by A.Y. Tanaka

But she wasn’t meant for me anyway,
one of the too many girls who cliqued and huddled
after school
and clicked their heels and conclaved their homework
and whispered about us and hid our file.

Lots of Italian girls, lots –
sharp, rounded, eyes full of fire.
Even the wine-scented roses
from Pius IX Prep had something to offer,
if they wanted to offer.
But they knew me too well, or pretended –

those quick strong tongues that whipped me apart,
why would they lie?
I was them — they were me,
the chrisms and scapulars and first communions,
the long hard pews of St. Mike’s Emergency,
the long hard pews of the precinct’s coffee room,
the showdowns, the rollcalls to dust off your pride,
cushion the eight-ball rolling in your gut,
the nudge, the whisper who to turn to.

You can’t escape from a world full of sisters,
warm roses pretending to be sisters.