Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tag their walls; make them your hermitage

I wouldn't have started blogging if it weren't for my partner Jomo, who convinced me that I needed to get my thoughts out there, even if they're in fragments over time. If not, I might drive her crazy by talking about theology all the time! :) So she was happy when she saw this up, and was struck by the ambiguously gendered graf image on the banner. Are they monks or nuns in their cloaks? Are they hip hop generation youth in their hoodies? Are they hijabi women or kefiyahed men? (or maybe hijabi men and kefiyahed women?)

In any case, she said it reminded her of a poem I'm working on about the tombs of Roman freed slaves, the kind of folks who made up the first generation of Christians. Here it is:


Queer Roman Tombs


I. Freedwomen

At least now they own their own veils

And can lift them in stony gestures
Warding off aristocrats
Shielding their faces
From their slave-girl pasts-

When it had been illegal for them to refuse
When their children couldn't wear necklaces
To ward off the evil eye


II. Freedmen

Of different shades and tongues
The tools of their trades tangled
To scrounge a new home

Maybe the common name
They had acquired from their master
Let them pass as brothers


III. Fonteia Elesus, Fonteia Helena

Somehow their female names survived the chisel
Their hands clasp like lovers
And this had to be edited

Yes, one of them - her hair is short
That’s because they chipped away her veil
To make her a man

But you can still see her Venus rings
And their tender glances

See, someone has carved a wedding ring
Into this woman’s hand