Lamentation of Mary Magdalene (from the Aramaic: they have taken away my lord)

In honor of the feast day of Mary Magdalene, I wanted to share a poem I wrote honoring her sacrifices, strengths, and doubts,. This is from my long-in-progress Lamentations series, which imagines Biblical characters in their darkest moments. 

I’ve scraped my palms bloody
trying to roll away that stone, teacher mine,
but it appears the Romans can keep their word after all.

Does my visitation surprise you, Son of Man?
Did you really expect me to wash away your memory like
lamb’s blood from a doorway simply because
I can no longer kiss your calloused hands,
hear the Galilee in your Aramaic,
doze off to the lulling rhythm of your breath?
I thought you better acquainted with my stubbornness, lord.
You are my Sabbath and I will observe you
regardless of how many drink to your death.

Where shall I begin?
Your mother’s been very kind to me;
she makes sure I eat and I ensure she sleeps.
We are bound by blood, she says, bound by
the communion wine which stained us up to the elbows
when we washed and anointed your broken body.
I wonder if she realizes adopting a crossroads-girl from Magdala
will never fill the hole left by a martyr-boy born under the Eastern star.

Peter cannot breathe for missing you,
and John weeps like a woman in labor.
The rest have retreated, drawn themselves into hiding
like sightless creatures blinded by the light of a new day.
It’s as though everything we could have been
gave up the ghost on that tree with you
and now all that’s left are girls with ruined reputations
and boys with scarred fishermen’s hands
staring back at us from cups of bitter wine.

What do you want me to say, teacher?
That your people drink deep from the well of doubt,
that something dark and empty roams the streets at night,
crowing it’s bloody triumph from the temple walls?
That every gulp of air in a world without the promise of you
is like filling my lungs with poison, like drowning alive?
I came to give you word of your people, Yeshua, so here it is.

If ever you loved us,
do not abandon us now when all we have left
are riddles and parables and the hope of a third day.
Do not inflict us with Sheol,
with the absence of you.

 

INDIE RADAR: Queering Lent

queering lent

After seeing a number of my friends toting around Queering Lent, I decided to pick up the slim volume of devotional poems penned by a nonbinary pansexual Presbyterian pastor. Written as a spiritual practice over the course of last year’s Lent, the highly personal poems touch on interwoven themes of suffering, identity, and empathy burnout, all while employing classical mystical language of God as Lover.

Independent publishing can be a toss-up, so when I find something that shines in the lackluster mire of self-published titles, I’m quick to promote it. Queering Lent gleams despite its unpretentious packaging, and while some of the poems are unremarkable, many have a sort of understated profundity to them that’s hard to forget. In particular, I found the poetic sermon on binaries, the expansiveness of God, and the upside-down kingdom of Heaven in the back of the book to be particularly stirring, and I’ll be returning to it again and again in this Lenten season and beyond.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Slats a number of times, and they’re a truly unique artist and ardent lover of God who has a way of infecting atmospheres with joy. If you’re  interested in learning more about the creative process behind Queering Lent, you can check out this feature on Slats over at Sanctified Art. You can buy a copy of Queering Lent on Amazon, and 100% of the proceeds go to organizations committed to supporting queer and trans people in the church.

POETRY REVIEW: Ask Baba Yaga

ask

Title: Ask Baba Yaga by Taisia Kitaiskaia
Genre:  Poetry/Self Help
Rating:  ★★★ (3/5)

Ask Baba Yaga imagines what it may be like if Baba Yaga, a fearsome and ancient witch from Slavic folklore, got hold of a typewriter and started cryptically answering the pleas for advice piling up on her doorstep. Existential crises, career crossroads, and love woes alike are stabbed at with incisive prose-poem responses juxtaposed with illustrations in stark colors. Sometimes the responses as earthy and pragmatic, other times they are macabre parables; oftentimes they are inscrutable recipes the reader is not yet wise enough to understand.

As an ambitious young woman navigating the briers of a mid-life crises and the tangled road of true love, I’m pretty sure I am Ask Baba Yaga’s target audience. I often felt like I had survived a number of strange woodland trials and had been granted a single boon by Kitaiskaia’s prickly personae, who hacks away at the weeds of mundane life with strange misspellings and turns of phrase. Some of the questions and metaphors felt repetitive by the end of the book, which ran a little long for my tastes in poetry. It’s also possible that older readers might find Baba Yaga’s advice more suitable for a younger set who are still being battered about by self-doubt and new love, but I think that people from all walks of life can glean a little wisdom, and maybe a few spells, from between the pages of Kitaiskaia’s book.