© By Joan Newmann
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You weren’t allowed to sing on Sunday afternoons
(not songs, I mean, only hymns from Sunday school)
In the dry dead halls of the house.
And the father went to sleep, and we tried to play,
Half-hearted, every whisper shushed.
This Sunday was rolling rain-clouds and heaving leaves,
And James did something bad.
The father came to us, like God personified,
And struck and struck the cowering child.
‘Please, please, dear Jesus, make him quit.’
By the stairs, a purple thunder sitting on the skylight,
And through the front-door glass, dark bride’s blossom
Beat like teachers’ canes against themselves.
‘Suffer little children …’ I croaked, not loud enough
For even me to hear,
And ran a race-pounding heart out of there, off home,
With God and God-men in every darkening hedge-hole,
Thrashing iron rods.