Friday, December 12, 2014

The Lay Sister - Bernadette Hall

The lay sister slides her hands
through holy water. Chops
onions, carrots, celery
in that order. Splits
blocks of wattle. Her hands
are fat on the axe handles.
‘Good God,’ says the Bishop,
slipping another smoke ring
round the crystalline throat
of the Portuguese sherry
decanter. ‘That woman
would knock you down as good
as look at you!’ The lay sister
is as rough as guts, speaks
Irish rather than English,
sleeps through the mission,
eats by herself in the kitchen.
Sometimes however
they do let her answer
the door and it’s ‘Excuse me,
Reverend Mother, there’s
a piano in the parlour’
(that’s the given code word
for a man) and she’s not able
to keep herself from laughing
then, imagining knocking
a fine old tune out of him.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

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