Margery Coffey
Maria, the Destroyer

Oil, Bone, Wood, Collage on Cardboard
35" x 43"
1996

 

Maria, The Destroyer
© 1997 Changing Winds

Margery  Coffey

Shyly smiling at me in a wholesome way,
Her picture on the wall of the Spanish gallery.
From 1911 soft sepia browns unnaturally caress
Her short curls that must have been black.
Brown candy eyes of pity in such a young face,
Sixteen, eighteen? Age was hard to tell.

She smiled at me from a Mexican street,
Stopped for a moment by a photographer,
An art still new in its novelty, catching faces
On paper, what a strange, odd process,
To secure an instant of time's swift action
Reviewed a century later on the wall as art.

Who was she that looked almost like
My mother, in her flapper days of youth?
This Hispanic beauty had bobbed her hair.
For practicality during the chaos of war days?
Or in anticipation of a fast dance when
Good times should come around again.

An angel face framed in warm browns,
Dressed in an ivory glow that matched
Her flawless skin of even greater silky patina.
In her hand, a perfect rose of dark tone.
It must have been a deep opulent red
Enhancing, it would seem, cheek and lip alike.

The caption would tell the story of this lady,
Surrounded by violent carnage of the 1910
Revolution in which many died horribly
To valiantly put forth their cause, voting
With their lives, all these fathers, sons, brothers,
Lovers massacred in warrior's carnage.

"Maria, the destroyer" the elegant letters
Spelled out for those who had to know.
It was the custom of the times for a girl
Of beauty to find the ones who could not
Live because of wounds too monstrous,
And end their pain with a bullet from her gun.

She would walk among the wounded
Brought newly from the battlegrounds
Stopping at the ones who were not yet 
Dead from power's gristly bloodbaths.
With her smile and the rose she ended
The question. Did she kiss them too?

Were they efficiently tagged for death?
Or did she follow the priest around
Like an afterthought of his last rites
The final amen to an ending prayer
A vision of the Virgin Mary whose name
She carried anonymously with the rose.

Did she take a day off from Death?
Or were her services so much in demand
That holidays were not a possibility.
Was her macabre errand, hers alone?
Or were there several dark angels
Alternating with each other to ease the chore?

Did they know, these dying men of hers?
Did they have a choice between her
And risking survival against all odds?
Or was the decision not theirs to make
Since fate had dealt two aces, two eights
A dead man's hand clutching her red rose.

Ah, sweet Maria, with your touch of death,
Was it better coming from your fair hand
Than to die by inches beyond pain killers?
Did you ply them with whiskey as well
So they could go out in macho style?
Or did they cry for relief from their horror?

Did they know you for what you were?
Or did you appear to them as a vision
A sainted sister, mother, lover, goddess
To ease their momentary hell with touch?
A scent of roses to blot out stench of rot
A sweet beauty blinding death's skull.

How many men did she have to kill
When the wounded were brought in
Fresh from the fields of freedom's slaughter?
Did her hot gun jam from constant use?
Were the extra bullets for it in a box?
Or did she carry a convenient bandoleer?

Who was she, where did she come from
This angel of death from Mexican hearts?
Was she following her childhood sweetheart
Into another futile battle cause of his?
Or was she revenging the loss of family
Being the only survivor of an atrocity?

Was she the one who was left after all
The sons were sacrificed on gore's altar?
Did she argue with her grieving parents
Crying to avenge her brothers' death?
Or did she silently leave in the depth of night
So as not to disturb with another argument.

Had she planned to lead a gallant charge
Into the midst of heroic battle's furious fever?
Only to discover that in freedom's wars
Women were never allowed to fight?
Or did she intend to nurse the wounded
Graciously giving life back to the brave?

At the end of the war did she go mad
Knowing that so many lives were ended
By her sweet small hand upon a rose?
Or did she simply disappear from the scene
Completing the poignant picture of her
White dress, red rose and black gun?

Did she close that part of her life
By shutting the door to her mind
Pretending the horrors that she saw
Were all a part of nightmare's dream?
Did the faces of the dying young men
Come drifting by to visit in her old age?

Captured in a moment by a new toy
Recording the same old bloody story
So that now those of us not yet born
Could study how it was on a certain day
When time was trapped on a piece of paper
Sepia toned like the dust on the streets of war.

Earth brown tones etching the adobe walls
Of southwestern heat stroked homes
Crumbling from the explosions of greed
And the frustration of endless poverty.
Senorita smiling shyly across a century
Dealing death's compassion as routine.

Was your life so miserable for you there
That volunteer murdering of wretches
Became your honor, bestowing mercy
By alleviating pain permanently with a gun
Was this moment for your victim any greater
Because of your loveliness or scented flower?

How strange that all they could think of
To name you was "Maria" after the mother
Of the prince of peace. Did adding the 
Word "Destroyer" make it go down better?
Or was it meant to be the alpha omega
Pieta's sorrow in red, white and black

The sacred colors coming in the name 
Of the mother to bring the sorrow to end
In the transformation of the son's life to death
Like the endless pageant in which you were
Caught. Egotistical war games of the new century
Continuing the senseless butchery even today.

 


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