Growing Up in Public

Photograph by Jose Padua
In the eighth grade I’m reading
aloud to the class as we do every
week and this time it’s a story
about organized crime in America
and when I get to the nickname
of a mobster—Little Pussy
I say the name aloud and try
to continue reading but I can’t
stop laughing and even Sister
Conrad is laughing and it
occurs to me that Sister Conrad
is thinking of pussy as in pussy
while I’m thinking of
something entirely different.
Several years pass and I grow up
to become a young man, so earnest
in many ways, so serious like
the sins that used to scare me
in parochial school, and I realize
that Sister Conrad may have
been thinking of the same pussy
I was thinking of when I was
an eighth grade boy, and I pause
to look at the sky and the trees
that punctuate the rows of buildings
downtown in this great city where
I live, and marvel at all the beautiful
ways there are to love language.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

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