Madonna of the Cave
by Sonya Taaffe




            As if you were a golem all those years

            before our faces rested together in the dark,

            the dumb shammes, turning in clockwork

            with sunset and the shuffling of pages,

            a blank-faced dust dry of sweat or sorrow

            and blood—the breath that returns to clay,

            red figures on the blackest ground.


            As if I opened your lips and sealed you

            as clean as fire in the singing eye of God

            disheveled, untimely, argumentative,

            startled by laughter, surprising with silence,

            mortal—not a cuneiform to be cracked

            or let stand, but a palimpsest spilling over,

            annotated, rewritten at a blink or a kiss.


            As if we were not the same salt-wet earth,

            the same impressionable flesh and speech.

            Pointing to eidolons, making likenesses

            of never and nowhere, figuring our ways

            from mirror to metaphor: the Mahara"l knew.

            Our ancestors are photographs.

            Our words are the death masks of dreams.


            (In the gematriya of the Other Side,

            unspelled by the three angels of Ben-Sira,

            Lilith with ochre-smeared hands throws

            a shape of Adam on the riverbanks of Eden.

            Passing through generation and expulsion,

            mixed like bone-ash with an apple's ribs,

            whatever we caress or grasp, we leave

            her fingermarks, unseen. Bat-winged

            Ashmedai, no one's doppelgänger,

            laughs in her nightlong arms.)




About the Author:

Sonya Taaffe has a confirmed addiction to myth, folklore, and dead languages. Her poem “Matlacihuatl’s Gift” shared first place for the 2003 Rhysling Award, and poems and short stories of hers have been nominated for the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, the Pushcart Prize, and the Locus Award, shortlisted for the SLF Fountain Award, and reprinted and honorably mentioned in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. A respectable amount of her short fiction and poetry can be found in Postcards from the Province of Hyphens and Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books). She holds master's degrees in Classics from Brandeis and Yale.




Poem © 2009 Sonya Taaffe. Photo by Krzysztof, 2006.