William Page: "The Heathen"




Sister Mary Catherine, waddling about, filled us

with sugar cookies and milk, feeding us with homilies

of charity and devotion. There was one screed about a man

who gave away his donkey. Had Sister called it his ass

we’d have giggled till our eyes streamed blind as the child’s

in another fable. I wondered if the donkey, having previously

ferried loads of bricks and straw, once freed would busy itself

braying and kicking its heels into the annoyed air. 

When the cuckoo clock echoed, Sister moved us

to our napping mats on the warm veranda and dozed

her brief salvation from being holy teacher and jailer.

But I could not drift into slumber, though a frowning Sand Man

might cast from his sack all his sprinkles upon my reluctant lids.

I lusted to arise and flee out to the sunny lawn

where the sugar maple’s golden leaves were falling.

Had I the wit I would have contrived magic jingles

to effect my escape. I would have broken my wishes into sticks

and thrown them to the romping collie calling me forth

into the wild joy of its barking.



William Page’s third volume of poems, Bodies Not Our Own (Memphis State University Press), was awarded a Walter R. Smith Distinguished Book Award. His collection, William Page’s Greatest Hits: 1970-2000, is from Pudding House Publications. His poems have appeared widely in such journals as Valparaiso Poetry Review, North American Review, The Southern Review, Southwest Review, Rattle, Ploughshares, Literary Review, American Literary Review, Sewanee Review, Southern Poetry Review, Rosebud, Pedestal Magazine, and in a number of print and online anthologies.