by Susan Hahn
Northwestern University Press, 2008
Paper: 978-0-8101-2487-5 | eISBN: 978-0-8101-6334-8 | Cloth: 978-0-8101-2486-8
Library of Congress Classification PS3558.A3238N68 2008
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.54


Hahn’s new collection wrestles with the elemental and enduring challenges of the human condition: What can we use from our spiritual heritage? How should we find relief? How, after it all, do we live? The poems are presented as a letter to the world from a woman preparing to leave it. In four sections—“The Bells,” “The Crosses,” “Widdershins,” and “Afterwor(l)d”—she contrasts the hope against the dark that is embodied by an amulet or cross with the abased resignation of torture, failed prayers, and witchcraft. Though Hahn’s vision is a dark one, its dramatic emotional depth speaks to a human power that, though damaged, can still engage.

from The Crosses (V)

Cross my fingers, cross my heart,

arms extended, legs together, not apart,

I make of myself a cross.

In my pockets bright blue beads,

small clay gods, scarabs,

four-leaf clovers, bejewelled mezuzahs.

In my hat cockleshells

to exorcize the demons,

to keep hidden the seventh chakra,

the tonsure, the bald compulsion.

Cross my fingers, cross my heart,

arms extended, legs together, not apart.

In my ears little bells of confusion,

to frighten away eyes of the evil.

On my breast a foul sachet

to repel the lick of the Devil.

Cross my fingers, cross my heart.

In my window a glass witch ball

to guard against the shatter

from intruders.

Cross my fingers.

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