by Carlene Kucharczyk
Mary Held Her White Hands Open
I reached out to them.
To the hands of Mary on the hill at my great grandma’s house. Mary at the top of the hill, Mary at the edge of the woods, Holy Mary, Mary Mother of God, Mary, Mary, Mary. In every church Mary held her white hands open, I find written in a poem. My version would be: On the hill Mary held her white hands open. I would sometimes walk up to her and kneel. I remember quite liking her.
Mary Doesn’t Like It When I Pee and Sing
And I don’t like Mary. Mary’s a tyrant. Making me feel ashamed for singing while I pee. Even if it is her house. Okay, I did like Mary, elementary school Mary. But I didn’t like that she made me feel embarrassed for singing while I peed.
I lie, I tell her I wasn’t. I say I was only singing before I peed and that I stopped to go to the bathroom. She says no, I heard you singing and peeing at the same time. She insists: I heard the singing and the pee.
Mary Comes Over to My House
I don’t know if she ever did.
She must have, right?
My First Mary
My first Mary was my great aunt Mary, my mom’s aunt. She lived in Ohio. We sent her videos and letters. And possibly Flat Stanley. We drove from Connecticut to visit her. She lived with her brother. After she died, he moved to Alaska and began building a cabin.
We went to her house and took some things to remember her by. I took a black crescent moon ring and little shirts (I don’t know what else to call them), red, navy, and white, that were supposed to make it look like you were wearing a turtleneck when you weren’t.
Note to Mary
Mary, why don’t you answer back?
Let’s not start with Mary, let’s start with Chelsea. The kids in elementary school made fun of Chelsea. She was new to the school and had blonde, almost white, hair, and blue eyes. Someone said she was albino. It caught on. Everyone said she had a “pig nose.”
Chelsea told us about Bloody Mary. You were supposed to spin around three times in front of the mirror and say something, and again, and then she would appear. I never tried. I was too scared. I don’t know if Chelsea did either.
Mistaken for Mary
I don’t remember ever having been. Do you?
Mary, Mary on the Wall
Mary, Mary on the wall. Why would Mary be on the wall? How long has she been there?
No, not Mary on the wall, Mirror on the wall. Mirror, Mirror on the wall.
An honest mistake. We need not ask the question why Mary is on the wall.
Question for Mary
Mary, won’t you let us raise our glasses to you?
No, Mary isn’t interested in the raising of glasses. She’d rather you kept your glasses down.
The Intersection of Marys
This one is yours to write. Fill it in here.
Things I Haven’t Heard About Mary
– Mary had a brilliant bosom.
– Mary left you and she doesn’t want to come back (the possibilities of Mary).
– Mary was mildly resentful, but did not at all act on those feelings.
– Mary doesn’t love you and never did. (For someone this resonates; I’m sorry.)
Mary Tyler Moore
My friend is surprised I don’t know who Mary Tyler Moore is. He says she is a big deal, that she was the first woman to wear pants on a television show, that she refused to be on it if she couldn’t wear pants, I should know who she is.
There are many, I admit, that I have forgotten, or purposefully left out, for different reasons.
A space for them.
Specifically, this one here: .
Things I Won’t Tell You About Mary
Nothing. I’ll tell you everything I know. Though there might not be much to tell. Remember, I am not myself a Mary, only an observer of Marys, a collector of Marys, and a recent one at that.
The Sorrowing Virgin
I didn’t know at first that it was Mary, as she was going by another name. What a thing to be known as—The Sorrowing Virgin. And so…publicly. Why must the virgin sorrow? Why mustn’t the virgin triumph? I know, I know the story. And I admit there is a certain ring to The Sorrowing Virgin, but surely there are better things she could be called. Isn’t there also a certain ring to The Triumphing Virgin? The Ecstatic Virgin? The Virgin of Ecstasy?
The Sorrowing Virgin’s eyes are made of glass beads and are raised skyward, making her look possessed, which leads me to the question: can sorrow possess you? Can it make a possession of you? Can it inhabit you so you are no longer your own? If we are ever our own?
Can sorrow make a home of you the way we are making a home of Mary? What is the process like and how long does it take? Can sorrow burrow into a person over time? Or does it sometimes cut a hole right through?
I found Mary because I was looking for my friend in the museum. I thought she was my friend for a moment. I consider if my friend would be more of a Magdalene or a Virgin. I decide she would not really be either Mary. I’m sure there is a more fitting one.
Quick Detour—Rodin’s Hands
At the museum I also see Rodin’s hands. I wonder if he ever sculpted Mary, that is her hands, and if her fingers were long or short, that is whichever particular Mary he sculpted. He may have sculpted the hands of many Marys. Rodin thought the creative life involved suffering and martyrdom, and I might agree. I’m still deciding.
I find out he sculpted Christ and Mary Magdalene, which I did not know, and this one I did not see. I’m sorry, I only wanted to find a way to include Rodin’s hands, that is the ones he sculpted, not his own. I wonder if he sculpted his own.
Mary and Her Seven Bedraggled Devils
Marie Howe in her poem “Magdalene – The Seven Devils” tells us about Mary Magdalene’s seven devils. Some are rotating; they are given up and then replaced, sometimes with ones that are only slightly different. It seems true we get rid of one devil only to replace it with the next.
Some of my favorite devils in the poem are:
– that no one knew me, although they thought they did. And that if people thought of me as little as I thought of them then what was love?
– that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living
– I didn’t think you, if I told you, would understand any of this.
– She is often busy and considers this a devil. This is repeated throughout the poem.
– that I projected onto others what I myself was feeling.
– I knew I was breathing the expelled breath of everything that was alive and I couldn’t stand it
– The seventh was the way my mother looked when she was dying—her mouth wrenched into an O so as to take in as much air…
Mary, I hear if you look at your devils (yes, just glance back at them), they won’t have as much power over you.
Mary and I, we have some of the same devils. But mostly we have different ones.
There is not always a devil floating near. Often the air seems clear of devils and I can breathe easy, even while knowing I am breathing the expelled breath of everything that was alive. (Honestly, this isn’t something I often think about, and when I do I find it comforting.)
The Problem with Mary
There are many. I think we just discussed some. Would you like to add anything?
Mary Is Doing Very Well for Herself
Someone’s said this I’m sure.
Mary Is Very Much So
Whatever it is you’re thinking, Mary is. Very much so. I say in a convincing tone.
What’s in Mary
An army. An arm. A yam. A ram. A ray. Ma. Amy. May. Am.
What Mary’s In
Marty. Martyr. Martyrdom. Martyred. Marry. Marilyn. Army.
Martyr only has one additional letter than Mary (and the repeated “r”). This leads me to the question: are Marys often mistaken for martyrs? It seems they might be.
I do not know if she wants to be in the army, but it’s such a perfect fit.
Mary and I have two of the same letters in our first names, but Mary cannot fit into me, or I into her.
Mary in Letters
I am reading the letters of the Clairmont family. Most of them are written to Mary Shelley’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, and are from her nephew, Wilhelm. Mary Shelley never appears in the letters, not by name. So far in my reading of them, the Shelleys are referred to only once.
I feel a strong connection to Mary Shelley and her mother, also a Mary, Mary Wollstonecraft—I feel a stronger connection to Wollstonecraft than Shelley. I love her letters the most, which seem to show her exquisite Maryness more than her other writing.
The Clairmonts often sign their letters “Believe me, dearest…” and then some affectionate saying, like “Yours affectly.” They are mostly unlike the Marys, not because of how they sign their letters, but because of what they think.
Mary of the Moor
I don’t know of any, but I’m sure there was one. What about The Secret Garden? Was there a Mary in that? There certainly was a moor.
I can see it now—Mary is tidying up the moor again. Mary is making a mess of the moor again. The moor is all Mary’s. Mary is making more of a mess. She is making the moor a mess. She is making more of a mess of the moor!
In the Clairmont letters, a lovely typo: “Once Moor Goodbye.” I think they do this more than once. I don’t remember for certain who is responsible for the lovely typo. I think perhaps it was Wilhelm.
Mary of the Windows
No, it wasn’t Mary; it was Mother of the Windows and Emily Dickinson wrote it in a letter. Her mother wasn’t a Mary, nor was her sister Lavinia. And she certainly wasn’t; she was an Emily Dickinson!
Mother of the Marys
I don’t think she exists. If she does, I certainly am not her. Although in this essay, perhaps I am the mother. Yes, I am mother to the Marys in this essay. What would these Marys be called?
– Marys of the Essay (which?)
– Marys Who Only Exist in Essay Form (too academic)
– Marys Who Live in the Essay (reminds me of The Indian in the Cupboard)
– Marys Who Live in Essays (inclusive, other essays, and so, inaccurate)
– Marys of This Essay (perhaps the most accurate, but I don’t like the way it sounds and aesthetics are important)
Mary as Rebel
Of all the meanings of the name Mary (bitterness, beloved, wished-for child), rebelliousness is the one I like best. Mary is a rebel. In Mary a rebellion stirs. A rebel is Mary.
Mary as Saint
At the silent meditation retreat, we are told, if we like, we can pick a saint or figure to inspire us. It does not occur to me to choose Mary. I learn later we were actually told not to do this, so it is good that I did not.
Mary as Rebel-Saint
Aren’t saints a sort of rebel, really? They are certainly rebelling from the norm. This is an imagined Mary—but she’s the one I think I would like best.
A more appealing version of sainthood, not the type most oft depicted, by G.K. Chesterton: Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell…. Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc.
I imagine Mary has some of this peculiar wild flame. Mary is good-fiery. Fiery-good.