Sister Said

 – St. Joseph’s School
And now girls and boys we will read aloud
about the life of a favorite saint.
But I don’t want to read aloud about a favorite
saint, I want to read about the Nyacks
and how they made birch bark canoes.
And what saint should we read about, Sister asked?
St. Lucy, Clare replied.
St. Peter, said Kathleen.
Next time girls. Today, I’ve selected St. Ann, Sister said.
Not St. Ann, again, I cringed, with bleak despair.
Before we read the story of St. Ann
Sister said, let’s all say one Hail Mary
to settle us down, clear our minds.
Not my mind, I thought, running to the edge.
I want to jump in that birch bark canoe,
push out into the Hudson, dip my paddle
into endless hidden passages of watery time.
I want to listen to it whisper as it laps
the sides of the thin bark skin. I want to see the 
Red-tail fly, spot its nest on the Palisades,
find the wind-worn faces of the ancestors
in the cloud streaked sky.
I felt Sister near, yet far away, talking,
talking about something I couldn’t really hear.
She tapped my canoe with her finger.
“And you, you, what did you like best
about the life of St. Ann?”
I looked heavenward, saw the Red-tail smile.
“Well, Sister, said I, the thing I liked best
was the Hail Mary. It settled my mind,
just as you said it would.”