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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Troubled at His Saying"
This poem came out of the December 3, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] elizabethconall. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] technoshaman.

WARNING: This poem features kidnapping and rape, and it is unflattering to the Christian religion in ways that some readers may find profoundly disturbing. Think carefully before deciding whether to read onward.

"Troubled at His Saying"

When Gabriel came to Mary,
he was tall and fierce,
a warrior of the Lord;
while she was young and small,
a virgin still, though promised to Joseph.

The messenger came to her
with sweet words and blessings,
ripe with the Lord's praises;
but Mary knew what it meant
when a man came to a woman
with a mouth so full of honey,
and it frightened her.

Gabriel admonished her
not to be afraid, assuring her
of the Lord's favor
and the promise of a son.

Mary reminded Gabriel
that she was a virgin
and already betrothed
to another man,
so could not bear a son
for his Lord.

Then Gabriel explained
how the Lord would come upon her
and overshadow her with his power,
that she might conceive a son of him.

Mary looked up and up
at the mighty warrior,
thinking of his Lord
who had far more strength;
she knew there was no point
in resisting or crying for help.

She was merely a handmaiden
of the Lord, who would do with her
as he wished regardless of her will,
and so she agreed to it,
having no other choice.

Gabriel went away to his Lord,
and Mary walked onward,
knowing and fearing what was to come.

Then the Lord swept down,
and covered his handmaiden
with all his might.

He took her up
and carried her away,
there to avail himself of her
for some time, all the while
showering her with praise
for her grace and her charms,
while Mary let it be done unto her
as the Lord willed.

When he was quite finished,
the Lord released her,
and Mary stumbled away
to seek her home.

There she confessed to Joseph
that she was no longer a virgin
and unfit to marry him,
for Gabriel had announced the Lord
to her and she had let it be
according to his word.

Joseph put his arms around Mary
and assured her that none of it
lay any blame at her feet;
for what could a small man
do against a great one,
let alone a young woman
against a warrior and the Lord himself?

Surely, he said, it was not her fault
that the Lord had wandering eyes
for a bride promised to another,
nor that he had kidnapped her
and used her without invitation.

Then Joseph pledged to be father
to whatever child Mary might bear,
since the Lord could not be bothered
to keep and raise his own.

Mary cupped a hand
over his bearded cheek
and thought that her father
had chosen for her
the finest man in all of Galilee,

and she would rather have Joseph's kindness
than all the sweet words and gauds of the Lord.

* * *


The background story comes from Luke 1:26-38 (King James Version).

Consent and rape are complex issues, even if someone says yes. Consensual relationships may be undermined by a conflict of interest or power differential. Some people hold that "Where power differentials exist, there can be no 'mutual consent.' " Rape is a disgrace to masculinity.  Many other folks have discussed God raping Mary.

According to Biblical sources, adultery is sex (or the thought of sex) between those who are not married, and counts in betrothal not just marriage. Since God was not married to Mary (who was promised to Joseph) that was adultery.

Rape resulting in pregnancy is not a blessing, although some people say it is. This is canon-typical violence for the Bible.  

Men abandon their offspring for various reasons. Abandoning a woman pregnant with one's child is a disgrace to masculinity. Anybody can make a baby; it takes more guts to raise one -- especially another man's child. This is the honor of adoptive parents everywhere.

Rape can do terrible damage to body, mind, and spirit. There are recommendations on self-care for survivors and how to support a survivor. Also it helps to know what NOT to say and do to a survivor.

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4 comments or Leave a comment
amaebi From: amaebi Date: December 7th, 2013 04:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I like that.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 7th, 2013 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you liked this.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: December 7th, 2013 09:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is a very bold piece! It certainly makes for some excellent talking points regarding the issue of consent.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 8th, 2013 05:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you found this so thought-provoking. That's what I was aiming for.
4 comments or Leave a comment