Mary Kathryn Lowell was born in Western Kentucky but reared in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming where words became her correspondence with the world of mountains and rivers. She has written poetry all her life. Though she published widely during her college years and was the recipient of several poetry prizes, Lowell’s career as a poet is less known than her articles on icon painting in journals such as the Orthodox Arts Journal, and Another City where she is a contributing author. Lowell is the founder and manager of Hexaemeron, a non-profit ecclesial arts education organization, established in 2003. She has authored two books on religious art: Revelations: Visions of the Second Coming from the Old and New Testaments, published by Viking Penguin Press in 1994, and Treasure in a Box: A Guide to the Icons of St. Andrew, published in 2019 by Archway Publisher, a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster.
What would we tell him
about this son of his old age
we hated for his dreams?
He was seventeen,
his eyes looking up at us
from a hole
in the wilderness.
I would have taken him up,
dreams and all,
not to drown our father’s eyes
in that rainbow weave
with blood let at Shechem
I smothered sobs in my pillow
when the house shook
with disconsolate tremors.
Dreamt I ran after dromedary
gone down to Egypt
loaded with myrrh and brother.
Now, this long, hungry march there
with the others. At its end
we may waste in Pharaoh’s prison.
But what is this wailing gone up
in the governor’s house
when we brought him Benjamin?
Zaphnath on his throne
robed in spectrum of the Nile
—drenched with tears,
his eyes looking down on us
with consummate forgiveness.
Genesis, chapters 37-45
Angels of Delacroix
Eugene, your angel dances
more than spars
with the muscular patriarch
Weapons laid aside,
he wrestles heaven for a blessing
till break of day, a second blessing
to the one stolen from the brother he fears
now advancing on Penuel.
There, sleepless Jacob waits
To be delivered or spared.
Eugene, you bare the breasts of Greece
like an angel
blessing Byron’s adopted brothers
as Pasha advances on Missolonghi
Palm Sunday morning.
Weapons drawn, set on seconding
the slaughter at Chios,
he finds his victory stolen on her ruins.
—Helen’s sons, not waiting the wrath of Ibrahim,
brought down their city on themselves
at break of day.
Here, millennia twice that night,
Assembled in the lapping light
Of candles beat against the shore
Of ten thousand angels’ nimbi,
We have come in signing hush,
Our brow and breast the axis touch,
Keeping watch as shepherds once
Who knelt about the sleeping lamb
And kissed the little feet of God.
Feast of Nativity
Age of Discovery
God has shut the door behind us, my twins,
male and female of every kind, your ruby eyes
plotting the lantern’s circle.
Has shut the door on the weltering mob
that soon in silence will tomb in the mountains
that pass beneath us as gurgling giants
while we drift on this portless marine:
The aqueous sum of forty days and nights of thunder
through which we will be the first to round
this earth if it be round
or a painted bowl upturned, floating
its precious contents beneath the stars—
Familiar stars steering us to nowhere known
in absence of rivers well-known
overwhelmed by joining seas.
The only birds above, those nesting
in our gopherwood beams
hewn from the last trees.
And small discovery it will have been
compared with drowning lilacs and men forgot
when this crowded womb of ours spills forth
another world amnesic of the oldest rocks.
So, gather to me, Friends, my innocent convention
of marsupial and deer huddled within the rocking sphere
of light fed on olives pressed,
the first of precious contents
discovered from this heap of waters.
Hunting and hunted in forests of the future,
may your ears be ever alert as when our door
loudly beaten upon and blasts from heaven
lifted us on the bowl it overturned.
There Are Many Birds
There are many birds.
What is one less?
This globe in my hand
As great as that I walk upon,
Yet never will its yield
Skim the world above the path
Where I found
Its fragile contents still bound.
I look above to the trees
For the nest fallen from.
I turn it in my palm, try its color,
Size and drum
For how this tiny world was chosen
In the coldness before light
To tumbled from life
I cannot warm it to life again
As Elias did the widow’s son.
I cannot know why many birds
And this one not become,
Though precious in my hand
As if entire
The winged´ world