Rosary Nights
by Mariam Stephens


Staggering down the steep stairs, groggy and more than half asleep. Scary dreams chasing me close behind, sending me flying for Granny’s room, yelling all the way. Granny sitting up in bed saying the Rosary, as I burst through the door, and fling myself at her, sobbing as if my heart was breaking. Hanging onto her thick white rope of hair, like a drowning thing. The softness and warmth of her pink bed shawl wrapping round me, folding us inside as one. The sweet smell of fresh linen, and Granny’s body sealed to mine. Tears and fears kissed and soothed away, as she listened to my litany of wild woes and terrors of the night. My vice-like grip on her never slackening, until the nightmares faded like a ghostly fog, leaving only candlelight and quietness in the room.

Soon she’d have me laughing so hard it hurt. At the way I’d soaked her shawl and nightie to the skin – and how she’d thought me a “visitation from the Blessed Virgin,” responding to her devout prayers.

“Instead I got this wee, watery waif with frozen feet…and a runny nose!” she laughed, and I joined in.

But a tin opener wouldn’t have pried me an inch from away her, as I drafted and dozed and the Rosary murmured softly round me in the perfect peace.

* * * *

In the mornings, breakfast started with a large bowl of sweet, creamy gruel that I finished to the last lick. Next came a big brown country egg, fresh from the henhouse. A friendly underground source brought us regular supplies of these strictly rationed treats; but naturally that was never to be mentioned in public, Granny said.

Anyway, I tap, tapped carefully at my egg – being only semi-skilled at this new task – and with fierce concentration, labored effort, grunts, and groans, – I broke through to a completely empty shell.

A few feet away, apron over her mouth, shaking like jelly, Granny roared at my stricken, shocked face.

* * * *

Later, devouring my proper egg hungrily, I told her, “You won’t be catching me out next time, Granny, I’ll remember for sure!”

“Well now we’ll just see about that, won’t we?” she smiled serenely, looking like the cat that got the cream. Knowing full well that I fell victim to her clever little tricks and jokes every single time.

“Now look here, you’ll be needed another guggie…and more toast too by the look of it, wee chuck,” she noticed, “lest we be accused of starving you to death when you go home again.”

Then she’d set me off giggling, searching below my plate and under the table, for the food that disappeared like greased lightning.

“This wee angel must have hollow legs and wings,” she told the air, flouncing kitchen-wards to replenish the ravenous appetite of her tiny grandchild.

* * * *

Such fun we had those days. Rolling about, laughing helplessly at nothing we could remember afterwards.



by Maryann Schacht


Hawk you live on the border
of spirit and breath

Circling slowly             Circling slowly

Carrion wait below to be cleansed
flesh clings to expired bones

I am kin to your species great soaring bird

Beneath feathers and skin
We seek the marrow of life force

Joined by design to renew and construct
We peck and we pick at destruction

Again to again               Repeat to repeat

Honed and advanced by chance taken
Spirits rise exhaled on updrafts