Thursday, April 11, 2013

National Poetry Month: Mary Fabilli

Mary Fabilli

"Letter to Robert"
(Mary Fabilli)

We who devour our unclean dead 
are now arisen
we are walking in the corridors
under the vaulted stairs
from our shady pockets the sun
has never risen
our vested interests
our noble heirs
in derision we have warned them
exploring with our fingers
sensing the fragile bone
who will atone for our deception?
who will commune with the marrow
breaking through with a stone
listen and you will hear them the liars
the deceivers
running furtively to be alone
in the shady corners
trailing their unclean fingers
as they flutter up the stairs
We who devour our dead 
have left their prison
we have forgotten the twilight
swaying above their beds
the twilight
the fiery pebbles
the livid eyes on the stairs
but they have resumed our wisdom
liars all & believers
boneless bodies dead
they have heard us groan in the corridors
they have barred the doors with threads
we who are dead have devoured us &
have gathered to watch these children
playing games with our stones
with the polished bones of the dead
(This is what I think 
of the international situation --
very lucid, it is not).

"Letter to Robert"  is Mary Fabilli's tribute to the poet Robert Duncan. The poem was featured in the 1998 anthology Women of the Beat Generation, edited by Brenda Knight, who writes in her introduction: "Mary Fabilli ... never read publicly during the heyday of the Beats ... Her largest work was her 1981 anthology entitled Poems 1976-1981 ... besides self-publishing her poetry in mimeographed pamphlets, such as the collection of poems entitled The Old Ones, her strongly descriptive poems were published in Duncan's literary magazine, Epitaph."

In addition to her poetry, Mary Fabilli also produced woodcuts and linoleum block prints as accents to her own chapbooks. Some were done for the poems of her husband, William Everson, including "Triptych for the Living" (1951). In 1948, inspired by his wife's renewed interest in her faith, Everson converted to Catholicism and entered the Dominican Order as a lay brother and chose the name Brother Antoninus, and his own mystical poetry achieved wide recognition. Mary Fabilli joined the Dominican Order in 1953 as a member of the St. Albert Priory Chapter of the Lay Dominicans. Br. Antoninus wrote of their shared religious experience:

"It was my time with Mary Fabilli that broke both my Jeffersian pantheism and my Lawrencian erotic mysticism. She personalized this, her whole touch was to personalize, to humanize. Also, the intuition to which her course led me is that my mystical needs, my religious needs, which had not really been met in my pantheism, could only find their solution in the more permeable human context, and in a ritual and a rite, and a mythos that was established in a historical continuity".

This 'ritual and rite' to which Everson referred was the Catholic Mass. Everson died in 1994; Fabilli continued her regular attendance at daily Mass until her failing health made this impossible. She died in 2011 in Berkeley, California, at the age of 97.

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