The sisters

One holds my hand to lead me through the doors and down the hall. She is accustomed to the statues lurking at every turn, but I am not: in the stairwell, an Aryan Mary placidly treads on a gagging snake; a short, bald friar permanently intrudes into the female cloister; and in the community room, Jesus carelessly dangles drops of wooden blood over the doilies and pink curtains. My room is simple and there is commotion over whether the baseboards have been dusted for my arrival. I wash my face at the sink, then sit upon the bed until prayers. The sisters, mostly old women now, sit in two choirs, facing in mirror image, and sing. They sing of oil, milk and honey, but do not shy away from songs of vengeance, pettiness, plagues, weeping and gnashing of teeth—they sing of all. I linger at the edge of their music and ask silent questions. Can it be that after two children, one divorce and forty years I am going to become one of them, become of them, become them, become? Around me, thirty voices merge into the single, low, clear, patient, endless woman’s voice of God.

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