by Tom Lavelle
There was the right way and the wrong.
Schooling meant nuns, brothers, priests,
right-handed salutes if our paths crossed.
We had to bless ourselves
passing churches, hearses, holy water fonts
with the strong hand that held the knife,
not the one that grasped the fork.
My brother, his first day at school,
short-trousered, scrubbed behind the ears,
copybook open for his baby scrawl,
clasped the yellow pencil in his left hand.
Sister Camillus stuck it firmly in his right,
threatened to strap the citeog behind his back
or if that didn’t work, hack off the devil’s paw.