Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Apologia by Jill Alexander Essbaum

By Jill Essbaum

I have been sodden with wine.
I have been confused by wine.
I have been lied to by men,
And yet, I lie down upon such men,
Still and willing in the manners that they please.
Lord, I’ve been the blemish at your love feast.

And I’ve been tangled in nettles and brambles,
Have dwelt in seamy hotels, have ambled
Down roads that once, so necessary,
Seemed. And I’ve prayed, hot and overloadedly,
Having meddled in such matters
That ought be closed to me.

Darkness. I have done dread deeds in,
Hearkening to apocalyptic heathen,
Even as I cocked my lips to yours. And I have slept
On floors. And I have crept along on all fours.
And. More. I have lived briskly in nice houses.
I have swigged whiskey in icehouses.

I have been June, July, and August.
I have been riotous when I felt like I must
Or I could be. And I’ve hung on your tree like a ripe fig.
Desiring to be plucked. And I’ve flung my body to your bed
Like a white bride pining to be rubbed up against.
Like a suckling child hungry in a viper’s den.

And I have been Dismas, the penitent
Thief. And I have been Judas. And I’ve spent
My plenty silvers chiefly on my hells.
In that, I have seldom, if ever, failed.
It’s just as well. For as the ibis devours her carrion,
I feed upon what queasy defeats I carry on

My back. Thus the beggar becomes her bowl.
And the hangwoman surrenders to the scaffold.
And irrevocable acts of god and doom consume me.
Can this be mercy? I fear there isn’t any
Left. Even the chrism is bereft.
Wretched, most wretched it says.

While my guilt unfolds like a napkin in your lap.
Will a dog grow fat on crumbs the master drops?
I have been a grabber at your garment hem.
And I have been a Magdalene outside your tomb.
And I’ve bathed atop roofs, have pounded with rue,
Have pooled my pearls, the sorrowful few---

Like milky mea culpas they rattle fragile on a string.
Christ: Forgive me everything.

From: “The Best American Poetry 2010,” pages 51, 52


"Jill Alexander Essbaum is a Christian erotic poet distinguished as the author of the 1999 Bakeless Prize winner in poetry, Heaven, the 2005 collection of sonnets, Oh Forbidden, and the full length collections Harlot (poetry) (No Tell Books, 2007) and Necropolis (neoNuma Arts, Spring 2008). She has described herself as "nettled and hectored by a good dozen obsessions--more, probably. There are but three that ultimately matter to me (maybe to anyone): God, sex, death. Anything worthwhile I've ever thought or said will be about those things." Essbaum's poetry features puns, wordplay and dark humor mixed with searing religious and erotic imagery. Bruce Covey singled out Essbaum as "contemporary poetry’s best punster". She currently teaches at the University of California Riverside Palm Desert Graduate Center in the Masters of Creative Writing Graduate Program."  From:  Amazon.com


Wine and Words said...

My guilt unfolds like a napkin in your lap.

My faith is so small Marion. Sometimes I wonder if it is of size enough to matter, but then I remember the mustard seed. I fight all things. God wins my wars. Christ strokes my arms as I slap my face bloody. With his lips he kisses the welts I leave with my own self flaggellation. There is Mercy. Of course. Mercy enough for all my apologies. They fly from my mouth like spittle, forcefully, yet so gently received into the eye that does not blink. So strange it all is. And so wonderful.

I loved this poem!!!!

Marion said...

Yes, the mustard seed. I hear you, Annie, and I fight the same battles. I love this poem (I'd photocopied it and stuck it into a book and just found it again last night) and the author's raw courage to put these words to paper. You, Annie, are an amazing poet and I do love you. xoxo

Kelly said...

I've never heard of Essbaum before and I find this poem quite interesting. The last line in that first stanza grabbed me right away:

"Lord, I've been the blemish at your love feast."

Snowbrush said...

She sounds like the kind of girl that guys like to meet.

Terresa said...

You got me at "Christian erotic poet" -- well, actually, before that.

:) This is a dense, delicious poem, thanks for sharing it.


magnificent and powerful! i think this may be in my top 3 of all those i've loved here in your blog - it speaks it screams me - thank you SO much for sharing - each time i come here i'm amazed at the always beautiful words you place for us here - and i'm never let down! beautiful, lady, beautiful! thanks again!

oh, and i have to read more of her now!

ps - get this - just looked down to see the word verify here is "heaveniz" - how neat is that!

Rick said...

this was so good Marion, thanks for posting it! and the beggar becomes her bowl. so wonderful.
i really love her savage honesty, not pleading ignorance-simply weakness.
good good stuff!
oh, and happy belated birthday, hon!

Anonymous said...

Dearest Marion, I was rhyming about Dragon flys' and Damsel flys'...when I found your poem..yes the dog grows very fat from those precious crumbs so much so she wish's to forget whats past but the scars remind.So indeed Christ Forgive me everything. Beautiful poem.

erin said...

yes, savage honesty. savage. so much i recognized inside of this and yet so much i didn't. intriguing is the least of it. shattering, the height.