Hildegard was one we hardly knew –
six foot tall, thin as a charcoal stick,
she smiled down on us vaguely
from the distant oval window of her wimple,
slept under shivering blankets
in the room abutting the boarders’ dormitory.
Each night, after chapel prayers,
her large, black-sandaled feet
would creak along the corridors
and up the spiral stairs,
past our whispering, giggling beds
to her tiny, white-walled cell.
One night we set booby traps:
soap on the door knob,
flannels on the floor,
then lay there, singing softly:
Hark! I hear the foe advancing,
Hildegard’s great sandals prancing,
sh-sh-sh…. she’s coming!
Dear, shy Hildegard,
we meant you no harm.
Anyway, we knew
your guardian angel
could see in the dark.
An earlier version of this poem won second prize
in The Fire River Poetry Competition 2012