Albert DeGenova


Pious Portrait of a Nun by George Harvey

Traveling Chicago to Seattle, at the airport gate, a glaring anachronism,
a nun in traditional habit sits talking on her cell phone, scrolling down the screen of her
laptop – she walks behind me as we board, she sits in the window seat next to me –

her tunic is deep blue linen, the veil, wimple and un-starched scapular are white poplin –
about her is a subtle musty scent of underarm – in her mid-thirties, soft featured,
an unadorned prettiness. I notice she slips off her shoes. When not reading, she holds

herself, arms crossed hugging her torso – when reading, her free hand strokes wispy
blonde hair on the wrist of her book hand, or runs a finger along the strong line of her jaw –
she is reading a book entitled “The Mass” but puts it aside for the airline magazine. I

consider her life without touch, Vestal virgin, a vocation, a calling – I fall
asleep. The rosary attached to her belt fills the space between us. When I wake, she
is asleep, her face turned toward the window, the sun is bright, we are above the clouds –

the dark-hosed toes of her left foot rest on the top of my sandaled right foot – her
dark-hosed toes open and close as if barefoot on a white flokati rug – I am paralyzed,
electricity running up my leg.


About the writer:
Albert DeGenova is an award-winning poet, musician, publisher, and teacher. He is the author of three books of poetry and three chapbooks. His most recent book, Black Pearl, poems of love, sex and regret, was released in late 2016 by Purple Flag Press. DeGenova is the founder and co-editor of After Hours magazine, a journal of Chicago writing and art, which launched in June of 2000. He received his MFA from Spalding University in Louisville. DeGenova leads several writing workshops throughout the year including WriteOn Door County and an annual writing week at The Clearing Folk School in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. He hosts the monthly Traveling Mollys reading series (Oak Park, Illinois) which is now in its 20th year. He is also a blues saxophonist and one-time contributing editor to Down Beat magazine. DeGenova splits his time between Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and the metro Chicago area.

Image: Pious Portrait of a Nun by George Harvey (1835-1920). Oil on canvas. 23.5 x 19.5 inches. 1883. Public domain.