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    black & white photo of streetlights on a tree-lined lane

    Poem: “Prayer for Three Women, 21 and Under ”

    By Marjorie Maddox

    March 22, 2021

    3:00 a.m. and, again, I wake saying your names.
    Even the streetlights are out, shattered by somebody’s stones,
    and dark shapes itself only around some stray dog barking.
    Of course, the world is cold, no warmth from my words,
    and yet I pray them anyway, hold on to the vowels of your sighs.

    Where are you sleeping now, no-daughter-of-mine but one I loved
    for your love of someone I love, your whole-body smile toward him?
    In the distance, your long hair hovers above your retreating shadow.

    And what are you dreaming now, daughter of my friend,
    floating away from the room where you’ve locked yourself
    to protect yourself? The trees sing your silhouette
    until you answer with stars,
    dark and deep.

    And what are you praying now, daughter-of-mine,
    who does not pray but draws the leaving, the singing, the locking,
    the stars lodged deep in my own dark throat, reciting all your names,

    ones I, too, claimed in the escaping, in the letting go,
    in the fear that shatters words and then remakes them at 3:00 a.m.,
    returning sighs to this night—where fear still hovers over the found
    and floundering, listening for names—yours and mine—
    in the harsh bark of strays, in the fierce petitions of the lost.


    black & white photo of streetlights on a tree-lined lane

    Photograph by Nick Van der Zwan

    Contributed By MarjorieMaddox Marjorie Maddox

    Marjorie Maddox is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, and has published eleven collections of poetry, a short story collection, and over 500 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. For more information on Marjorie's work, see

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