I question our definitions of sainthood. I question our qualifications for goodness. I suppose these doubts factor into my Magdalene poems (and probably all of my writing). According to legend, Mary Magdalene’s life was in danger after the death of the Christ, so she fled to a cave in France, where she hid and communed with God, exiting the cave a master.
Two years ago, by a series of coincidences, I ended up living in France for three months within an hour of the cave of legend. I had always written poems from Mary Magdalene’s point of view, but I blame the intensified obsession on France, where I spent my hours drowning in the Mer des Rochers (Sea of Rocks), an ocean of natural stone sculptures, castle ruins, and hiking trails behind the village where I stayed. I wrote for hours in those rocks, imagining Magdalene’s time in the cave.
CAVE PAINTING (MAGDALENE’S MANIA)
Today, I wrote your name on the walls again and again and again. Your syllables roared beneath ancient elk, carved into the stone by hands long since dust. In a flurry of drums, I conjured you.
If only the people could see me with these moths in my hair, my face dripping with dew. They wouldn’t be able to handle it. They have sanitized sainthood. Always, they leave out the horror story parts, though the holy books have the good sense to keep them in.
What is truth?
My halo is made of moss.
The wind is ravenous, licking at the mouth of the cave. I wonder if it wants to eat me, swallow me down, slurp me up into the net of eternity strung from star to star, the moon lassoed and rearing, the frenzied sun surging, ready to erupt.
I sing until I see God, until I see you, which is the same thing for me. I have learned more about forever, about me, from your eyes than I have learned from all the holy books in the world.
I lie still on the stone floor for hours, staring at my hands, not believing what I am.
So what about us, my love? What about the light we are made of? What about our Big Secret?
You may not recognize me next time we meet. While I was sleeping, lilacs grew between my toes. A lone, heartsick sparrow built a nest in the nook of my shoulder blade. I feed him berries at low tide.
When I am high, you walk to me on every wave of blue that rolls in. I drown in you. It is like stepping into an ocean.
One day, while lying on a hilltop, stone cold sober, I heard a voice say, “Don’t worry. You can breathe under water.” I never talk about it. They lock people up for shit like that.
I believe in Divine Madness, because I have lived it.