La Maddalena: Canto I

8 Sep

Well, I did promise that I was going to get back to my regular posting schedule (Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays).  But then my residential college held a game of Infection last night, so I spent the evening sprinting around the engineering complex, whacking zombies with automatic nerf guns and oversized foam swords.  (Priorities, you know.)

So here’s the post I intended on sharing yesterday.

Maria Maddalena, also known as Magdalene Penitent, is a sculpture carved by the Renaissance master Donatello in 1453.  It resides in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence, Italy.  After seeing it on a trip last summer, I couldn’t stop thinking about the image of Mary Magdalene that it presented and (as I usually do when I don’t know exactly how to answer questions pertaining to art) wrote this series of poems  about it.

Mary Magdalene is so often cast as the whore, or as the token female follower of Jesus.  But that image never satisfied me.   What is her significance, this woman whose name means ‘tower fortress’ and who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears?  What were her seven demons, and why did they have to be cast out?  Why was she the first one to witness the Resurrection?

I may not be a Christian, but her complexity has always made me curious.



the way you writhed to those old jukebox tunes

as if you had come out of your mother’s womb

with those legs sinuously twisted –


you could drive all the boys who idled

in their rusted chevys by the dumpsters

and back alleys



at night they carved your face on pieces of driftwood

and set them loose like prayers

on the sea of galilee


but you laughed and twined your guitar-string limbs

into olive trees and sucked on lemons

until the sores in your mouth

cracked and bled.


sour red rivulets

watered the roots of burning bushes

and you said nothing.


Check out the other poems in the series:

Canto II

Cantos III and IV


One Response to “La Maddalena: Canto I”


  1. La Maddalena: Cantos III and IV « letters of mist - October 12, 2012

    […] Like this poem?  Then check out the others in the series: La Maddalena: Canto 1 […]

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