Thinking of Lucille Clifton’s ‘If I Stand in My Window’ at the Convent

by January Gill O'Neil

— St. Marguerite’s Retreat House, December 10, 2011

Who wouldn’t want to lower her nightgown
or raise her blouse and push her breasts,
nipples tight as raisins, against the frosted window,
forming raindrops around dark clouds on a cold December morning.
No thing to bear witness except the 100-year-old pines
and a stray doe as it turns and scampers into the brush.

I think of the women here who married God,
to have and to hold no other, their black habits draping down
to the floor, and the young girls who stayed here
when the convent was an orphanage, the childhood of girls lived in wards,
learning to love each other like family with God as their father.
Did they peer out the window down to the lonely bench
and wish for the startle of a boy? A mother’s call? Or a life beyond this?

A breast on glass is nothing but a marker of time.
Who wouldn’t want to raise a blouse and announce to the world
I am here.

Published on August 7, 2015