Geraldine Connolly

Why I Was Sent To Boarding School

to lengthen my hemlines and straighten
my morals

because I was difficult

because my parents were tired

to lock me in chastity's cupboard

to Latinize me, teach me manners,
give me a good solid dose of fear

to place over my fact the mask
of stoic cheerfulness

to take away my swagger
tame my wild hair and rebellious tongue

because that's where the doctors
sent their daughters

because the nuns would know what to do
with a girl like me
because they would do their best
to pour me into the mold
with china limbs and lace collars
and because they had their fingers crossed
that I would come out nice
like a floral centerpiece you could
put right into the center
of your dinner party, gleaming

as heads of cut flowers
bobbed there, grateful, arranged,
blinking and nodding with grace
saying yes, yes, turn me
and they would turn me,
from what I was
into what they wanted

not the wolf girl
not soaring beast with smoking hair
but a tame Hereford
amiable, smooth child they could love
with no thoughts that were devil-born
a flat good prize of a girl

and there where I looked
in a morning mirror
I would encounter myself
calm, bovine, accepting

beloved of Mother Superior
cherished of God the Father.
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