November 20, 2013

November 22, 1963

Sister stands at the blackboard
diagramming a compound sentence. Static
from the box above the door
stops her mid-verb. She turns and slips

her hands beneath her bib, as though
embracing herself. She’s almost folk
art—thin and straight, shrouded in crepe,
a white wimple at her temples, no stray
hair exposed. I watch her lift her face
to listen, and when Father’s booming voice
is somber and low, I keep my gaze
on her. “The president has been shot.”

She flinches with shock,  
closes her pallid eyelids. She slides
her fingers to the tray of chalk
to steady herself. I lift the lid of my desk
to shield me from her lapse and pretend
to sharpen a pencil until she claps

us back to work. She draws a broken
line, connects two independent clauses,
but she cannot retract the truth unveiled
today that scares me even more than death.

~Lois Melina, 2004

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