Editor; Bad; Justice; Crucifix; Trap


At her age she chooses
from the library only picture books?

They’re what her mother likes.

So, she reads to her mother.

The mother isn’t illiterate.
They talk about the pictures.

Soon the girl will read
to be left alone.


With her hair drawn back
tightly, her brow furrows.
One time she turned in
her folder with the draft still in it:
the child’s paragraphs 
marked up in bold 
you can’t say this, pages
webbed with insistence,
script-nets over the flares.


In the end 
does the mother 
or the girl…

You’ll have to read their Chapter Ten.

What is more threatening,
a match book, a high fever,
	a loaded gun or a pedophile?

More threatening to whom?

Even teaching is lying – 
What’s a paragraph when 
you’re taught it’s two sentences?


The third grade teacher typed
what her students had written.

It did not take long or much paper.

She cut the stories of each student
into slender strips. Look everyone,

your stories are on the board!
Please go up and read them.

The girl in the longer skirt
was confused. How could a story 

fit on a strip? Her story spread 
to half-a-humiliating page.

By now she knew better.
What’s a story? Don’t ask.

(When the ending had yet to be
her own.)

It was all their fault, my mother taught, 
Look what we lost. Paradise! Eternal life!
So eating an apple is good, 
that’s why it was in my lunch. 
School is good, but eating an apple 
from the Tree of Knowledge was not. 
Being naked was not bad 
until they knew they were naked
which happened after eating 
bad apples. But what does 
knowing you’re naked 
mean to a kid? I blamed the snake
for being snaky, not the lady.  
I wasn’t to touch the part of my body 
where the fig leaf went 
unless I was wiping it clean.
I had to pull my pajamas up over
the seal of white, cotton underwear. 
My mother eyed the bare legs 
of other girls: They’re asking for it.
Asking for what?
When a girl loses her innocence
I want it to be for her protection.
A good woman often ends up 
unrolling herself at the foot 
of the door each day. Being good 
is confusing. Look at all 
God’s children snuffed after jumping 
into strange cars to save lost puppies. 

I watched how hard, how much
my mother slapped my four-year-old sister
for going into her make-up bag, knowing 

that if I hadn’t lied, she’d be beating me.
My mother was cruelest at her weakest,
for no one in our home ever deserved

such burn and shame. I was sickened 
for my sister, but relieved. She wailed,
barely understanding. She hadn’t fiddled

with the eye pencil, nor snapped the thin
lead that I undid from its case. I couldn’t
get the thing to go back in. No one saw.

It was my word against any sibling, spoken
simply with an ease separated from fear or panic
but motivated by both. I was determined

at age seven to not be brutalized for curiosity.
My primal ape was taking shape with its
shadow guardian angel tweaking the needle
on my juvenile, moral compass. My first
Catholic chance at martyrdom blown,

I proved capable of anything unjust for justice.


It’s impossible to wear 
the resurrection around
your neck on a gold chain.
We don’t even know what it is 
to resurrect – we only start over.
But we do know suffering,
and we’re attached to it
which explains why the image
some may hang above a bed
is a man getting tortured.
If you’re Christian suffering
has worth, is embraced,
like my mother bearing
her cross and not divorcing it,
because Christ, she says, 
endured far worse 
for us sinners who deserve 
the burden of His suffering.
As a child I read about
the lives of martyrs.
They made me curious – 
one little lie and they
could have lived.
I’d white lie if it spared 
me a beating. Didn’t they die
for a kind of pride, a sin? 
Didn’t we need them
with us, like a team needs 
great players to win?  
What is worth dying for 
when you get to do it anyway?  

If a hummingbird flies in 
through an open door,
it may find itself less trapped
than the woman observing him.
The bird will obsess overhead
in the recessed skylight,
its brain but a bean of instinct.
This is the light. This is the way.
This is religion getting the girl
who cannot escape
or arrive without sinning.
If this wild finger of flight
finally perches, too spent
for propelling and panting
through its needle beak,
it’ll resemble the first woman 
to whom the girl clung, 
who clings to her now,
who taught her everything
she has yet to unlearn.  
She will not scoop the bird 
with her hands for a tossed 
and injured freedom because
if there was one (good) thing
to be learned from the Church
besides purity, humility,
passivity and sacrifice, 
(And please draw a line 
through those last two.) 
it was patience.  
She’ll look around, 
pull a lid off a storage box, 
wave it up, down, forgetting 
to question why divine 
creation would allow 
any being to be in charge 
of who gets what, of life, 
death, of the arms behind 
the breeze that will blow 
the bird down from its trap 
until it sees a better option.


M. Nasorri Pavone’s poetry has appeared in River Styx, One, b o d y, Sycamore Review, New Letters, The Cortland Review, The Citron Review, Innisfree, Rhino, DMQ Review, Pirene’s Fountain, I-70 Review and others. She’s been anthologized in Beyond the Lyric Moment (Tebot Bach, 2014), and has been nominated for Best of the Net and twice for a Pushcart Prize.