La Maddalena: Canto II

3 Oct

…you know when I said I’d get back to a regular posting schedule?  Well, that was a terrible, terrible lie.  However, from this point onwards, I’m hoping to post at least weekly.  But any of you who have been to college can probably attest that there’s just so much going on all the time.  And I am easily distracted.

But I am nattering on, and that’s not what you want to read about.  Here’s some poetry.

All rights to *MartaSyrko of


you spent your time writing

sapphic odes to spiderwebs and salt air.

you slept on the streetcorners of jerusalem

and collected the tears of men

in lead-stoppered bottles.


you were

a king among women,

a red-lipped wild thing:


wise as solomon, smooth-faced as david.

when you cast your hands into the air

you caught fistfuls of moon hues and metaphor,

a net dredging fish from ocean silt


until the man with ground-glass skin

and baling-wire eyes shaded your doorway,

two rough-skinned figs in his hands, offerings

which you took without hesitation.

in the torpid warmth of june he cleansed you

of seven demons, unhurriedly


while a transistor radio played on the windowsill

and grape shot peppered the alleys with broken glass.


by day your lover preached to vicious-eyed masses

while you took pine pitch

and adorned your body with it,

a stroke for every parable:

the fleshly geography of bridegrooms and mustard seeds


here a coil of black lines around the arms

there a river delta of contours

in the hollows of the spine

(for this they would call you

a painted woman).


by evening you drank sparrow-colored wine

with twelve barefoot men

and scythed your hair off root-deep

to wash the feet of the thirteenth.


then the night of the skull:

broken bread and bones,

the clamor of pharisees.

at last the rifle shot.

the earth ruptured like so many



three days tautened, rope-tight,

to months

but there was no stone to roll away.


this time you spent weeping on the steps

of the grand cathedral

waiting for your hair to grow long again.


Like this poem?  Then check out the others in the series:
Canto I

Cantos III and IV

I’m always interested to see how other people interpret the story of Mary Magdalene, so if your opinions differ from or even match mine, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.


6 Responses to “La Maddalena: Canto II”

  1. briandrush October 4, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Shared to Facebook and Google+. Wonderful. I don’t necessarily want to comment on Mary Magdalene but would let the poem stand as itself.

    • elizabethballou October 4, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      Thank you so much! I am quite cheered to see you are still reading my work, even after my hiatus. Warms my heart and all.

  2. Steve B October 4, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    damn that’s good

    • elizabethballou October 4, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

      glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by. The third and fourth cantos will be up soon.


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

    […] La Maddalena: Canto 2 […]

  2. La Maddalena: Canto I « letters of mist - October 12, 2012

    […] Canto II […]

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