Hagiography – a poem by Mallory Nygard


Over the course of 2017, 
Mary Margaret Sellers – 
named after both 
her grandmothers (neither 
of whom was a woman of repute) – 

a women’s running shoe blue (the left one), 
a pair of elephant salt and pepper shakers, 
the change out of a “Ride This Buckin’ Bronco” 
             machine in front of a 7-11, 
her copy of The End of the Affair back 
             from her younger brother (Jacko), 
thirteen pink lawn flamingos, 
her mother’s Amazon Prime account password, 
a taxi from the elderly woman 
             who was on her way to the bank, 
half a tank of gas (mostly accidently), 
$2.38 in coins out of a fountain, 
a pair of denim overalls that turned out 
             to have a rip 
             in the rear. 

Mary Margaret confessed 
the stealing (along with quite a few 
other sins) at the Oratory of St. Juniper 
in Mission Park, NC. 

In the confessional, the priest – 
middle-aged, graying, but not yet tired
of offering undue mercy – 
asked Mary Margaret to close her eyes 
and imagine 
sitting in front of her. 

How is he looking at you?
What is in his eyes?

Mary Margaret left haunted 
by what she saw in the light 
of that stained-glassed room. 

Time did not let her thefts go 
Mary Margaret died 
at the age of 28 
from pancreatic cancer. 

She was buried in the graveyard 
of the Oratory whose priests often find 
“borrowed” objects atop her gravestone:
a too-small yellow raincoat, 
a weather-beaten copy of Brideshead,
a broken bike lock, 
a chipped diner mug,
the occasional candle from the Oratory’s offertory table. 

St. Mary Margaret’s devotees celebrate 
her feast day 
by leaving loose change 
on the window sills 
of their neighbors. 

Mallory Nygard lives and writes in East Tennessee. Her poetry has appeared in Relief: A Journal of Art and Faith and Ever Eden Literary Journal. Her poem ‘Song of Sarajevo’ was named Best in Show at the 2021 Rehumanize International Create | Encounter. Her first collection of poetry, Pelican, was released in 2021. 

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