13. Hailey Bachrach

A Prayer to Saint Agatha of Sicily


You live on a little tin medallion that I keep in my wallet.


My grandmother gave us all medals of the saints we’d been named after, and we are all named after saints.


That was always the best part of Sunday school, when whoever was teaching it (and now I can see they were just children, basically, just high school kids and sometimes younger even than that) could be persuaded to leave off the Bible stuff and talk about saints instead. Those were the good bits, the gory bits, even better than Jesus beating up the moneylenders. And of course we wanted to hear the story of our saint, those of us who weren’t named Mary, Mark, or Matthew.


The medallion I have does not feature the part of the story that my brothers always wanted to hear again and again and again so that they could scream in disgust while also having an excuse to think about breasts— severed breasts, admittedly, but maybe that made it better, to have the breasts without the complication of a woman attached. They tortured you by cutting off your breasts. And the more you tell the story, the farther and father away it drifts from a person and into the shiny silver little medal, a painting of a woman who can hold her own breasts on a plate, but does not bleed.


In the dusty storeroom at Sunday school, stacked high with desks and old props from Christmas pageants, with a boy named after an apostle, I thought suddenly in the middle of it all about you and your breasts, as downstairs in the classroom some high school kid only a little older than us told kids only a little younger than us about the things that they do to saints’ bodies, and I wondered, if I were really my namesake, would my breasts come off in his hands, and would it happen neatly, cleanly, like in the pictures?


Later I thought, probably not. Nothing else happened neatly and cleanly and like in the movies. I wondered, if I were really my namesake, would Saint Peter come and heal me? But then I realized that there was nothing broken to heal.


I realized that my body was made for more than martyrdom.


I like to think that you wonder why people name their daughters after you, after your suffering and your loneliness. I like to think you receive our prayers and think to yourself, well, I’ll do my best. I keep you in my wallet to remember that there are the shiny, silver clasped hands, but there is also always a woman, too, who surely, surely must have bled.   


Where are you currently based? 

London, England

In one word, what was most important to keep in your piece from the last?


What kind of work do you usually make? 

I'm usually a playwright.

Any projects on the horizon?

Mostly essays! But I'm blogging about plays and mostly Shakespeare over at inlittlestars.blogspot.com