Questions Directed Toward the Idea of Mary


Was it the voice you feared, or its shadow?

Did you long for His touch or was suffering enough for you

               to know He was there?

Do you resent my juvenile hungers?

Do you wish for me the freedom of a vast barren plain?

What would you have done with your body if your body obliged?

Did it please you, your son risen at the end like a question?

Do you pity the angels their ancillary lives?

Did your worship falter once you were sure you were good?

How long before you yielded to your inevitable shame?

And how long before you realized (did you realize?) 

               shame was a blade

               you turned against yourself

               and once you knew it

                                                                                  you could use it—


Leila Chatti is a Tunisian-American poet and the inaugural Anisfield-Wolf Fellow in Writing and Publishing at Cleveland State University. She is the author of the chapbooks Ebb (New-Generation African Poets Series, Akashic Books) and Tunsiya/Amrikiya, the 2017 Editor’s Selection from Bull City Press. Individually, her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Tin House, the American Poetry Review, and elsewhere.