Three poems in one act with a strange and varied cast of characters

I.  Mary and Joseph

I cannot teach you how to
Pray in words. I can’t even choose
A single language. English, so
Precise. Arabic, the most
Beautiful to pen but to speak
You must fill your mouth with
Stones. You, Mary Ingalls, Joe Douaihy,
You were created in one tongue, the
Word, you know, made
Flesh, dwelt among us, among
All of us: Coptic and Sunni, Maronite,
Shia, even  Jews claim part of
This story. Word travels fast. You know
Word. Like both of you, 
Unmarried. Laid some hands, cast
Some nets, spilled some miraculous
Wine over in Lebanon one day. Dug
That girl, that girl with the long damped
Towel of hair. I find that somewhat
Creepy, but no matter. What
Matters here and now is you two.
Alive. Well, sort of. Blind Mary and lame
Joseph. Get a donkey, dontcha. Tell your
Stories. Mary, you were real, then
Made fictitious. Joe’s made up but
Lives in every actor on the stage. You
Dwell among us. Words you are, blessed
Be words, be a benediction. Live
Long in your genre: Prosper.  But I
Cannot teach you how to pray in
Words. You are both stones in my
Mouth, my lips plump out your
Time-stretched flesh. Your stories cut
The tender insides of my cheeks
And my heart, full of love, beats
In irregular meter as if a poem
Somehow might help.  Your pain is
Better borne in silence, though;
Words only make your pain seem
Small. Could we have a moment
Of quiet now, please?

II. Ma

Over and over and
Over again I said
I do
I will
I followed him. The
Children, of course, came
Too; they were offered no
Choice. But I, ah I
Had a choice. And over
And over and over again I
 Let him choose the way
We would go.
             Yes, I
Do, I will.
 His way was always
To go away. Now the
Children are grown and
He’s gone. Why did
I not see this
Was the way?
(Yes, I did it
Too. Won’t
Regret it.)
Now I am left here with
You, sitting there opposite,
Implacable, crossing your
Legs one way then
The other, tapping your
Pen on your notepad like
A dagger as you comment
With such authority, “Much
Of your pain is self-chosen.”
It was not.
And I won’t any more.
My little house is now quite
Empty, but it leaves me all
The room I need to grow.

III. Anthony and Kahlil

Rock. Paper. Scissors.
Take a chance, go see
Wars, cross the ocean.
Take a pen with you. You
Can use it as a paddle,
You can use it for a
Weapon. “I cannot
Teach you how to pray in
Words.” Can you
Teach me how to pray
In stone then? Your names
Are carved in stone now,
Too soon, too young, the
Both of you. You went
Home, both of you. Oh
Little town of Bsharri, big
City of Beirut.
Rock. Paper. Scissors.
The cord was snipped too
Early. You went home. It
Was far. The house was
Old and made of stone.
Kahlil, when the stones were
Fresh cut did you visit there?
A “mansion of the sky,”
You wrote, “Whose door is the
Morning mist and whose
Windows are the songs and
The silences of night.” It was
Quite the house. Rock.
Paper. Scissors. “That
Which is boundless in you
Abides in the mansion of
The sky,” you knew. In each
Grandfather’s house were many
Mansions.  Kahlil went ahead to
Prepare the place for you,
Tony. It’s a quiet place full of
The silences of night. There are
No more words. The house
Is empty now. There is room for
Boundlessness now.
Snip.                                                    (Salaam, Shadid, salaam.)

—Susan Hering