Poem of the Week | August 31, 2020

This week’s Poem of the Week is “When I Don’t Feel Like Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain, I Say His” by Hannah Dow!

Hannah Dow is the author of Rosarium (Acre Books, 2018). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, Image, and The Cincinnati Review, among others, and she has received awards and scholarships from the Sewanee Writers Conference and Bread Loaf Orion. She currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Tinderbox Poetry Journal, as an Assistant Poetry Editor for Memorious, and as a reader for Ploughshares.


When I Don’t Feel Like Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain, I Say His

After Allison Seay

It was a broken egg with a neat sunshine yolk
it was new life in the figurative sense
& before this new life was resignation
& before resignation resentment & a fight
the worst kind of fight a fight between me
& myself in a mirror trying to see
my face with his eyes & wondering
what he could have seen there that said yes
an apology is not yes before this fight
was another kind of fight a fight of bodies
we do not speak of but in this fight I was a dog
at the foot of his bed & I was ugly
milky eyes knotted fur I was a dress
ripped in the figurative sense petals
from he loves me/he loves me not flowers
before the fight I lost & apologized for
losing there was something like confusion
which I mistook for happiness which I
mistook for pleasure the feeling of peeling
back layers of a corn husk to stroke
its golden hair but this was ignorance
& before this was another kind of ignorance
the ignorance of his very existence
& what I remember of this I call silence.


Author’s Note

I wrote this poem after reading Allison Seay’s “My Husband, The Roe.” I was drawn to the way time moves backward in Seay’s poem, a poem that begins not in joy but “Before the joy,” and rewinds immediately to “the end.” This reverse chronology proved to be a useful technique for writing a poem about my own trauma: about the consequent and too-frequent desire to travel back in time to any moment before the events occurred. This poem begins in an attempt to start over, though this starting-over is already broken, as well as obscured by everything that comes before it. In writing about these events, I realized that I could not remember my life before them as anything other, or better, than the ignorance of this trauma, which feels—for better or worse—like a “silence” that is at once peaceful and terrifying, a beginning and end.