my birthday present

my birthday present
My awesome birthday present 1/26/11 (see story under my first post)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Casting Out the Seven Devils.

Before you click on the link below, in which Marie Howe speaks her poem, Magdalene, read it through  to yourself. Although I felt confused on my initial reading, part of me understood and I felt connected. Hearing her read the poem is powerful proof that poetry needs to be read out loud. I will make a comment below the post explaining how the poem affected me. 

Magdalene – The Seven Devils

Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out" —Luke 8:2.
The first was that I was very busy.
The second — I was different from you: whatever happened to you couldnot happen to me, not like that.
The third — I worried.
The fourth — envy, disguised as compassion.
The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,
The aphid disgusted me. But I couldn't stop thinking about it.
The mosquito too — its face. And the ant — its bifurcated body.
Ok the first was that I was so busy.
The second that I might make the wrong choice,
because I had decided to take that plane that day,
that flight, before noon, so as to arrive early
and, I shouldn't have wanted that.
The third was that if I walked past the certain place on the street
the house would blow up.
The fourth was that I was made of guts and blood with a thin layer
of skin lightly thrown over the whole thing.
The fifth was that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living
The sixth — if I touched my right arm I had to touch my left arm, and if I
touched the left arm a little harder than I'd first touched the right then I
to retouch the left and then touch the right again so it would be even.
The seventh — I knew I was breathing the expelled breath of everything that
was alive and I couldn't stand it,
I wanted a sieve, a mask, a, I hate this word — cheesecloth —
to breath through that would trap it — whatever was inside everyone else that
entered me when I breathed in
No. That was the first one.
The second was that I was so busy. I had no time. How had this happened?
How had our lives gotten like this?
The third was that I couldn't eat food if I really saw it — distinct, separate
from me in a bowl or on a plate.
Ok. The first was that I could never get to the end of the list.
The second was that the laundry was never finally done.
The third was that no one knew me, although they thought they did.
And that if people thought of me as little as I thought of them then what was
The fourth was I didn't belong to anyone. I wouldn't allow myself to belong
to anyone.
The fifth was that I knew none of us could ever know what we didn't know.
The sixth was that I projected onto others what I myself was feeling.
The seventh was the way my mother looked when she was dying—her mouth wrenched into an O so as to take in as much air…The sound she made — the gurgling sound — so loud we had to speak louder to hear each other over it.
And that I couldn't stop hearing it—years later—
grocery shopping, crossing the street —
No, not the sound — it was her body's hunger
finally evident.
—what our mother had hidden all her life.
For months I dreamt of knucklebones and roots,
the slabs of sidewalk pushed up like crooked teeth by what grew underneath.
The underneath —that was the first devil.
It was always with me.
And that I didn't think you — if I told you — would understand any of this —
Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. 

You can hear Krista Tippet interview this poet on this podcast site. I found it fascinating.


pkcyphert said...

I react to this poem on a very visceral level. Here are some of the reason I relate to this poem. It's the perseverating, not letting go, making a big deal about something that is nothing. Never feeling satisfied that I have said what I meant to say, frustrated I have not sufficiently explained myself. It is the graphic images she speaks of, the aphids and ants. It is the feeling that no one would understand. The self doubt. The vulnerabilty. The confusion, being baffled by my own thoughts and the intricate and haphazard paths they weave. And then I like to think about Mary Magdalene talking to Jesus, describing the 7 devils, and to think that she was this real, and that he was too.

I will be curious to know how you react to this poem.

Loretta said...

This poem reaches me on a personal and an emotional level. Cleaning my "little house." (taking care of my own life) always seemed to me to be such a large job. I was never confident that I could do it well enough. Magdelene must have felt this way. As Marie Howe and Krista Tippett discussed their own work, I saw that they. too, had much self doubt. This is something for women to think about. Remember that Jesus did not judge her.

pkcyphert said...

Lisa tried to post a comment but was not able. Perhaps you have the same issue? I got myself a ggogle account for just such an occasion. I don't get any mail on it, just use it to poast on blogs. I will post her comment separately.

pkcyphert said...

I read this poem years ago – I don’t remember where. I liked it then, and even more now. Apparently, it’s one that simmers just below the surface. Like Loretta, I felt I could relate to the self-doubt in it, and a strong sense of scurrying around, not able to decide which direction to go. It’s a very sad poem, and a frustrated one.


marie-jo said...

"The fifth was that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living"

That's the most striking line in the poem, in my view (ironically reminding me of Rosette Lamont, a friend who, before she passed away, taught in Sarah Lawrence, just like Marie Howe). The hesitancy, the artistic stuttering is a bit unnerving, but it serves Howe in addressing several issues and small, routine tragedies (although, is there really a small tragedy?). What I retain is invisibility. How invisible we feel sometimes, and how painful that invisibility can be because, in the end, the eye of the other is the giver of life.