Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Stele


I became a bride

then a mother

giving him female fruit, a daughter

and two miscarried children.


My girl is beautiful, perfumed

but dead to him

as the young child we saw

holding a pomegranate


on  the Greek stele

in Ankara. I loved the city

and gave her its name, its shadow.

He didn't even care enough

to care. He wanted sons

and my womb kept failing.


He threatened divorce

but the council said wait.

They determined that I had sinned

( in some way) greatly shaming God;


and we had to pray. Atone

through  song, fasting and  burnt

offerings of  silk, parchment, hair -- all

my  vanities.


I told him this was madness.

He said it was the wisdom

of holy men


precise and sound

as the geometry

in our courtyard gate.


I grabbed his  knife

and ran into the garden. The almond tree stood

almost flinging its long

limbs into the light like a whip.


I cut off a branch, ripped  its  flowers

and came inside. I begged him to beat me,

 flog  my body until its breath

 coughed out the flaw.


He turned his head and hinged his hands

together. They shook.  His knuckles white

as the stone fruit on that grave

where something became touchable,  moving

upon the immovable.

So many women in eastern or older cultures are still relegated to subservient roles in their married lives. A son is almost a duty and if she cannot deliver one, she is considered useless, almost barren. Even with modern science available to prove the determination of gender rests with the male, it does not penetrate in some of these rigid and ancient societies. I wanted to tell this story from her point of view but also with a sense of strong character. She uses the word beg in a mocking way, a dare hoping to strip down her husband's pride and blame, hoping to touch some facet of his humanity, almost shock him into being aware of her and how inhumane this act is she is asking him to perform. As inhumane as his rejection of her and his daughter. The funeral stele in Ankara symbolizes the  impermanence/permanence of life and death, also how one's humanity is etched permanently in time while still having the ability to move the heart of the living, generation after generation. And in her husband's case, his cold disappointment/stony anger creates its own stele. What seems so immovable may not be that impenetrable. Something deep within the stone breathes, an echo of empathy and grief that longs to be released.

Pomegranates ( in Hellenic art/belief) were considered the fruit of  death as well as that of offering life. They may have represented on the funeral markers both a sign that someone had died and that the life of that person ( like the many seeds within the fruit) would wander and re-bloom in the dreams, memories and legacy of those who loved and knew them.

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