Five Short Meditations on the Virgin Mary


(Note: This poem was commissioned by Abdal-Hakim Murad for his essay appearing in the compendious volume, Mary, the Complete Resource, edited by Sarah Jane Boss and published in 2007. I don’t usually work this way, but it was a powerful adventure for me, with a rather miraculous dénoument described in the note at the end. The poem appears here in its entirety, having been edited for his book, with section 5 missing. I’ve kept the description of Artemis with multiple breasts, although their identity is disputed.)

                                               for Abdal-Hakim Murad


The Virgin Mary sat on a rock that was not wholly rock
in a world that was not wholly world

in a light that was Light direct
in the echo of a Command that came from God direct

whose womb was now to house a halo more than she could
possibly long for

and which made her fear
and caused her angel messenger to comfort her

as he stood at the door and mentioned how
God had designated her the hallowed hall for His pure breath to enter

to make a child with no seed but Himself
to show mankind His holy fatherhood over all

within the physical
but without physical union


The pen is hardly lifted

The penalty for birth is death

But he who would be born without coitus
would slide out of death without its mortal coil

Would be taken up to God without entering death’s womb
as he had entered Mary’s womb without birth’s usual folderol

She clutched a tree to steady herself
and dates fell to the ground around her

And he spoke to her from herself
to steady her

Rings of tumult sang around her
The Garden’s tree was now there to strengthen her

her nearing it part of God’s ordained structure
to redeem Adam and Eve’s descent to earth

by new prophecy through standing under
the virgin birth-tree’s sacred agency

Adam of no visible parents
Eve of no mother but father Adam’s rib-side

being both mother and father
now terrestrialized again in Mary’s husbandless pregnancy

though all of us are actually children
of much more than our mere mother’s earthly sympathy


I saw Mary board a bus at Broad and State
her head covered and her face radiant

small and held within herself
careful and preoccupied

a heaven seeming to be wrapped around her
her cheeks red her lips dry her eyes lowered

interior moisture her preferred cloister
the bus passengers sudden ghosts before her

her shoes small and tattered
her hands carrying a book

If any had spoken to her she might have become lost

If she had spoken to anyone
they might have become saved


None can be “Mother of God” but God

nor Creator of us but God Himself

Jesus begat in light sat in light and was transformed into light
beyond light’s shapes of dark and light

his salutation from where he is continues to excite us
just as Mary’s humility brings us home

to where impossible things are true
and true things impossible or possible by our own lights

to submit as purely to God’s sheer command of: Be!

more than enough to be
in Being’s age-long mystery


In Ephasis is Artemis
with multitudes of breasts
and legend says where Mary went
and where she died and rests

Teets our forms are fed from
virgin light that salves our souls
the two eternal females
through whom our life unrolls

The Virgin ever virginal
in modesty extreme
and Artemis whose many breasts
supply an endless stream

One statue standing among rocks
the other in her cave
whose house of stone is all alone
within the Light we crave


Walking in the woods as is my wont in the morning
June 9th 2005 Philadelphia Pennsylvania after strong storms and
all the trees dry now creaking in the heat and humidity
thinking of this poem
thinking of Mary peace be upon her
walking along the trail wondering to myself about the
Sufi Tariqa of the Mariamiyya
I suddenly hear a crack like horrendous thunder seemingly from
far away but look up above me in time to see a
huge bough break from the top of a tall tree with a giant screech and
hurtle down toward me at seemingly supersonic speed
I step aside yelling “Allah!” automatically heart thumping
and the heavy branch crash-lands exactly where I
stood a split second before and breaks into four or five
raw pieces cracked and shattered and me shocked and grateful
thanking Allah over and over thanking Him with all my being
my position just under it one split second before happily
not there for it to
crash onto me now safe and sound at the side of the trail
I wonder at the force of it as I continue now to wonder
Allah’s full and Awful Power exposed to me direct from the
core of the universe as if sky and earth and mortality itself were
opened up in the blink of an eye
and my life actually only a literal hair’s breadth away
from death

At the Thursday night Sufi meeting I describe it in detail
to Baji our Pakistani shaykha and first thing she asks is
“What were you thinking just before the bough broke and fell?”
and when I tell her I was thinking of the Virgin Mary
she says without a moment’s pause
“Just as Allah protected and saved Mariam
so Mariam protected
and saved you!

6/7-6/9/2005 (from Holiday from the Perfect Crime, first published in a different version in
Mary, the Complete Resource, Compendium Books, 2007)

Categories: Poems, Saints / Awliyya