Maudlin; Or, The Magdalen’s Tears

By Linda Gregerson b. 1950 Linda Gregerson
If faith is a tree that sorrow grows
and women, repentant or not, are swamps,

a man who comes for solace here   
will be up to his knees and slow

getting out. A name can turn on anyone.   
But say that a woman washes the dust

from a stranger’s feet
and sits quite dry-eyed in front

of her mirror at night.
The candle flame moves with her breath, as does

the hand of the painter, who sees in the flame   
his chance for virtuosity. She lets him leave

her shoulder bare.
Bedlam’s distilled from a Mary too,

St. Mary’s of Bethlehem, shelter   
for all the afflicted and weak

of mind. The donors conceived of as magi   
no doubt. The mad and the newborn

serve equally well for show.   
A whore with a heart, the rich

with a conscience, the keepers of language   
and hospitals badly embarrassed at times

by their charge. The mirror refuses
the candle, you see. And tears on another’s behalf

are not
the mirrors he’s pleased to regard.

Who loves his ironies buxom and grave   
must hate the foolish water of her eyes.


Linda Gregerson, “Maudlin; Or, The Magdalen’s Tears” from Fire in the Conservatory (Port Townsend, Washington: Dragon Gate, 1982). Copyright © 1982 by Linda Gregerson. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Fire in the Conservatory (Dragon Gate, 1982)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Linda Gregerson b. 1950

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Religion, Painting & Sculpture, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Christianity, Men & Women

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Linda  Gregerson

Biography

Linda Gregerson is the author of several collections of poetry and literary criticism. A Renaissance scholar, a classically trained actor, and a devotee of the sciences, Gregerson produces lyrical poems informed by her expansive reading that are inquisitive, unflinching, and tender. Tracing the connections she finds between science and poetry, Gregerson says, “I think there are rhythms of thought, fragile propositions about the . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Painting & Sculpture, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Christianity, Men & Women

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.