Audio: Read by the author.
I belong to a room on the slope of an alp
in a house for people down-at-the-heels.
Mother mends linen for the higher-ups,
the ones in chalets with curly eaves,
balconies whipped into peaks.
They look down on us
through windows latticed like pies.
At three, I saw the shade of living light.
At eight, I was enclosed as an oblate.
The universe is an egg, I said,
and the nuns promoted me.
When I refused to tell what I heard from God,
I was sent an illness that paralyzed my limbs.
My ceiling is pierced with holes.
They used a trephine.
Searchlights pour through all night.
Who are they looking for?
My trundle bed wheels to the top of the stairs.
Without seeing anyone, I drink the last
from a cup, keep mother’s needle inside my sleeve.
I never hurt anyone. This is why they sainted me.
Joan Houlihan is the author of six poetry collections, including Shadow-feast and the forthcoming It Isn’t a Ghost If It Lives in Your Chest (both from Four Way), and founder of the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference.