been
afraid of her, as if she were
just a rerun on TV.