primary school prayers / questions I ask my doctor

by Hannah Smith-Yen

Christ in Limbo, Paul Cézanne; CC0 Public Domain


primary school prayers

1. Our Lord, who art in heaven
Jesus rose on the fifth day stained red
He ascended, he looks down
We soak the soil in blood,
Gild our dead and wait for absolution.

2. Hallowed be thy name
Six six six are the letters in your name
Let them ruin you
Let them touch you where you’re soft softest
Let them speak your name like a sacred word
In an old language that sounds like
The rasp of dry wood against silk

3. Thy kingdom come
So if we look past the sinews
The gristle tendons /meat/ of it
The salty blood, the red between my teeth
The metal on my tongue
The bone ache, the prayers etched onto my ribs
This is all yours, right?

4. Thy will be done
you’ll always sound like a zipper going down
like an oil slick’s song
but maybe to you, it’s more like a suitcase closing
i wish you could hear what i hear

5. On earth as it is in Heaven
peel away the skin
so that you bloom rose-red
dripping down your chin
greeting Persephone with the colour of her damnation
or salvation, whichever way you look at it

the right way

questions I ask my doctor

but like, look.
can i excise it?
will my body still be stained
with clouding memories, low and heavy?
does the thought of touching sicken you, too?
will i ever be clean? can i shower again?
can running water wash away his touch, or is it too deep inside me?
spreading out across my meat and bones, a thick coating on my veins
is it wrapped around my heart like fat, yellow and glistening?
is it soft and warm behind my ribcage?
can you excise it from my body?
with scalpels that cut away at the fat, the grime, the bone-deep dirt
erasing the fingerprint impressions on my hips
cut it all away and i can start anew,
clear of scars and whisper-flashes of skin against skin
and skin against cloth and skin against teeth
can you go deeper, where it burrows inside of me?
a dark stain creeping across my body
signalling that i am no longer holy and pure
touch is not a prayer, it is a penance
can you make sure you get it all, doctor?
even in the hollows of my collarbones, where kisses rest,
and the dips between my ribs
clean his ashes from my lips, clean him out
or are there parts of me you cannot reach?
the hidden alcoves where i
keep his sweet nothings locked away
can i excise it?



Hannah Smith-Yen was born in Guisborough and grew up around the world. She is currently a final year anthropology student at University College London, writing a dissertation on professional wrestling. You can find more of her work at

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