Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Just Yours

[From the archives: August 2005.]



Her son dead
Mary abandons care
Walks days to the naked mountain.

No trees, god said in a fit of rage—
So said the Romans who stripped them.

At the foot of the mountain,
Hundreds of stone babies,
The size of one,
The heft of three:
There is a howling in their midst.

One by one,
She carries each to the mountaintop:
Still the howling rages in her ears,
The rage of mute stone children,
The rage of a woman past caring
Caring still.

Each in her shawl,
Rage a mute witness.
The third day her feet are bleeding:
There are hundreds yet to go.

Nights she sleeps under dark moons, glacial stars.
A season changes before all are on the mount,
Blind stone nursery at her feet.
She thinks of her son,
His baskets of fish,
Her winnowed soul.

For two days she sleeps,
Wakes to howling ceased:
One babe cries in its stead.

She is too weary to stop the care that rises in her breast.
Slowly, slowly, she walks the stones,
Comes to the olive skin of the wailing child,
Its stone case cracked like a giant egg.
She stoops to gather him, as the aquifer rises in her chest.

Damned to care.

The babe sleeps at her naked breast.
Another two days they sleep.

Mary wakes to the sound of wind in trees,
White moon through branches,
These are thirty, forty, fifty year old trees,
Hundreds of them,
At each foot another broken stone casing.

God did not wonder at the tears,
Nor at the fires she built,
Nor the shelter she declined to.

There is no wonder at pain that twists the spine,
Loss that stills the heart.
No wonder at water rising through limestone.

The wonder was that she claimed the miracle as her own:
Him she forgot.


After three years on the mountain,
She left with the boy,
Moved to the river valley,
Clear water through leather-smooth
Cypress trees.
The boy, too, A fish in water,
Turned nut brown by the sun.

One afternoon,
The boy turned four,
They walked to the village:
The boy’s eyes fell upon scrolls,
Hers upon the knife.

Back in the woods,
The boy drew figures in river mud;
Nights, by the fire, Mary practiced throwing
The knife into the heart of a cypress at thirty feet.

Gabriel came first,
The same whispered rustle,
The same there almost not:
He sat beside her at the fire,
Looked at the boy sleeping.

“No,” she said.
She knew she could get away with it—
He was just the messenger boy.
His rueful smile told of the more to come.

Raphael’s hand on her shoulder two nights later
She shrugged off.
“No more. I would rather die.”
She watched as he melted into the river.

“Thug,” she said,
As Michael sat down
Beside the sleeping boy.
She set the knife upon
The rock between them.

“Of course. His bulldog.”

Adding, “I swear,
By all that’s left within me,
I’ll take your heart and both your wings.”

Michael nodded at the gouged tree behind him.
Not fear, but sadness, drove him off.

Three months passed,
Enough time to begin to think she was free again.
After four months, she released the boy from her shawl,
Let him sleep down by the river.

Then one morning, in the mist,
She woke to Jesse.
Scarred at hand and foot.
No begging in his eye,
The look of what was his to take.

“Even you—even you, my son,
I will cut.”

The boy woke:
Moved instinctively to the scarred man.

Mary felt her lungs collapse:
She knew too well the seductions
Of the sunlit world.

The boy stopped:
Saw the blade at his mother’s belly.
Even Jesse’s cool was unnerved.

“Him,” she said. “Send Him.”

“You know—”

“Not even you, Jesse. I lost you already. This knife runs deeper.”


Two nights later,
Tremors in the ground,
Clouds covered the night’s icy sky.

Mary spoke to the trembling darkness around her:

“Not your tricks, old man. Just you.”

The trembling stopped. He sat across the fire from her.

“One was not enough?” she said.

“They’re all mine, sister.” Paused a moment. “You’re mine.”

“Dead, I’m yours.”

The old man looked intently at his fingers,
Bit off a sliver of nail, spit. It stuck
To his lower lip.

“Dead don’t mean nuthin’ to me.”

“Clearly, old man, but you’ve eaten your last of mine.”

“No one is coerced.”


He rose, shimmering between shape and tremor. Shape reached for the boy, enough shape for the knife to stick. She had him pinned to the world; tremor flamed into mist.

Old. He felt old: too old to care, too old to annihilate what he knew to be his nemesis. Too old not to let shape win.


She bled him dry.

Dragged across the river, the vultures finished him; sun bleached his bones.

At six years of age, the boy swam him back.

The two of them walked his bones to the mountain, strung them from a tree, faint clicks in the wind.

She gathered the boy into her arms, watched the breeze catch the fingerbones of a hand.

“Nobody dies for yours. Nobody dies for mine.”

“What, then?” said the boy.

“Your own. You die for your own. Nobody else’s.”



Anonymous Richard Wells said...

Stunning. A re-telling that is its own thing and "adds to the store of knowledge in the universe." I am hugely impressed.

9:02 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Richard: I'm not even sure anymore what stirred this into being. I've always been much closer to Mary from a devotional stance, and the "dying for our sins" notion has never really taken hold with me.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Richard Wells said...

Whatever. I think it's an extraordinary piece of work, and quantum leaps beyond what I normally see on the internet.

11:55 PM  
Blogger Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Murat,

I'm with Richard.

This poem is stupefying; I'm left dazed in a fog of allusion and depth and colour and taste and sound, pregnant with meaning and possibility.

I am harassing Richard to create a beautiful chap book with his poems (I like holding what I read).

The poetry chapbook campaign now extends to you, also.

Please, consider it.

I would happily get it bound in China or in India. Or elsewhere.

In Cordoban leather or silk or rough, coloured paper.

This is monumental poem.

Bravo. Bravo.

It deserves to be held, in the hand and in the mind. And I memorise far better from the printed word rather than the coldly glowing LED letters, though your poem transcends the LEDs.


12:28 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Richard: Thank you again. I am deeply honored by your words.

8:08 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Chris: I am honored to have you as a reader. My wife and I have created a number of chapbooks in the past: small runs, for family and friends. It's probably getting on time for another, though it may be a little longer before I can get to it: just today, I am starting a play that I have planned to write over the past year.

Rest assured, I will send you a copy of the new chapbook, once it is created.

My best wishes to you.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

Hi Murat,

I jumped over from Chris's blog. Your poem is amazing. I think I will need to read it several times throughout the week to absorb it all.


5:55 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Teresa: Thank you for your words. I've been greatly enjoying your conversations with Chris over in Akkadia; I almost think of you (and Pommes, of course) as co-Sepirus. My very best to you.

6:19 PM  
Blogger jsd said...

haunting, beautiful, painful to read.

10:54 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

jsd: Thank you for taking the time, and thank you for your words.

11:06 AM  
Blogger MichaelO said...

Wow. This is an amazingly complete work, my friend. I'm in agreement with all of the commentary already shared. This is a fully encompassed tale in a beautifully scripted poem. A great work that makes me think of Beowulf, Iliad, or Inferno. Perhaps not quite so epic, but equally stunning in its imagery and summary. Bravo, maestro!

12:28 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

You are most generous, Miguel. This came in one big whoosh, and I was glad to ride it. Have a great weekend, and say hello to Bobby Johnson and the Duchess at the crossroads.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Dee Martin said...

with JSD, this is painful to read. I started it and had to walk away and come back to it. Raw and stark, no window dressing.

2:56 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Ms Dee: I'm very honored that you would read this. I know where you stand on the road to Damascus, and that alone makes this a difficult read. Peace to you, sister.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Dee Martin said...

I don't believe in sissy faith. I've wondered what is was like for a very human Mary to walk the path she walked. Good thing it wasn't me. I'd have been looking for a knife myself. I would have run with him, hid him, something - anything. Told you I'm a sinner. If I'm honest - if I have to choose between my son and all humanity? All I can say - is again, good thing it wasn't me.

7:53 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Dee: I knew that was no sissy faith that carries you. It's just that I am aware that this piece - as much as I love it and as much as it meant to me to write it - could still be seen as very sacrilegious to some readers, and understandably so. I write a lot of things from a spiritual place, but my journey is not an orthodox one, nor does it hold to things that many hold dear. (My not holding to them is not, however, meant in disrespect of others' faiths and truths.)

Through many many years of searching and wandering, I've always felt a deep connection to Mary and her representations in other faiths: she has kept me tethered to the world of spirit in ways that really go beyond my penchant for endless words. So, this honors her and explores an imaginative space of her, even if the Mary here is not even the Mary to whom I offer my devotions.

I thank you again for your reading of this piece.

10:49 PM  
Anonymous missalister said...

Still on my way to April, to Galilee… This is masterful, exquisite, whole enough to fill my mouth to chew like bliss like love. Damned to care…white moon…no wonder at pain that twists the spine…the boy’s eyes fell upon the scrolls, hers upon the knife…no, she said…I would rather die…Thug!...I’ll take your heart and both your wings…sadness drove him off… And more of your supreme dialog… Dead, I’m yours…she had him pinned to the world… Just Yours, just gorgeous. I’m bookmarking it.

2:04 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Duchess: Glad you spent some time here; this is one of my favorites. It pinioned me one morning till it was done.

11:59 AM  

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