Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hand of Mary (Poem)

Hand of Mary
    Change Square, Sana, Yemen, October 15, 2011

The decision to try to outrun the tear gas
came before the fall.

Who now remembers marching a second
day to Change Square, blue-jeaned columns block

by block advancing, retreating, re-lock-stepping
toward a firestorm in Zubairy Street, snipers

taking out the one before the other after.

In a mosque turned makeshift hospital,
who recalls removing shoes, slipping

in blood on Allah's mosaic floor.
In the accounting and the letting go,

it is Fatima who is the calm you cannot see

through veils, Fatima who answers
news of death's spread cloak with a mother's touching

presence, her hamsa gloved against what stains.

To be found alive in Sana is the moment
the photographer shoots Zayed, 18, a boy,

accepting his mother's cradling arms.

Their pose needs no cut-line. To understand it
is to acknowledge it

is beyond understanding
what is now past the now-past spring. There will be

nard enough for more injuries,

two more wounds for Zayed while Mary waits,
while we all look in, declaring ourselves

martyrs to no cause
but what this mother and her son call love.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas

This poem is inspired by Samuel Aranda's 2011 World Press Photo of the Year, depicting Fatima al-Qaws cradling her son Zayed after finding him in a makeshift hospital following a massive street demonstration in Sana, Yemen, against the repressive regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. At least 12 people died the day that Zayed, overcome by tear gas, fell, sustaining a head injury that left him in a coma for several days. In her mid-thirties, Zayed's mother herself is an activist. Zayed, committed to martyrdom, has been wounded two times since the photograph was taken. See the Lens blog article "In Yemen, an Emotional Reunion", about the photograph and Aranda's visit with the al-Qaws family, and this brief in The Guardian, "Samuel Aranda's Best Photograph: A Woman Protects Her Son".

Hamsa refers to the palm-shaped amulet or open right-hand recognized as protection against the evil eye. It is also known as the hand of Fatima, Fatima being the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad; Levantine Christians call it the hand of Mary, mother of Jesus. It was only after I wrote the poem yesterday that I realized how the symbol and the real-life mother were linked. Nard, believed to have first been used in the 12th Century, is an aromatic ointment deemed to have restorative powers.


Kathleen said...

Thank you.

Peggy Rosenthal said...

Wow, Maureen, your poem has been my morning meditation. So much depth and pain shaped into something almost tangible.
"Their pose needs no cut-line" --indeed. It is the Pieta in (alas) real life.

I love what you do throughout with the hanging of line-ends: the pause there for one meaning, which then morphs into another as the grammar gets finished after the space below. Just one e.g.:

To understand it
is to acknowledge it

is beyond understanding…

Thank you.

Maureen said...

Peggy, the breaks for the section you mention I reworked at least three times. I thought what's here worked best, because it opens it to multiple ways of reading it.

Many thanks for your and Kathleen's comments.

S. Etole said...

Powerful in your telling and the photo ... just stunning in its emotion.