the gospel according to mary

© Pascale Lafay, From the series Washable words,  2009, 50 x 70 cm, edition of 5

The Gnostic text, The Gospel of Mary, which is academically considered to be a wisdom gospel, reflects the conflict of the role of women in the emerging orthodox church of the time and it also looks at the metaphysical reasons instead of mortal that may prevent enlightenment. It was composed approximately in the second century, in Greek, although some of the surviving text is preserved in Coptic in the Berlin Gnostic Codex.

Nash’s four part poem The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene offers a mirror not only verse to verse and stanza to stanza (from what has been recovered from this ancient text) but also the voice of a Gnostic follower, the voice of a lover in mourning, the voice of a woman having to fight for reputation as well as direction. Its stanzas come from within Mary rather than being about her.

© Pascale Lafay, From the series Washable words,  2009, 50 x 70 cm, edition of 5

Chapter 4

(Note to self… “………….”

… if I am at one with this light of the sun as it hits my hair.

I can never die.

He talks of nothing but the next space and time in which we are meant to exist simultaneously
If I cannot die – how can I transcend?

Sometimes there is no transcending of the smell of his skin and the feel of his sweat
Under fingers over shoulders and neck
Then at this point of where there is no line between
We are mother father son daughter lovers all part of us
All parts of us

You say that my spite will disappear into its own cause,
You say that my love will melt back into its origins

I am listening to you as you move, as you walk
As you eat and as you sleep at night – these ears of mine
Were formed for your hearing

I know that you know that his questions are mine and hers but we needed direction
We always understood the day to day rules but since you
All bets are off

You always said that crime was an illusion.
When she stole your heart and offered it
To another
Did that really happen?

No matter how much henna I put into my hair, the grey escapes to greet.

When I had a fever, it was your hand that cooled me -
But now this is attributed to another –
Was it not you that I felt, smelt and saw?

Increasingly I don’t know what it is to comprehend the meaning of you

The strength within me; earthbound; makes me shiver
Makes me shake,
Makes me tremble

When I close my eyes and breathe you into each cell
I am fortified, even in the face of all things unknown and strange
My cells become you

I am listening to you as you move, as you walk
As you eat and as you sleep at night – these ears of mine
Were formed for your hearing

Sometimes when you speak,
A bright, white light emits from your eyes, your ears,
Your nostrils. I am bathed in the comfort
Of you

So many pretty bodies out there to call to me, to hold me
But you
It’s only you to enter and stay
Only you
To occupy in preparation of my petty liberation

I am walking in your direction

Sometimes I feel as if we’re all walking in your direction

I am walking in all directions with your photo under my arm
In my pocket
Your heart emblazoned on my chest

I have taken my understanding and in this happy illusion
I will operate honestly
Honestly I will be free
Moving away

You have left and I miss you.

© Pascale Lafay, From the series Washable words,  2009, 50 x 70 cm, edition of 5

Chapter 5

I am surrounded now by sounds
Of the voices crying out for you
They’re so lost without you
And in your absence there is this growing feeling
Of the shortening of us
Each one of us
Waiting to be cut down

But then I remember you
You have left me no fear, nor dread
There is still the smell of you on your shirt
I have it beneath my pillow

I’ve told them that death is an illusion
They’re not listening
Otherwise – all your words would have already disappeared
But they’re still here
As you are

Tumbling over the vermillion
Pigmenting the air
Our words of your name

Did you feel the pulse? We did
Between us
That gentle b-beat

It was no secret how you loved me
I’ve heard it whispered behind the drinking fountain
How I was loved by you
More than any other on this earth

Sad remembrance forces out from joy’s journey
A two fold tale that’s yet to be told
From between sheets and other stories.

It’s too late and without meaning to hide any of it any more

Such dreams you appear in, my sweetest of loves. Such dreams
Of light and sadness.
Such moments of hallucinatory bliss
Your presence, my kiss

You loved me for loving you
Even in such emptiness as is mine today
For we exist as we think
We touch as we feel
Treasure together

I have wondered whether
‘tis my heart, mind or soul that perceives you at night
Each time you answer, ‘tis mind ‘tis mind ‘tis…
(note to self – lost pages by river bank… this is an after thought)

© Pascale Lafay, From the series Washable words,  2009, 50 x 70 cm, edition of 5

Chapter 8:

. . . it.

The want of you talks to me
At 3 am
It never noticed your decline only the rise of you.
The lies of you
since you were mine

I wore my spirit on the outside of
As I became invisible I clothed you

In my anonymity ,
There was love and celebration
My spirit left elated

In those dark hours
Without the power to refuse
The nescient parts of me questioning

Demanding of my spirit
Which path is chosen, whore?
Which path is chosen for pleasure, for self
But your path is fenced and you cannot see over it

Pulled back my spirit replies,
Why name me when I do not name?

There are fences but I did not erect any around any other

I remain anonymous but I can still see
You and me melting away
Into the earth, the sky, the sea, the life
Beyond you and me

Once again the mantle of my spirit
Moving forward
Grasping within itself
Saw divisions upon angry divisions

A nightmare of imagery and sound
Compounding into the deepest of shadows
The rapture of flesh. The wanting of things,
The refusal of knowledge.
The titillation of mutilation until all is severed.
The reliance of stability upon
The heart sense and tactility
And finally as a mad crescendo
The understanding and planning of anger.

This ugly chorus called to my spirit
And I know it’s probably now 4
I haven’t travelled far and yet
I stand over the bodies of lovers and babies
I am flying up to the moon

This inner mouthpiece
Remonstrates in this nightmare state
fences have been broken
Boundaries shifted
There’s a vehicle key
In a box beneath your shirt
Beneath my pillow

Perhaps I heard the birds outside
Through my closed eyes
Want left home
Disregard refused to return

Perhaps I could feel the sun on my eyelids
Chains broke away
Only fence posts remained and
A thousand years lay before me
Nor more than the flutter
Of a butterflies wing
The movement in the wind
I transcended
Perhaps this is what you meant

I place the silence of my waking behind my eyes,
in my mouth,
over my ears
and between my fingers
to remain there.

© Pascale Lafay, From the series Washable words,  2009, 50 x 70 cm, edition of 5

Chapter 9

That’s all I remember, my love,
That’s all I remember of then

I cannot believe in my own movements
Vibrations and thoughts -
I question as to whether I am real
Without you

Even your younger brother forgets who I am

In our love
was there so much disregard for
Everything that wasn’t us
Did you torture me with different rules
Or was I blessed to see the truth of you?

These tears have lost their salt
And like hot lemon juice cutting through
The dermis
I’m lost in the verity
Of existence, of illusion

No oil can soothe the cracks on my face
Each moment without you is sulphur
Biting into
Attacking each corner of me
Left unattended

Why do I still feel so alone
So vulnerable

Was your love not enough to give me standing?
Was your love not enough to carry me through?
Didn’t you see the real me
Wasn’t my life from then on

I’m calling out to your family to remember you
I’m sending letters to your brothers
Requesting your picture be reinstated on mantelpieces

In the hope that they will forgive the abandonment
And in remembrance
Allow themselves to love you.

© Pascale Lafay, From the series Washable words,  2009, 50 x 70 cm, edition of 5

Images: © Pascale Lafay, From the series Washable words, 2009

Text: © J. L. Nash, The Gospel According to Mary, November 2009


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Responses to “the gospel according to mary”

  1. magnificent !