by Madeline Artenberg
For Sister Dianna Ortiz,
Imagine being that nun,
Do you hold your breath
the one who got burnt with
Do your eyes trace the path
of a cigarette landing in
patterns or spelling in
on your skin the word puta?
or release it into the
Your torturers turn minutes
into days as foreplay—
they thrust church candles
Puta en una capucha,
whore in a habit, they
batter you with their
You feel their organs grow
to the size
of the wooden cross on
which they nailed Jesus.
Is He testing you
as you testify to your love
Imagine they now hang you
a local woman who’s been
the one who helped you
in church reading class.
They force into your fists
a small machete,
press their hands down on
yours to guide
the weapon across the
you’ve cut off her
you are shaking—the cut
Or would you prefer in this
scenario to be
Or their Director?
Or the other woman?
Or His Father?
at the Library with Father
you nap, I lock the bathroom door,
of fiction hug you on both sides.
your right shoulder,
French-inspired Memorial Arch
out of the Grand Army Plaza.
left thumb rubs the title
in your jacket pocket
you skip through some book
the table by Sholom Aleichem or Sholem Asch.
at home, I search in the dirty clothes hamper
your copy of Mr. Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.
your finger’s trail
long-haired, long-legged women.
exhale on the pages
my breath will fly in your face
you crack the spine.
Gospel of Mary Magdalene
I Mary Magdalene opened my heart to the Lord,
allowed His son Jesus to part my soiled loins.
His voice entered me, shook my breasts
rumbled through my body. Inside,
He faced seven incubi and cast them out,
demons that ate at me every day:
The first demon was defeat,
the second, despair, the third, worthlessness,
fourth, fearfulness, fifth, inferiority,
sixth, powerlessness, seventh, shame.
On the walls of my womb
Jesus painted His name
and the words You are saved and I was.
In return, He wrote the gospel inside my cave
said it is yours to give
as you have given me your soul and body to save.
Yet, you gentlemen surround me
with your priapic announcements,
hiss that the folds of skin between my legs
must be hiding sin,
that my woman's body holds secrets,
that God must be open to all,
that I cannot possibly teach you.
Yet, I was given tongue and lips
with which to spread His truth.
My womb is a vessel that holds His special words
as I held His sacred feet and washed them with my hair.
Jesus' lessons are written in my secret place.
He has commanded that I lay myself open
for you to take the gospel from me.
Enter and you will read what He has writ,
What is hidden from you, I will proclaim to you.
Yet, you gentlemen would rather accept the penitents
who proclaim their pain is most holy penance
for sins against His son,
rasping their skin
until boundary between body and heavenly air melts.
If blessed is the scourged blood of the penitents,
bless-ed is my moon-blood poured forth each month,
bless-ed is the dying and resurrection I host each month.
Let the Lord flow through each of us
like tributaries joining at one source.
My path to Him is through the tingling in my nipples
twitching of my feet.
I allow Him to enter me, rock my hips
let His words pour forth in ecstatic celebration.
Each time I tremble,
more truths appear upon my womb,
my breath comes faster as fast as my lungs will pump
I am in a hurry to receive the Lord
angels fly away with my thoughts
nothing separates me from Him and I am come to Heaven
in liquid moan and yell
Oh Jesus Oh God Yes Yes Oh Yes.
I gave birth to the gospel
as The Virgin gave birth to His son.
On the side of God, Mother Mary sat.
At His feet I sat and bore witness.
He says unto both of us,
Reveal what is hidden deep inside.
He says unto you, His faithful followers,
What is hidden deep inside will save you.
I say unto you, take my gospel.
What is hidden from you
I will proclaim to you.
We are resurrected.
© 2005 Madeline Artenberg
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