Chloe Hanson

Because an atheist woman has no god


She must be her own goddess

Pay tithes to her body with wine or beer or cigarettes, cock

or pussy, whatever her sanctified id demands.

She must find in herself an image of the Creator

who made her a woman with small breasts and a gut

like statues of goddesses made by the first people.

She must look the Creator in the eye and see only a mirror,

for a perfected version of the self is tiresome,

for mistakes, like drinking too much, one-night stands, taking photos

of yourself–legs sprawled because you’ve never seen your vagina up close

for fun.

She must remember that Christians say we were formed when God played

with clay and picture herself shaping her body with each strum of fingers against skin.

And she must wonder

if an atheist woman worships herself

what it means to un-make

what her mother–the first God she stopped believing in–made her?




after Denis Johnson


I want to say that forgiveness

does not always require a wounding,


a word or phrase meant to lacerate,

an anger like the hot mark of a hand on skin.


I have learned I must forgive

that which was done to me in kindness,


those Sunday mornings spent picking the runs

in my tights, the set of leatherbound holy books


meant as a gift.  The white dress worn as men circled

my head, laid hands on me, and prayed


that I would marry, have children, serve God.

I want you to know I tried


to find some scripture to help you understand

I feel I must forgive you for passing down guilt


and calling it salvation.  I want you to know

that I read the verse where God says


I will forgive whom I forgive,

but of you it is required to forgive all men.


I want you to know that I do not need you to forgive me

for the way my leaving is the blade upon which


you feel you must fall.

I want you to know I am not sorry.


Chloe Hanson has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Contemporary Verse 2, Pretty Owl, Calamus, Occulum, Arsenic Lobster, and The Heartland Review. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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