Not the Delft School
For Vonnie McDermott
If I were in a Vermeer or a De Hooch,
I’d rest my head on a mother’s lap,
the radiant light from the outdoors
illuminating the spacious, tiled kitchen
as she tenderly searched my hair.
But I am in Saint Brigid’s dormitory—
grey linoleum floor, alb-white candlewick
bed spreads, porcelain sinks—with a dozen
aproned girls and Miss Higgins.
Older girls search younger girls’ heads
with fine-tooth combs, stopping every now
and then to squash a louse or nit between
thumb nails. One girl, for fun, shakes
her head over a sink. Scores of wingless
insects, like grains of ground pepper,
cling to the china whiteness.
The housemother douses some heads
with paraffin oil; others get their hair
tied up in green and gold ribbons.
Overhead, a fluorescent light flickers.
All rights reserved 2014 Connie Roberts
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