To Mary of Bethany, the Patron Saint of Single Women
“Everyone in me is a bird, I am beating all my wings” – Anne Sexton
We are a strange breed – birds without nests, without young to feed.
Starlings. Migratory creatures. We arc the sky in shapes of letters,
illuminate, rename this world with our strange cries, our elusive ways.
Mary, I’ve been accused of withholding my body, my soul, of sealing
myself like a tomb. I’ve been accused of wandering, of being lost.
When I turned twenty-nine, my mother asked my boyfriend Is this it?
Are you two settling down? I was at a different table, taking shots of Bailey’s,
the sweeter the better to drown out my father’s absence from yet another
birthday. I promised myself no one would have me, except a little here and there,
like that drop of sugar that rims the glass days after the drink is gone. I don’t see
your acts as extravagant, what they said about you as mystery, she wastes away
for the prophet. You poured spikenard over his hair, let it spill down His tunic,
you might have saved a few drops for his feet where you bent low and kissed
the dust, the blisters where the sandal leather rubbed them raw. This was
your only ecstasy. Why not give all that you have to the feathered one, the one
you know is leaving? Your sister might have chosen to marry, to cross the sea,
to fight winged dragons. After he ascended you wandered the desert land
of your country, fed the poor from your own hands, pouring over his teachings,
waiting for His body, like your brother’s, to return in a flap of wings, a fountain
of feathers. To find you the way this hawk finds your shadow as you rest under
a jagged canopy of olive trees, as you trace in the sand an alphabet of longing,
or is it loneliness, or not that at all, but a life you chose. We both end our days
by a fire, you alone with the cry of jackals, me counting the seconds with precision
while my father screams on the line about how marriage is the loneliest of houses.
Teach me how to let my body sink into starlight, to feel my bones grow large,
my back crack open. To seize the sky the next morning, testing my thousand wings.
To Mary of Magdala, the Patron Saint of Habitation
There isn’t a patron saint of women’s bodies – I’ve searched. There is no name to invoke when walking the streets and men call Hey baby, the things I’d like to do to you. My friend says, I wish men looked at me like that, but I am just searching for that stone in my pocket, the one I’ve rubbed smooth between my thumb and index. I touch it as one might touch a rosary. Which prayer would I circle in and to whom? And how can I cover this body without erasing its geographies, these breasts and thighs that map the mysterious ways it unfurled against my will? Mary of Magdala, is there a stone heavier than a body, a tomb larger than a self, a garden more verdant than flesh? And when you wrapped your arms around his knees, what did you feel? They say his resurrected form was like water, or like a gold-skeined swarm of bees. Did he slip from your hands, and spill onto your legs, your feet? Was that a kind of resurrection? Mary, I dreamt of getting to a nunnery, those generous folds of cloth in black and white safer than any shape. I wore my father’s t-shirts, extra larges, to hide what inhabited me. But even in those days of saggy clothes, my face, my hair gave me away. Little woman, the men called, I know what you’re hiding. Mary, the sacred texts say your own body was a dwelling for demons, that Christ but looked into your eyes and they left you. Were they the ghosts of old lovers? Or soldiers who took what you refused to give? Were they the names you murmured in the dark, those names of sorrow we give ourselves when the body becomes a burden too heavy to lug?
Simona Chitescu Weik is a poet and PhD candidate born in Romania, now living in Atlanta with her husband of six years and their wild & beautiful 2-year old daughter. She is currently working on her dissertation, embracing all the dimensions of mothering, practicing yoga for her sanity, and teaching college students the art of writing. She is also a graduate of the Allender Center Lay Counseling Training program, and has dreams of bringing story work into integration with her academic and artistic life. She is learning to embrace the inward paradox of death and resurrection.