When did you stop believing in a higher power?

When I was young, I said a prayer every time I heard
a siren. I thought that maybe, if I closed my eyes tight
and wished hard enough, God would save them.

Would you rather pray to a God who can’t hear you
or a God that won’t listen?

It hasn’t snowed yet in Tennessee, but it’s been raining
for a week. In the morning, curls of fog rise from the pavement
in thin layers of velvet, filling the valley.

I’ve noticed everything is softer after it rains,
like the world is holding its breath.

Last night, an apartment down the street
caught fire. We couldn’t see the building,
but we watched the emergency lights
through my bedroom window, and I thought
about the gas station where I get my cigarettes
and the family-owned barbeque place a block over.

Would you rather slow-cook in an apartment fire
or freeze in a snowstorm?

Everything here is the same—the same faded streetlights
and the same fast food and the same homeless people
lining the space between buildings. The sun was bright
in my eyes the next day, but I saw the apartment’s balcony—
it was a crisp, dark brown that bled to the neighboring units.

I thought it would be quiet when we moved out of the city,
but my love, there are so many sirens, and I haven’t slept in days.

I don’t know if I ever believed in God,
but I’ve started praying again.

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Hannah Ritter

Hannah Ritter (they/them) is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and will be graduating in May 2024 with a BA in English: Creative Writing and Humanities Liberal Arts as well as a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Hannah has been awarded the Dorothy Hellerdst Kennedy Scholarship for the past two years as well as the Sally B. Young Critical Writing Award for their academic essay on Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. They also worked as the poetry editor for the 2023 issue of Sequoya Review, UTC’s fine arts and literary journal, and will be returning to work as managing editor for the 2024 issue of the journal.