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Litany of Humility: Age Nine


by James Claffey


A bag of broken cakes and biscuits from Eaton's Bakery cost one new penny.

The day-old clotted cream staining the teacher's nicotine-stained fingertips.

The burning of my ears when he touches them.

Twenty colorful posters sit above the blackboard, numbers writ in Irish and English.

When the teacher says, “Go out now into God's fresh air and run around the yard.” 

Our anoraks and satchels hanging like slain beasts on the coatrack inside the classroom door.

When he says, “Come here to me now, young fellow.” 

The softness of his hands, which are the hue of the pews next door in the church.

The recitation of a Hail Mary as I lick the cream off his yellowed fingers, the sound of my classmates at play flooding in the open windows of the classroom.

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