#MeToo Mary

Roy Herndon Smith, December 17, 2017

Warning: this poem may be offensive to some Christians and others who believe in God as the transcendent Creator and Ruler of our lives. It also may evoke memories of or empathic responses to violent abuse. If you do not wish to read exposures of the cruelty portrayed in some biblical texts, do not read this poem.

The poem is in the voice of Mary, the wife of Joseph and mother of Jesus. While it reflects close readings of the biblical stories it re-imagines and takes off from, it is wholly fictional. I do not claim that the poem presents the historical truth about Mary. Then again, most gospel scholars do not think the stories about Mary in the gospels are historically true, although they do reflect and construct historical realities. I take this biblical and historical scholarship seriously. This poem reflects and participates in constructing historical and contemporary realities.


I knew the angel.
He came to Zechariah,
who was terrified,

but when the angel
told him that he and his wife
would conceive a son,

Zechariah laughed
and blurted out, “We are old.
So how can it be?”

The angel replied,
“You dare doubt God?,” and struck him.
Then he could not speak.

When the angel came
to me, I was terrified.
Still, when the angel

told me that I too
would have a baby, I too
could not help myself,

and I blurted out,
“But how? I am a virgin.”
He did not strike me.

Instead he told me,
“The power of the Most High
will overcome you.”

I was terrified.
I knew what happened to those
who said no to God.

I said, “Let it be.
I’m His servant. God will do
with me what He will.”


The angel left, and
I heard, like a wind, a voice
roaring in the night:

“Born in, as a, void,
I am, am not, a bastard,
without a father.
My mother is loss,
forgotten in silent cries,
abstracted in forms.

“I rage against forms.
I rage against, as a, void.
I rage against cries.
I am no bastard.
I have no mother, no loss.
I make Me Father.

“I am The Father.
Out of nothing I make forms.
I make mother lost.
I make Me a void,
who bears, abandons, bastards,
leaving only cries.

“I renounce the cries
of all who mourn their fathers,
of all the bastards.
I renounce the forms
falling in, filling, the void
I renounce all loss

“I am Mother Loss
of Nothing, Maker of Cries,
Maker of The Void.
I renounce fathers.
I am The Father of Forms.
I am no bastard.

“I am no bastard.
I am without nothing lost.
I am nothing formed.
I am nothing crying.
I am The Only Father.
I am nothing void.

“I am only cries.
Without others, I am lost,
without form and void.”


I was sleeping when
the power of the Most High
overshadowed me.

He covered me. He blotted out the light.
An angel, God, or man, I do not know.
He entered me. He cleaved me in the night.

I was dreaming. I was shining so bright.
He woke me in the black, the void below.
He covered me. He blotted out the light.

He said, “Don’t fear me.” I could not say, “No.”
He broke on me, a wave of flesh and might.
He entered me. He cleaved me in the night.

Under his weight, I splayed with pain and fright.
He split me as a butcher slits a doe.
He covered me. He blotted out the light.

In sleep, I fly away. In dreams, I fight.
He shatters sleep. He makes my dreams my foe.
He entered me. He cleaved me in the night.

In dreams, he falls on me from heaven’s height.
He makes of me an endless waste of woe.
He overshadows me. He blots out light.
He enters me. He cleaves me in the night.


I was almost due
when the Emperor decreed
the registration

of everyone in
the town they were from. Joseph
was proud to be of

the line of David.
He told everyone, “We will
go to Bethlehem.”

I was terrified.
It was a hard eight-day walk.
My belly was huge.

I went to my dear
Elizabeth, who told me,
“He is your husband.

You cannot say no.”
I went home to my husband.
I could not say no.


The pains were coming
when we got to Bethlehem.
It was dark. The inn

was full. But there was
a stable. The rest’s like a dream
about someone else.

She screams, stills, screams, stills, screams, screams, sighs, stills, lies,
splayed in straw, flickering light, quiet night,
her baby on her breast with wide dark eyes.

Before, husband gone with the men, she tries
to hide, in straw, in the night, from her plight.
She screams, stills, screams, stills, screams, screams, sighs, stills, lies.

Without mother, sister, or friend, she cries
with strangers, in the night, in dusty light,
her baby on her breast with wide dark eyes.

Before, alone, ashamed, in pain, she sighs,
a woman comes, stays, holds her in her fright.
She screams, stills, screams, stills, screams, screams, sighs, stills, lies.

Women gather round, with bodies devise
a shield against returned men’s prying sight
of baby on her breast with wide dark eyes.

In the morning light, it’s time for disguise,
to clean the blood, to cover up with white.
She screamed, stilled, screamed, screamed. Now she sighs, stills, lies,
her baby on her breast with wide dark eyes.


When Jesus turned six,
we were back in Nazareth
after the terrors

of Bethlehem and
exile, six years of terror
that they would take him,

of never letting
him out of my sight, now I
had to let him go.

“Now we are six,” I held him tight;
six years before that dawn, we’d fled,
through the night, from the shrieking light.

Hiding in the fields, in the night,
twenty long shrieks; the fires were red.
“Now we are six.” I held him tight

through the rustling grain, through dawn’s bright
clamor. The afternoon sun led
to the night, to the shrieking light.

We ran to hide in Egypt’s might.
We returned when Herod was dead.
“Now we are six,” I held him tight.

But still I hid, stayed out of sight,
twenty deaths followed me to bed
each long night, in the shrieking light.

“It’s time to learn, to give up flight,
to go to school,” my husband pled.
“Now that he’s six.” I held him tight.
in the night, in the shrieking light.


He was a smart boy,
but sometimes he asked foolish
questions I answered.

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?

I know that Father.
He cowers in His house while
children have no homes.

That Father towers,
a cedar of Lebanon,
and disdains to see
abandoned gardens,
rampant mustard bushes, and
barren fields of blood.

He likes His bread pure,
his wine ethereal, while
the poor starve and thirst.

He likes his virgins
lying in darkness and still,
stripped to flesh splayed
for His furrowing
plow thrusting His corruption
into blooming wombs.

Who is my mother?

I am your mother.
I take leaven and mix it
into flour. I wait
until the dough’s all
leaven, then bake the bread you
feast on every day

Like the sun and rain,
I fall on you whether you
are good or evil.

Because I toil, you,
like the birds of the air, are
free to fly and chirp.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

My child, O my child,
that God has always forsaken,
will always forsake.

His first children fell
into His trap. He cast them
into pain and death.

He overshadowed
your mother, left her with child,
and then ensnared you.

He told Abraham
to sacrifice Isaac. Now He
sacrifices you.

A God who forsakes
his children does not love them,
yet still you love Him.

I am your mother.
I will never forsake you,
my child, O, my child.


Now I have lost all.
I have lost all terror. I
will say what I will.

I have become void,
holding you, you Old Bastard,
Forsaking Father.
Love begins with loss,
with scouring silent cries,
emptiness of forms.

You emptied my form
of all except tearing void,
piercing, stilling cries.
Forsaking bastards,
fleeing from, You became, Loss,
abysmal Father.

Murdering Father,
You sacrificed what You formed.
Possessing, You lost
all except the void,
mother-father of bastards,
of hollowing cries.

Fleeing from the cries
of being just a father,
You made The Bastard
You became, the form
of annihilating void,
devouring loss.

When You made me loss,
when You made me cleaving cries,
when You made me void,
mother of fathers,
mother of amorphous forms,
mother of bastards,

I bore all bastards,
I bore eternal losing,
I bore empty forms,
out-of-nothing cries,
falling dust-to-dust fathers,
without form and void.

Bastard, when you cry,
I will bear you, lost not-father,
in my form and void.