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Hannah Marshall

For the Intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux

Who believed there would be rescue

Who always remembered to say Thank you

Who thought kindness more stubborn than ridicule

Who looked to love’s little ways

Whose world could be lifted

Whose world wasn’t stuck in the bar at 2 a.m. with no way home

Whose world had never heard of

or bakelite or crotchless panties

or Twitter, I ask:

When you return to us on Pope Francis’ prayer,

do you still hoist the fulcrum of the world,

the index finger of your left hand reaching for God?

When you said God’s did you mean ours?

Who will be the light in the bathroom

where a teen girl hides from a bed of snipped wire,

from smother—you died of tuberculosis at 24.

I know you understand what I mean

when I say it’s getting harder and harder to breathe.

When I check out at the Dollar Tree

where the woman says the one thing she can

Please come again

when I fill your shrine

with gimcracks and cheap sex toys—

are you thinking of deep gullies

beside the road, between your legs?

Are you thinking of God

as a man?

When you had no mother, who was your mother?

When you had no light, who was your god?

Tell me, what is your little loving way

through 24-hour news cycles

through 24 hours under the sheets in his apartment

through 24 years old and alone is her only home?

Why are you always so kind, even when I treat you badly?

I expect this isn’t the sort of prayer you prefer

but I’m still looking for that fulcrum you spoke of

for the speech you wrote

for the books you lost

for your mother, dead; your sister, for you—


Hannah Marshall lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she works at the public library and as the poetry editor for South 85 Journal. Marshall’s poem "This Is a Love Poem to Trees" appears in The Best American Poetry 2021. Her poems have also been published in New Ohio Review, The American Journal of Poetry, I-70 Review, Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. Her manuscript The Shape That Good Can Take was a finalist for the 2021 St. Lawrence Book Award. She received her MFA in creative writing from Converse University.


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