EXILE: (A MAGDELENE POEM)

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Mary Magdalene in the Cave, by Joseph Lefebvre

Mary Magdalene is one of my favorite mythical figures.  I write from her perspective often.  According to legend, after Christ was crucified, her life was danger, so she fled to a cave in France. Last year, I was invited to stay in a friend’s unoccupied home in a small village in France for a few months. I started dreaming Magdalene while I was there, so I ran a Google search and found out I was about an hour away from her cave.

I often find myself “accidentally” visiting the places associated with the mythological figures I write about.  For instance, I just finished teaching in Sicily, the place from which Persephone was said to have been kidnapped by Hades. (I write about Persephone often as well.)  I didn’t plan the trip there.  Rather, a college I often teach for invited me to teach for a study abroad trip.  I feel lucky that my life is riddled with such serendipities.

I’ve been invited to return to the French village this summer.  Maybe that’s why Magdalene has been on my mind.  This is written from her perspective, while she was hiding in that cave. It will be included in the book of prose poems I am working on, called So Speak the Stars.  (Both images used in this blog are by Joseph Lefebvre, a French artist who lived in the 19th century.  His images of the Magdalene are my favorites of all time.  If you ever want to know what to buy me for a Christmas, a print of either of these will do the trick.)

EXILE

Tonight the moon is hollow, hanging as it does a million miles away, like you. It is an empty egg, speckled with dark holes, drained of its light, like me, staring at the vastness of a night blistered by boiling stars, shredded by the never-ending specter of no-you.

My love, I have been stronger than you know.  I have fallen under wave after wave of moonlessness, ripped myself up from wretched ground, found another ounce of hope lingering in my bones, thrown it against the face of the unflinching sky, watched it ricochet back to me, screaming:

Tonight, I will not die. 
Not without him. 
Not without his eyes. 

The lines on your hands were my maps to truth. I followed them here to this hallowed place, where I have been sacrificed, unfaced, my human mask replaced with newborn god flesh. Tender, unused to cold wind and lightlessness, it wails in the night.

Our crosses stand stark,
denting the horizon.

The wrecked land has given birth to monsters and madness.  In my dreams you whispered we would have to leave one another for a while, as if we hadn’t already been banished to separate sides of the world, our flesh torn apart by dogs, our meat swallowed by crows.

In visions, I see in you in the cave where they have caged you.  Your eyes call me.

Come.
Come.
Come.

And if I could, I would hobble to you on shattered legs, sink into the rocky soil at your feet, kiss your Jesus toes, wash them with my hair, stare unwavering into your eyes, as you did on that night that has saved me a million times, unrelenting, repenting the prison that kept you from me. Your eyes whispered.

I know.
I know.
I know.

In dreams, you promise it is almost over. “Leave me once more, for one minute, and next time, we will go together,” you say, and I grab onto your words, wrestle them to the ground, mount them, ride them to heaven, hound God to return you to me this second, or else.  But what can I threaten? All I have belongs to her already.

Your eyes.
Your eyes.
Your eyes.

haunt me, eat me alive. I was always going to die. What a glorious death, to be dissolved in the relentless rain of the love of you.

Every minute without you is a thousand years. I hear your voice in the thunder. It plunders my massacred mind.  “Find me,” it says.  “Where?” I ask. “Tell me, and I will go.” My ears do not yet know the language in which you whisper the directions.

Liber numquam.
Numquam ibi.

This is how the story of resurrection goes. First comes the death. My bones love you and shudder to rise from windswept soil.  When they do, my skeleton will walk the world, find you, and fall into your grave. We will save one another. Together, we will rise at dawn.

I know what the butcherers did to me, they did to you ten times. Their crimes were seen by the God who stands just beyond that sagging moon, her hands raised, ready to save, poised to flood the world with light.

Beloved son of the rising sun, I pray only this.

Mercy.
Mercy.
Mercy.

When the day-waves come, may they wash me back to you.

mary magdalene joseph lefebvre.jpg
El dolor de Maria Magdalena, by Joseph Lefebvre
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