Sacred Nights: Panthea


POEM: The Dark Sister

I do not stand in Her shadow: I am Her Shadow.

She is the throne and I am the house.

She is the giver of life and I am the welcomer of the dead

She is the grieving madonna and I am the hysterical whore

She is piteous and I am maudlin

She is white and gold and rose and blue

I am red and black and red and red and red

Behind Isis, Nephthys. Behind Tara, Vajrayogini.

Behind Mary of Nazareth, Mary of Magdala.

I am red and red and red and red and red.

I am black. I am empty. I am ashes.

I am the cast-off mother of the unacknowledged child

Who will never inherit the throne or call the house his own.

He can only come and go, obedient as a hound,

At his brother’s will. She can only throw off her veil

And dance in the broad daylight, beneath a searing sun,

Because no one dares look at her. I am the dark mother

Of the unremembered daughter, Nebt-Het, Melinoe,

Sara la Kali, red and black and bloody and beautiful.

Honor me, or you have not honored all the goddesses.

Honor me, or the Beautiful Boy is without his bride.


Saturnalia: To the Mothers


Mother is a place to rest, a warmth, a tuneless song.
Mother is a voice that cuts.
Mother is a lady in a blue veil, a blue robe.
Mother is a lady with a baby in her arms.
Mother is a grandmother fixing hot tea and cold cereal on a school morning
Mother is a grandmother putting my clothes near the radiator
Mother is a woman who sleeps late while I rise early
Mother is a woman who smokes and drinks coffee
Mother is a May Day procession dressed in white
Mother is an ivory statue of the Virgin and Child with a Gothic sway
Mother is a possibly heretical vierge ouvrante
Mother is the goddess Isis with baby Horus on her lap
Mother is an icon with stars on the Virgin’s brow and shoulders
Mother is a Middle Eastern woman wrapped in layers of veils and shawls
carrying her child away from danger, shielding it with her body
Mother is my mother’s mother’s mother, who died when I was one
Mother is my mother’s father’s mother, was her name Louisa?
Mother is my father’s mother Grace, his adoptive mother,
and his mother Clara, his birth mother, whose last name was Gunsales
Mother is the woman who bore my husband a child
who bore her second husband a child
Mother is my sister, who bore my niece
Mother is my niece, who has borne a son
Mother is a link in a chain, a cell in the umbilical cord
Mother is the land I walk on, the nourishing earth, the turning planet
Mother is the night sky, spangled with stars
the brightness of the stars
and the darkness between
the beginning
and the end

For the Dormition of the Theotokos

Miryam in Ephesus

I am dying in Ephesus. The city is gold and white
and pink, like the flesh of fresh-caught fish
in the marketplace. The city smells of fish, of
female flesh, but the light is golden. There is
a bubble of golden light inside my withered
body that is about to break free.

John is here, and the others. Mary is here,
I think. Or I see them, in the golden light,
and think that they are, even if they are
far away. He is here, closest of all, who
has been distant so many years: My god,
my son. Here in Ephesus I learned
that I was not the only girl who gave birth
to a god. No, not alone. Dionysus came
from Semele, Herakles from Alkmene.
I wonder if their families, their neighbors
disbelieved them, too? Joseph could have
had me stoned; he was judged
for his forbearance.

John, and Mary Magdalene, and Thomas,
and Philip. Peter, and the others.
They are waiting for me to die. Waiting
for a miracle. Will I float up to heaven
like a feather on a breeze? Will I
disappear into a dazzle of golden
light? What wise last words will I
give to those who are waiting?
I see my Son, my Yeshua, shining
like the rising sun, O lux, O oriens.
And yet I also see that many-breasted
goddess by whom the city swears,
darling of the silversmiths, mistress
of the bees, virgin and mother, coming
toward me, and with her the winged one,
bearer of the sistrum, she who suckles
Horus, wife of the bearded lord. “Come,”
my Son says, “I will make of you a goddess.”
“Come,” say Isis and Artemis, “we will
teach you how to be a goddess.”

In the gold and the white and the heat and
the light, the bubble within me rises at last
and bursts. O higher than the Seraphim,
more glorious than the Cherubim, rejoice,
healing of my flesh, rejoice, salvation
of my soul, hail, Bride unbrided!