the prefix mar means sea
holy mary full of grace leaking
from your eyes as oil, this means answered prayer
do not be afraid
of the mariposa balanced
on your crown
just a message from the dead
fluttering back over the river styx, a loophole.
marigold means yes, i should ring that bell,
i should be here now feet in good earth warm
around the cold and all-knowing marble
even in this moment pulling at our lungs
but we never carve into stone a mouth in time
to learn that martyr means the sword
always sinks into the sea.
mars is the god of war who once ruled
the scorpion i was born under
creature of desert of water by way
of thirst of waiting for the horizon’s blade
marie as in suffix of war as in warrior while the world sleeps
a name made diminutive when they assigned it to a woman.
my birth star was surrendered to pluto of the underworld
at the end of all the worlds above us
of breaking and remaking
old names as they are given
i’m middle named after a passed great grandmother
on each side of the family, but which marie did whisper herself
into my mother’s ear before labor while i waited inside
held like a breath i was a hydrophone
open for baleen whales to part with their songs
now stored in the beauty marking my cheek
the word marine makes the ocean into a net for our mouths
but of course it passes through itself
our throats dry in the night, red with want,
salt left behind so we wash our feet
run saline through piercings
as we try to be good daughters
mary marie maria ya qadisa mariam ameen
our hearts weighed against ma’at’s feather
light as the sky from up here you can’t tell
that marianas trench, deepest twist in the earth,
still records the simmer of boats on her surface
meaning there are corners on which i graze but don’t break my skin
and from down in my blood the crush of cells rises up like plastic
braided across my arms. my mother’s heart breaks
on a daily basis when she looks at my scar tissue
imitating its medicine roiling over the plates that pulse under our feet
why not me instead she pleads to someone above my left ear.
to calm her down i try not to pick instead i point to taurus,
his hindquarters thrown into the sky by ishtar
who first was named astarte, as proven by the head of the bull she kept for herself.
it rested on her shoulders not far from the taurus mountains
where the etymology of my grandmother’s maiden name
once lived. mar maroun blurred the coastline
between here and God. he made gardens
shimmer with wishes and wings and his believers
named maronites, mar of sea on ite of stone
church of mountain which monks carved into, revealing
stalactites arranged into a rosary by dripping water
into cupped palms and when we drink we cross ourselves we say ameen
we praise the mar, as in saint, as in alchemist of holy water
maroun buried north of aleppo like a fish under a chalice
not far from mare nostrum, a holier sounding name
for that which we now call the mediterranean sea, praised
even as we dump our trash into it then chronicle the side effects
on the news. i wanted to bring myself to it at sundown an anchor
feet first thighs next clenched self prepared for the burn
praying against the burst where my skin is thinnest
where i hold every seed i could scatter
as far as my voice can throw
but i told mama i would keep my distance
from the toil and bacteria, so I skipped the stone of my gaze
along the path of coins the sun broke into the water
until i reached the sun itself she stung my eyes
in beatitude i said a prayer to the virgin
for the line of hearts waiting on their feathers ameen
today, to mar something is to disfigure it. but once
you could press your hand against glass
to keep time warm. once, you could throw a rock into a wave
for someone waiting on the other side
of your life. smoother
by the time they found it.
a palm washed up to shore. once,
stones in a pocket didn’t mean walking into the sea.
I want to be unafraid.
icarus puts on her make up
i tied my hair into a ponytail
and when a strand on one side came loose
to frame my face, i felt beautiful
like an arab woman.
i pulled a strand from the other side
to match. a symmetry,
a mimicry. a rare allowance.
i could rouge my lips
and sigh. i could kneel
to pray. i could cross
my legs in the last pew
no one would know.
mountain mothers say battered knees
forfeit yr womanhood. be markless
and marked by shadow until the melted sugar
clears away the under, the brush, the blush.
hold the peach its bruise facedown.
divorce the body from its reflection in dirt. sever
the proximity to animalia. my kingdom
for a mane to call my own. my mane
for a throne i never asked for.
one day at the alter we will both wear crowns.
frankincense and myrrh. shroud me
a plagiarized night
to fool the night. carry me
on your back
for as you slept i lined
in the dark
no one can tell
the gasp of fear
from the gasp of desire.
desire is just longing
my shoulders push up wires
where once were wings.
now with a brush i glitter them.
i present them to a man
of my choosing
his face flushed. once,
i was ashamed.
never knew these hairs vestigial, remnants
of angelic days when i could be the messenger
or the star above a birth, content
where hands can’t reach
my skirt unripped
but the fallen pray with battered knees
each scar a looking glass into the earth
tender sheens activating
where once i raced a boy
and the asphalt claimed
a tablespoon of my flesh
the bone simmering
to forshadow the tingle
every time it rains. come summer,
a tangle of cells
obstructs my every close shave.
i remember the look on my aunt’s face
and her daughterless tongue.
her silent disgust as i cried.
i ran i jumped my wings obliterated
by the sun i fell i scarred i bled
i reflect but don’t repent
my skirts hemmed above the knee
not to betray
but to remind you
that once i flew
i was an animal in the heat
i was better than any son.
i could have easily escaped
but for once i wanted
Photograph of Jess Rizkallah by Valerie Jane Kwok.