Magdalene—The Seven Devils (Marie Howe)


Bij de derde zondag na Pinksteren


La guérison du Démoniaque door Sébastien Bourdon, 1660


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 could
not 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 had
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,
the sound she made—her mouth wrenched to the right and cupped open
so as to take in as much air… 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—


Marie Howe (Rochester, 1950)
Christ Church, in Rochester, New York, de geboorteplaats van Marie Howe


Zie voor de schrijvers van de 10e juni ook mijn vorige twee blogs van vandaag.

Marie Howe

Onafhankelijk van geboortedata

De Amerikaanse dichteres Marie Howe werd geboren in 1950 in Rochester, New York, als oudste meisje van negen kinderen. Ze ging naar de Sacred Heart Convent School en behaalde haar undergraduate degree aan de University of Windsor. Ze werkte kort als dagbladjournaliste in Rochester en als lerares Engels in het middelbaar onderwijs in Massachusetts. Howe besteedde geen serieuze aandacht aan het schrijven van poëzie totdat ze 30 werd. Op aanraden van een docent in een schrijversworkshop schreef Howe zich in aan de Columbia University, waar ze studeerde bij Stanley Kunitz en waar zij haar M.F.A. behaalde in 1983. Zij heeft gedoceerd aan de Tufts University en het Warren Wilson College. Ze is momenteel werkzaam aan de faculteiten schrijven van Columbia University, het Sarah Lawrence College en New York University. Haar eerste bundel “The Good Thief”, werd door Margaret Atwood geselecteerd als de winnaar van de Open Competition of the National Poetry Series 1987. In 1998 publiceerde ze haar bekendste gedichtenboek, “What the Living Do”; het titelgedicht in de verzameling is een beklemmende klaagzang om haar broer met het even openharige als eenvoudige laatste vers: “I am living, I remember you.” Howe’s broer John stierf aan een AIDS-gerelateerde ziekte in 1989. In 1995 gaf Howe, samen met Michael Klein een verzameling essays, brieven en verhalen uit, getiteld “In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic”. Haar gedichten zijn verschenen in literaire tijdschriften en tijdschriften zoals The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Plowshares en Harvard Review. Haar meest recente bundel heer “ Magdalene” (2017).


What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.


The Boy

My older brother is walking down the sidewalk into the suburban
summer night:
white T-shirt, blue jeans— to the field at the end of the street.

Hangers Hideout the boys called it, an undeveloped plot, a pit
with weeds, some old furniture thrown down there,

and some metal hangers clinking in the trees like wind chimes.
He’s running away from home because our father wants to cut his hair.

And in two more days our father will convince me to go to him— you know
where he is— and talk to him: No reprisals. He promised. A small parade
of kids

in feet pajamas will accompany me, their voices like the first peepers
in spring.
And my brother will walk ahead of us home, and my father

will shave his head bald, and my brother will not speak to anyone the next
month, not a word, not pass the milk, nothing.

What happened in our house taught my brothers how to leave, how to walk
down a sidewalk without looking back.

I was the girl. What happened taught me to follow him, whoever he was,
calling and calling his name.


Marie Howe (Rochester, 1950)