Sister Felicity – a poem by Janet McCann

Sister Felicity

fifty years a bride of Christ 
hiding her arms thin with labor 
in the habit the young ones reject.

she watches them in their blue suits 
they look like old Girl Scouts 
she thinks, but does not say

now she barely remembers her childhood home 
her father swinging her high in the cherry orchard 
so she could pick the lowest fruit,

fifty years of laundry 
of the saying of the hours,
hard carved chairs in the chapel, Matins, Lauds.

often alone in the chapel 
while the younger sisters slept,
singing although her voice is flat and harsh.

Sister Felicity do you remember me, 
disobedient child who did not wince 
at the ruler’s crack, whose angry initials

ate into the scarred oak desktop, 
whose shouts from the cloakroom prison 
disturbed the recitation?

Sister Felicity, I would kneel
next to you now on the hard concrete, 
say the words you tried so hard to teach me.

Journals publishing Janet McCann’s work include Kansas Quarterly, Parnassus, Nimrod, Sou’Wester, America,  The Christian Century, Christianity and Literature, News York Quarterly, Tendril, and others. A 1989 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship winner, she taught at Texas A & M University from 1969-2016, is now Professor Emerita. Most recent poetry collection: The Crone at the Casino (Lamar University Press,  2014). 

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