First Day at Sts. Philip and James by John C. Mannone

Diesel exhaust seeped through the open window.
Almost made me sick, but my stomach churned
already from nervousness. My first day in school.

My blue blazer, brushed free from lint, felt tight
when I sat on the bus’ green leather seat.
I didn’t think to unbutton it. But the ride was short.

The First Grade classroom seemed littered
with many papers pinned to the walls; an alphabet
was strung around the room like a party decoration.

It was scary because I didn’t know what the letters
meant. I didn’t even know what a letter was,
but I remember my momma trying to teach me.

The Sisters of St. Francis wore a thick chord
fashioned around their waist that dangled down.
It looked like a whip. I was scared about that, too.

When I went to the bathroom, I didn’t know
what to do—I never saw a vertical urinal before,
only sit-down toilets. When I let my pants fall

to the floor, the other boys laughed; they laughed
harder when they saw me pee. I thought
I did something wrong. I thought the nuns

were going to spank me with that chord.

John C. Mannone has work in North Dakota Quarterly, Le Menteur, 2020 Antarctic Poetry Exhibition, and others. He won the Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and others.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.