POETRY January 6, 2023

In the Beginning, Forest 

A forest was painted onto the cinderblock wall
of my Sunday School room
where the office-bright lighting didn’t extend. The sun
sat in the corner, metallic gold. And the forest
was with God. And the forest was God. The forest was real
when I reached my hand toward it. It was a pine forest,
a winter scene, very Narnian, and I could smell it,
could feel the cold on my fingers. The forest was with God
in the beginning, and I walked there,
where the seemingness of the world
and all the stories and symbols became forest, red needles
crackling on frozen moss. The sun could be stared into
because it was pure gold, and the sky was white as institution,
and the trees were uniform and spoke of pain
when the wind blew. In the beginning, the forest
was Sunday School, and my Sunday shoes were silty
and sturdy, and the forest held us children, and the songs
were the wind and the sparrows. In the beginning, love
was a forest, and the forest was a wild beast. In the beginning,
God was wild and unbound from onion-skin sheaves
and not shut in pine boxes and not taught with fire and blood.
In the beginning, the forest was thick with silence
and could not be named, but even then, I loved the words.

Hannah Marshall lives in Grand Rapids, MI, where she works at the public library. Her poetry has been published in The Best American Poetry, New Ohio Review, The American Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere. Her manuscript, The Shape That Good Can Take, was a finalist for the 2021 St. Lawrence Book Award. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Converse University.