Anchors Away

By Charlie Brice


For Sam Slough


Three hundred pounds if she was an ounce,

Sister Hendrik moved like a battleship.

Her black veil barely concealed turrets

for battleship guns, her white Dominican habit

bow and stern of a Wyoming icebreaker.

The USS Sister Hendrik navigated the high tide

of a ferocious food fight in St. Mary’s High

School Cafeteria during my senior year.


That day in 1968, the cafeteria ladies served

pigs-in-a-blanket, tiny wieners baked into delicious

homemade buns that became gooey ketchup-coated

missiles that flew through the desanctified air

of our lunchroom and splattered their targets

with the most famous of Heinz’s 57 varieties.

After a while kids threw whatever they could grab.

The atmosphere blossomed with oranges, sauerkraut,

tortillas, green beans and banana peels.


The most human of our wardens, Sister Hendrik

was the only nun who would swear:

“You asses,” she foghorned and began

her momentous voyage toward our table

where we condiment-soaked seniors continued

to hurl our godforsaken bounty. Before

she got to us, a blanketed pig blotched

across her forehead like a bucket of bloody

chum left over from baiting sharks.

Ketchup dripped into her eye sockets

blinding her to a banana peel upon which

she promptly slipped—something I thought

only happened in cartoons. Surely

the Richter Scale registered her fall,

one detail discussed during hours

of detention as we swabbed floors,

cleaned cafeteria tables and sang,

“Anchors away, my boys,

anchors away!”




Charlie Brice is a retired psychoanalyst living in Pittsburgh. He has authored two full length poetry collections: Flashcuts Out of Chaos (WordTech Editions, 2016) and Mnemosyne's Hand (WordTech Editions, 2018). His poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, Hawaii Review, The Main Street Rag, Chiron Review, The Dunes Review, SLAB, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Sport Literate, The Paterson Literary Review, Plainsong, and elsewhere.