Pawnshop Rosary

I found it somewhere in Oscoda, Michigan.
I don’t remember if we were in the first shop,
Or the third,
Or the thirteenth.
I just remember that the sun was unbearable,
that I was exhausted,
and I’d been whistling in the dark for too long. 

 Our Father, who art in Heaven
hallowed be thy name. 

Tiny scuffed white beads,
shoved in a box with broken clasps.
And F.O.E. emblems
and rusted chains
trapped in a jewelry box older than me.
“That’s not a piece of jewelry”
My mother had told me once.  

Hail Mary, full of Grace
The Lord is with thee. 

I just meant to move it,
to set it beside an old hotel bible
but as my fingers wrapped around the cheap string,
the bent crucifix swung in the Michigan air,
and I watched it do so,
Thinking about a hypnotist’s watch.  

Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son. 

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,”
He  said as we got back into the car.
Those scuffed white beads wrapped around my hand.
They’d been wrapped around someone else’s:
someone who had been afraid,
someone who had been repentant,
someone who had been whistling in their own dark.
“I’m not.”  

Joyful, Sorrowful,
Luminous, Glorious. 

See, it’s not the plastic
that I still hold in my hand;
The string isn’t holy, nor the metal.
There’s comfort in repetition–in ritual. 
There’s comfort in muttering words
countless others have muttered.
When they felt the dark
easing its way around them,
like you do now.

Whistling in the dark is always so much easier,
when you have someone to harmonize with.


Issue 9 Editor’s Prize for Poetry