Holding the corner
of the white wool ornamental blanket
you design to fold
with excruciating precision
into a rose-patterned coverlet,
I jest that this reminds me
of being sent into a corner
by one of the nuns when I was
in grammar school, although

I was never given that disciplinary
rigor, which led me to think
about Johnny, who would brazenly
tease a girl in the schoolyard
and then kiss her, which provoked
her breaking into tears, and then
her running back into class, where
the stern Polish nun would call
Johnny up to the head of the room.

She would then tear into him,
always a strand of his greased hair
falling rebelliously onto his forehead,
lips slightly opened in an impudent
pout, whereupon the nun would
set up the dressing screen, and order
Johnny to come behind it, where
all of us in class could hear
the straightedged ruler come down

onto Johnny’s posterior, propelling
every child in the room to feel
the chill of icy terror, the humiliation
that Johnny never seemed to experience,
emerging from behind the screen
after the punishment had been dispensed,
cockier than ever, his bottom lip
quivering with indignant anger,
the bounce in his step haughtier, more
arrogant, the dangling strand of hair

a pendulum swinging one way
then another. And in the very rear
of the room, I sat with my head tilted
down behind a desk, next to Helen,
whom my Polish father would probably
have called stocky, where we might have
traded fugitive glances, shyly smiling,
momentarily, and not for the entire year
ever speaking a single word to each other.