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
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 leather—bound 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.