Catechism Lesson                                              

            We learned the catechism
            In the first and second grades

            That is, we memorised the words
            And could repeat them
            As a class, in unison
            Although its meaning was
            As comprehensible as
            Household chores

            The questions and the answers
            Had a cadence
            And the sound of all our voices
            All at once
            Could feel a little bit like song

            Which made it bearable
            And even, on occasion, fun
            Because the nuns
            Would cancel out
            The Palmer Method
            If we didn’t get it right
            And I was overjoyed
            The Lord was more important
            Than a course in penmanship,
            A subject I had nearly failed

            By the time we knew it all
            By rote, though not by heart,
            Which would have been impossible,
            And passed the test
            We could and did forget the lot
            For good

            Long after it was out of mind
            A sixth grade substitute
            With lipstick and a skirt above the knee
            Which made it hard to concentrate
            On what she taught
            Decided she would stop arithmetic
            And quiz us on the catechism
            One by one

            We had to improvise
            And she grew even angrier

            Finally, when Michael Palmieri said that
            God made us because He wanted to
            She grabbed him by the ear
            And marched him to the blackboard, 
            Turned him round to face her audience
            And asked again

            He wasn’t bashful but 
            He bowed his head
            Mainly, I think, to keep from cracking up,
            And this time simply said 

            Miss Whoever must have seen 
            The smile because
            She pulled his hair
            And yanked so hard
            A patch of scalp came out
            And Mike began to bleed

            It if had been a nun 
            It might have been okay
            But this seemed pretty weird

            That night 
            I looked the answer up –
            If anything Palmieri got the gist –
            And later even an apology

            The sacrifice was worth it
            For the story,
            Which he told a million times,
            The clown, and always made us laugh
            By ending with the question
            “Why did teacher do it?”

            And our loud two-syllable response


            Emanuel E. García, Wandering Bark2013