The First Day

Joseph Dandurand

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When I was five I was put on a bus

and sent to Catholic school

not unlike my mother who was five

when she was put on a train

and sent to residential school,

both feeling that gut feeling

that this was not going to be

a place we would like.

 

My parents told

my older sister

to watch over me

but she had long ago

grown to not like me,

let alone protect me.

 

As we waited to go in

that first morning

a group of boys decided

they did not like my brown skin

The biggest of them came at me

but I was prepared

as I had already been beaten up

when I was four, again

because of the colour of my skin.

 

So the big kid and I scrapped

and soon the sisters were on us.

We were sent down the hall

as all the other kids

and their glorious uniforms

went down into the classrooms

to begin their first day.

The big kid and I were told

to stand against a brick wall

and the main Sister Superior

of all the sisters told us

if we wished to punch,

then punch the wall.

                      So we did.

As my five-year-old fists

smashed against the wall

and soon blood formed on

my knuckles and the Superior

smiled and praised the Lord.

She told us that was enough

and I kept swinging

as the big boy cried

and said he was sorry. But I wasn’t.

 

The sister again told me to stop

and I threw one more punch

at the wall for her and one more

for Christ who the whole time

stared down from his cross.

And that was the first day

of my time with the Lord.

 

Joseph Dandurand "The First Day" from The East Side of it All. Copyright © 2020 by Joseph Dandurand. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: The East Side of it All (Nightwood Editions, 2020)