Flamenco at the Thirsty Bear. Jim Gunshinan

About Jim Gunshinan

 • The Artificial Heart
 • Heroes
 • Geography Lessons
 • Blue Cornflowers
 • Living by Water
 • Upon This Rock
 • The Man Dad Brought
    Home from the War
 • Physics
 • Black and White
 • Not the Mom We Were
    Used To
 • Nothing Sacred
 • Spring
 • Transformation
 • Please Straighten That Up
 • Up from Depression
 • What the Body Wants
 • Compassion
 • Commute
 • Kiss Me
 • Starter Castles
 • Flamenco at the Thirsty
 • A Nature Poem
 • Portrait of a Woman from
   the Gardens of Egypt in the
   First Century



Black and White

It was the ’60s, post–Vatican II
when priests and nuns were leaving in droves
to marry each other. They later got divorced
in greater than average numbers.

I grew up with them at St. Camillus School.
I had a crush on my first-grade homeroom teacher
Sr. Maria Lucia. She would meet me at the door each day
with a hug, wrapping me up in yards and yards

of her cool black habit. I don’t remember
competing with the thirty or so other kids
for her attention, like I competed for my mother’s.
Then there was Sr. Francis Joanna or Frannie Jo-Annie,

as my older siblings called her—my fourth-grade
math teacher, and sadistic. Because of the history lessons
my siblings gave me, I had nightmares about her in the summer
between my third and fourth years. And they came true.

Stressing the importance of long division, she once
shook me like a rag doll and banged my head
against the blackboard. Eventually I got it
and ended up excelling in math.

It was more or less an enlightened time
and so we said the terrorist nun was neurotic
and not simply evil; the affectionate one raised no red flags.
The neurotic nun was sent to summer school

at one of those renewal programs at a Catholic college,
where nuns and priests fell in love and studied
Liberation Theology. She came back nicer,
if not completely liberated.

She went by her own name after that,
Sr. Mary. There were other nuns, some of whom
dressed stylishly and it was rumored among the adults
that they wore makeup. But the two stand out:

One taught me the importance of the long division
between the joy of learning and the fear of failure.
The other taught me to feel yards and yards of comfort
and the soft space between hip bones and breasts.

  © Jim Gunshinan, 2013


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