“Katherina Magdelena” by Millie Tullis

Katherina Magdelena,
a pioneer who married her stepfather at fifteen & died from childbirth at seventeen 

I keep trying to write 
my way 

to you 
	what you were

you
were seventeen

you always will 
be		the book

of your life
ended 

in birth
delivering the son

of your step
father 		your husband

& step father
is my great 

great 	grandfather
but I am not 

your daughter 		you 
were the second 

or third wife	depending
on who 	does the counting

& you never knew
the fourth 	or fifth

wife		who
dominates

the documents 
that mention

the wives
she had the most 

children & I
am one 

of these
children

polygamy has made
our 	relationship

& polygamy 
has made

our relationship	 
strange

what are we
to each other

there are no 
pictures of you

so I try 	to 
picture you

as you are
or as you were

frozen 		in seventeen
growing up	all I wanted

was to be 
seventeen

& now I can’t
remember

why
I do not believe

in our sort
of resurrection

but I picture it
or 	I used to

my grandmother
would touch

my hair 	& say 
she would

have it
in the resurrection

thickness
she wanted

matter 		so dense
your hand 	catches 

going through it
what age 

do I imagine
a body

at the resurrection
not seventeen

at seventeen
I wanted 	love

so badly
I let 

my boyfriend take 
more 		& more

& then I
begged his forgiveness

for his hands
for my body

I am 	working
on this 

not being sorry
for my body

I am 	sorry
for how your body

was raised
& used

& died
how lonely

you must have felt
in it

This poem was nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize.

(Photo by Gwen Mamanoleas on Unsplash)

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