100th Volume Retrospective: Atonement by Mary Morris

As a countdown to the release of the first issue of our 100th volume on December 14th, we will be posting pieces every day from previous issues over the years. Our first piece was written by Mary Morris, who went on to earn the Rome Prize in Literature and publish many novels, memoirs, and story collections. She now teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College.


Atonement

by Mary Morris

 

Those dark nights when the men

slept on the ground beside the Andalusian women; their hair like black fire blazing a snowy cliff

like a raging serpent coiled to strike

tossed upon the ground and sliding down

naked backs of olive skin. And the men

drunken and wild knew they were women

only by the touch of soft skin

and the touch of black hair

in their calloused hands.

 

In the morning when the dawn was grey

and the mist was still heavy, the women

wander down the path to the shore

to wash their feet and dab salt upon their cheeks.

They watch a gull soar and dive for its foods

then soar again as they in the dark night had soared

and dived then soared again laughing at the men in their heat. They did not wash the men off their bodies

nor the smell of tobacco from their hair.

They only washed the feet and when they felt chaste,

pure and white again, when they had rubbed the coarse

sand over their feet and legs and then rinsed again

and again in the calm green sea, when the gull had come

and gone and the mist was gone, the women returned to the men.

 

from Vol. 53 (1973)

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