Poem of the Week

Hail Mary

Margaret Ray

The gym at the rural high school
forty-five minutes outside of town,
no A/C, just the giant fans set in the walls,
rotating lazily like B-52 propellers
warming up on the runway, slicing
up the sunlight as it hits the hardwood floor.
Smell of dust and resin
in the humid Florida afternoon.
In the locker room was where J told me
she was more than a week late and
worried she was pregnant.
Then she got eight rebounds
(though she was no taller than me and played wing)
and I thought about it every time I saw her
take an elbow in the gut.
I had always been the one who watched her
(not sure what it was I was looking for):
strong and fearless under the rim,
the way she’d throw her body to the floor
for a loose ball, and that day

she became, for me, a goddess
as she sat sweating on the locker room bench
at halftime, elbows on her knees,
a glow of danger and ferocity pulsing off her.
I don’t think she’d told anyone else
but she wouldn’t let me catch her eye
during the game, which we lost
when their point guard hit a buzzer-beater
from half-court, and on the bus back
she sat sleeping or pretending to sleep
under her hood, discman turned all the way up.
The way our lives could bend
around this thing—
that knowledge grew between us—a blade
we would have to carry later, mothering
ourselves, or anything that came along.

Margaret Ray (she/her) grew up in Gainesville, Florida. She is the author of Superstitions of the Mid-Atlantic (winner of the 2020 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Prize). Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2021, Threepenny Review, Narrative, and elsewhere. She teaches in New Jersey. Her website is www.margaretbray.com.
Originally published:
June 1, 2022

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