Friday, February 01, 2008

Quantum States of Mary

Poems I wrote while I was homeless, with autobiographical notes.
November 1995:

Wes Browning, a long-time member of StreetLife Gallery, was also active with Real Change, Seattle's street-newspaper, which covered homeless and poverty issues and was sold by homeless vendors. He took my poem down to Real Change, and the next time Tim Harris, the Real Change director, was visiting Wes at the gallery, they invited me to join the Real Change editorial committee.

The December issue was being collected: a women's issue. I had one poem that I had been working on literally for years, that had begun with the image of Mary nursing the Christ child under the shadow of a cross on the stable wall, and the thought, "Oh my God, did she know?" I had more images now that I wanted to add, and a motivation to get it done for the Christmas issue. When I had it completed, it was a two-page poem -- I submitted it anyway.

Not only was it published, as a two-page spread, it was listed on the cover, and the cover art by Wes Browning was based on it.

Quantum States of Mary

Mary,
holding your baby;
did you see a shadow fall
on the stable wall?
Did the wise men dare to tell you
all they knew?

Mary,
who are you?

Frightened child bride,
towed by an angry Joseph
through the swirl of history,
shouting prophets
thundering over your huddled form...

Untouched maiden
meekly kneeling
to the Master of the Universe,
raising one cuckoo
and a flock of sparrows,
never losing serenity
or innocence...

Conniving seductress
foisting her bastard off on God,
hoaxing Joseph to raise it,
muddling the boy into visions,
all to mask your own guilt...

Daughter of the prophets
poised in ancient wisdom,
cuddling the sweetest infant
to the tenderest breast,
nursing him to sacrifice and glory...

Mary,
who are you?

Mary,
did you ever fear?

Joseph,
cuckold of God -
did he take it out on you?

Or was he so kind and noble
you felt unworthy,
distrusting any moment
of anger
or any human weakness?

Your child-man
who never cried at night,
or begged for toys
then broke them,
who never raided the cookie jar,
or rubbed dirt in his best friend's hair -
did you know how weird he was,
before you raised the other boys?

Did you ever lie awake
with some deep grief;
did he come hold your hand,
wisdom far too ancient in his eyes?

When you found him
lecturing the scholars,
did you see a cross-shaped shadow
on his path?

Did you fear for him, Mary?
Did you fear Him?

Mary,
I am afraid.

To fall,
to fail,
to feel...
I am afraid of pain
and of the long slow numbing dark
without pain...

Mary,
I do not know
who I am.

With no home and no money
am I helpless,
hopeless,
sick and pitiful?

Am I angry,
robbed and ruined
by the System,
Them,
the Others,
Mother,
Men?

Am I stupid,
wrong,
a wicked woman,
reaping the returns
of evil ways?

Am I the player,
one strike down
but grinning,
setting my feet
to jump back in the game?

Mary,
am I your child?
Will you hold and warm me
until I am ready
for my destiny?

Mary,
am I your sister?

Mary,
where are you?

Have you found your ground
beyond the swirl of history,
cascading quantum images
others painted for you;
have you made a place
to be your self?

Mary,
show me.

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