Maria Rouphail, Mary Magdalene Theorizes

Maria Rouphail

He said Don’t
when I reached to touch him.
I didn’t quite get it, but I didn’t press him, either.
I had to remember
I wasn’t his mother or aunt,
His wife, sister, or somebody’s mother-in-law.
I wasn’t a man, like the ones who followed him around for three years.
Perhaps he was naked and he saw my embarrassment.
Perhaps the holes in his body still hurt.
His skin might have been hot and tight from the light
that blasted away the stone.
He might have been, somehow, wet and sticky from the afterbirth of his new body.
Hadn’t he been a corpse for nearly three days?
Now he was clean, gleaming.
It was five in the morning, the sky was black and purple,
the sun was just breaking over the hilltops.
I had been weeping for hours.
Imagine the shock I felt when I heard someone call my name!
Of course, I wanted to touch him.
Or maybe he didn’t say anything.
Maybe I strode right up to his face, and he didn’t object.
Maybe he kissed my hair without saying a word.
Maybe I kissed him back.
Maybe the story changed, after I told it, and I was made to fail
at knowing the difference between daring and propriety, fear and faith.
I was clingy and possessive, it was said for a very long time,
the way a woman is in these situations.
Lot’s wife, for example.
She was that way, they say,
mourning the walls where her children left their handprints,
her lovely loom.
She couldn’t move on, and now
that’s what they say about me.
How do they know I didn’t simply love him,
was happy he was alive,
my whole self ringing like a bell.

Author’s Comment: “Mary Magdalene Theorizes” reflects my indebtedness to Wislawa Szymborska’s persona poem, “Lot’s Wife,” and it experiments with some of the latter’strategies of subversion and irony. My poem makes no attempt at theology, per se. After Szymborska (and Louise Gluck in “Circe’s Power”), I’m attempting principally to enflesh a character that has been traditionally and somewhat ambiguously allegorized.
Bio: Maria Rouphail is the author of Apertures, and Second Skin. Her poem, “Crater at Popocatepetl,” won Honorable Mention in the 2016 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition. Her poem, “It’s OK to Say These Things” has been anthologized in Red Sky (Sable Books, 2016). She is currently at work on her third poetry collection.

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