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Our Lady of the Trap Door Spider


Trap Door Spider


Passages from a Modern Bible
I   The Syro-Phoenician Dog-Woman
Mark 7.25 – 30, Matthew 15: 21-28
In a diacritically Greek region of Palestine
a woman bled from Syria, seethed into
flesh on Phoenician sand, hung around Jesus
like worry beads strung with locusts.  A spirit
had gaped her daughter’s pagan insides, tore
her throat with bestial remonstration, sawed
her eyeballs rancid red.  The apostles
wanted to shunt the woman away.  Jesus
caught sight of her profile in his periphery,
scowled, “Would I take bread from the mouths
of (Israel’s) children to feed a mere dog?”
She responded, “But even a dog feasts
on the scraps that fall from the table” –
“Your retort is bound in faith.
Your daughter is now released.”
A pericope fed by mouth into the ear
of an illiterate Mark, adapted later by
the untutored Matthew.  Still, they say
it is the word of God.  That a quick wit
sundered a baying spirit, drew a crow’s heart
into the margin of salvation; that Jesus had
two hymnals, could be so mete of mercy.  
                              II   The Faithful Road
After http://www.kevin-scully.com/blog.html
Brick Lane a jawline in a face daubed with noon-sweat
and clamour though barrowless at this time of the week
a young man with a hillock-shaped head humping
a crucifix along the street   a woman in a shop doorway
kneads her hands with a towel   a cloth-capped onlooker
darkened by a stranger’s reluctance nevertheless offers
help if the destination is close at hand    another observer
clicks his phone camera
                                  The crosswise thief
is swamped by a twitterwave   and its wake of Lenten
remorse and guilt   hails a cab and directs the driver
to Saint Matthew’s the parish church where   in its garden
of crushed leaves   unheard despair had prompted his act
A guardian of the chapel’s morning wrapped in prayer
Opens her shawl to welcome the return of the sacred object    

On the pages of a less well read book a trinity of crimes and crosses
on a skull-shaped hill outside the town walls: two thieves of goods,
the third of goodness and order   so his Sanhedrin accusers said
A face turned in faith or a wager in default of other options   a promise
of paradise    Sometimes a story relived is a story believed  
Our Lady of the Trap-Door Spider
Unpeopled paddocks, spindly tussocks, red earth horizons, space
both companion and witness, drought, flood vie for conversation,
laughter tinkles at curses’ end, hopes unmouthed, stoic, like sheep.
Crows sigh distance onto my desk, scripts, teachers I never see
amplify the silence, meagre talents, sparser possessions
packed and humped on rail car and train, noise, crowds, unsettled sleep
until the city becomes home, watch-key women of the veil.
Caring for life, arraigning death amidst the froth of the streets,
sirens, soldiers, the chill of war, I meet a man of words, gusts
and multitudes, rosary, prayer book in hand, the Ginger Jar.
Married life, wage-bound absences that economise closeness.
I remember the heaves and gasps of my dying father, crusts
in the eye of fate, hewn months I carry babies in the womb
who but glimpse the light  then rejoin it – loss forever renews
itself in fragile moments.  The percussion of other lives
taps at my attention.  They tumble and grow into their own
difficulties.  I gaze at him, him the world, we at least share
a lens of belief, a stolen shadow, somehow love survives
these tidal years.  Craftsman’s tools, contemplative leather, heels snapped
by the next cohort, tales to reprise, news to hear and relay,
I fashion quietly the lines and shapes of the ties that bind.
Just as the source of us begins to absorb me he departs
with grace, his pain subsides into repose, eyelids cast godwards.
Outside rituals, the salvation of small actions behind
closed doors like the spider, my childhood friend, the silence returns,
the woods of earlier times thin around me, my own tree shrinks
back to its roots, consigns itself to the purity of space.
My assertion on the earth less imposing, though no footnote
to his military headstone, recital book-true and hushed,
a slight insistence in your memory ever marks my place.

Paul Scully

Paul Scully is a Sydney poet whose most recent collection An Existential Grammar was published in April 2014.

Trap door spider image by Shutterstock.

Topic tags: Paul Scully, modern Australian poetry



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Existing comments

Oh my goodness, I really like these poems. They remind me so much of Dorothy Porter's emotional punch - not comparing two talented poets, just thinking.

Pam | 18 August 2014  

Brilliant! Great poems from a talented poet.

Anne | 21 August 2014  

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