Volume 69, Number 1 · Fall 2019

Catholic Girlhood

I did not imagine my body, not at first—
not the way I thought other girls did,
with their catalogues of beautiful parts:
their shapely calves and reddish hair,
but dim, disappointing eyes;
their full lips and long limbs,
their concave breasts. I did not
want breasts. I did not want hair,
or legs, or lips, full or otherwise.
My class in particular baffled me:
their hitched-up skirts and lip gloss,
their bathroom whisperings
and the content of their prayers—
how they wanted dress-down days
and smoother skin, curling irons,
high-heeled shoes, and the kind
of shirt you didn’t wear to church.
Gray-sweatered, Mary-Janed,
scrunched at the final desk,
I longed for the smooth testimony
of the nun’s habit, and the high crown
of her wimple, the special names
she kept for her fellows, and their chats—
for so I hoped—of orphan animals
and needy children. Such were
my dreams, my nightly prayers
to Mary and Theresa, Joan and Rose,
names I’d whisper in my pillow,
like a charm, the abbesses
and schizophrenics, the mothers
superior, hair-netted, Bible-belted,
pear-shaped, all women still
strange and whole and mine.

Felicity Sheehy’s poems appear in the New Republic, the Yale Review, the Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She has received an Academy of American Poets Prize, a Tennessee Williams Scholarship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Jane Martin Poetry Prize for UK residents under thirty. In 2019, she was named one of Narrative’s 30 Under 30 Writers. Originally from Hudson Valley, New York, she is a PhD candidate at Cambridge University.