Sacred Outcry: A Poetic Trilogy by Mary Saracino


Howling from the mountaintops
wailing from the riverbanks
scooping the moon into their waning wombs
the old women know that lies kill,
distortions maim, hope isn’t enough to feed starving
babies, school the ignorant, put an end to war.

Like Furies, the old ones rise,
clench their furious fists against the blazing sun;
like Harpies they roar, casting dire warnings
upon the winds of change; soothsaying Sibyls
decipher omens, portend the future, speak in baffling koans.
With dakini wisdom they cut through
illusion, vote in primaries, attend caucuses,
raise their voices against power, shatter
the corrupted ceilings that chafe the crowns
of their wizened heads.

The wandering Maenads cry: “This is no country
for old women.”

Medea calls down her midnight powers,
prays for revolution, strengthens the tired tongues
of memory. Eloquence isn’t enough to heal
a wounded country; sequined celebrities
can’t mend a nation’s odiferous past. Kali avenges
her sisters, the long-patient Queens & Crones,
Maidens & Mothers. The forgotten ones
wait and watch and warn: “Beware the hubris
of ages. Beware the greedy hand that grabs the golden fleece.”


Deeper than bone
deeper than muscle or sinew
or tenacious tendon
this howl of ages
rivers through bloodlines, ancient as oceans
salty as the primeval seas
this is what happens to women who
out-step their bounds
dare to be bold, brazen
speak up, name the subterfuge
women who grit their warriors’ teeth
fight on, for their children
their lovers, their nation
their homes, their hearts’ desires
branded as heretics: witch, bitch, cunt, whore
they race through forests and fields
trying to outrun the acrid scent of their own sweat
running from the hellish hounds
the priestly proclamations
the wrenching bite of the strappado*
running for their lives
caught between sinner or saint
rarely allowed sovereignty over Self
over mind & womb, over laws meant to undo them

Thousands of straggled cats launched the Plague
tender necks swinging from tree limbs
flaccid, cold paws an omen: the rats will have their day

Crucibles of change, cauldrons
of sorrow, voices stymied for eons by the threat of extinction
womb-wisdom silenced by public outcry
burned at the stake of cultural conditioning
the subterranean outrage
seeps out, sharp as knives
sharp as memory
sharp as justice denied
sharp as the bloodied knives
eviscerating their midnight powers

Deep is this grief
Deep this anger
A dirge of rage lost to the winds of time.
The weeping memory wails, still.
Hear it the moonless night sky,
touch it in the hot light of noon
smell it in the poisoned soil
taste it on your remembering tongue
see it in the burning irises
that bear witness to this unyielding genocide.

* Strappado is a form of torture, employed by the Inquisitional tribunals against women accused of witchcraft. Victims were suspended in the air by means of a rope attached to their hands which were tied behind their backs, causing their arms to be dislocated.


“Mothers will make peace, so sons will not die.”

–Huda, a Palestinian journalist living in Jordan, as quoted in “Women’s Gathering Gives Peace a Chance,” Women’s E-News, April 13, 2006

Will it come to this, then? The mothers rising
like Furies unleashed, banishing war
from the souls of men, their fierce wombs
howling with the memory of seedling sons —
how they quickened and grew,
ripening into beautiful babies, brimming with
hope, their futures overflowing with laughter,
love, the kisses of grateful mothers — not bombs,
not bloodshed, not rage.

Will the mothers unite, dressed in saris of apricot
& nectarine, African headdresses of fuchsia, green,
& yellow, American blue jeans and T-shirts, Italian
leather jackets? Will they defy the edicts, the lies,
the clarion calls to violence everywhere — the battlefield,
the bedroom, the boardroom, the brothel?

Mothers with dark faces heed their sons’ cries,
their daughters’ anguish; mothers with blue eyes
or black, mothers with Arab hearts or Israeli, inner-city moms
or moms in mini-vans, farm wives and nuns, scholars
and poets, Asian or Mexican, white-skinned or brown,
young or old. Can they re-tether the war-weary
world to their ruptured umbilical cords? Mend every tattered soul?

Can peace prevail if fathers fail
to join their holy efforts? Or must mothers shoulder
the grief alone, bearing the world’s sorrows,
as they bear the pains of labor,
giving birth to justice that hungers for compassion,
transformation that conjures a different kind of world?

Mary Saracino is a novelist, poet, memoir-writer and workshop facilitator who lives in Denver, CO.  She is the co-editor of She Is Everywhere! Volume 3: An anthology of writings in womanist/feminist spirituality (iUniverse 2012). Mary’s most recent novel, The Singing of Swans (Pearlsong Press 2006) was a 2007 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist. Her short story, “Vicky’s Secret” earned the 2007 Glass Woman Prize.  For more information visit:;; and

Permission to Reprint:

“No Country for Old Women” was originally published on; March 5, 2008

“Subterranean Rage” was originally published on; May 23, 2008

“Mothers Will Make Peace” was originally published on; April 30, 2006

Note: All rights revert to the author after first publication on; all poems used by permission of the author.

Categories: Foremothers, General, Herstory, Poetry

Tags: , ,

9 replies

  1. Would that it could be so! But first women, mothers, and grandmothers will have to wake up from the daze of love patriarchalism, rape, genocide, and war sweetened by love (and hero worship) for those who perpetrate them. Sigghhhhh….. Thanks for your powerful words.


  2. Very powerful. I think the fathers are in fact failing, so let’s all us mothers get up! Thanks, Mary.


  3. Wow! These take my breath away – they are so powerful!


  4. This is absolutely fabulous, Mary! Thank you thank you! And yes yes yes!


  5. My sisters, you don’t know how much I needed Mary Saracino’s words today! “Subterranean Rage” pretty much sums up how I’m thinking and feeling and praying and kneeling these days at the continued outrages of male-dominated social, political, economic and political systems. My prayer is that our “midnight powers” burst forth in this fall’s elections, in subversive movements that seek not to mend broken systems, but to lift up new ways of being and doing. Thank you.


  6. Mary thank you. I see this poem restoring a once lost life force present in all women, moving women now to reinvent herself as gentle Goddess and inspiring/expiring, mentoring sons in all life supporting ways. The undercurrent of fear at our own power is still felt somewhere. On the heaps of a concept of love rotting over the bones of oppression, disenfranchisement and subservience, let’s rage with creative waves to prepare a fire in the belly of Wise woman identity–as justified as Audre Lorde’s message in Uses of Anger, and as insightful as the rage of Kali-Durga to slay the demoniac tendencies of egoism which drive interlocking systems of oppression, genocides driven by objectivism and insatiable egoistic desires to feed on the food meant for the bones of the hungry brothers and sisters.

    It saddens me to hear feminists afraid of raging, attached to a certain social grace and manners… Last night I watched “Triage: Dr. James Orbinsky’s Humanistic Dilemma” and felt more convinced than ever that we cannot permit ourselves to be shallow-happy in a culture which is “enriched” by mass genocides. So, when are we going to theorize, dream, birth, raise, educate and let the gentlest, wisest sons, boys, lovers, brothers, fathers, men emerge from our doing, imagining, co-creating, being, sensing… ?

    I believe that Feminism lacks a theory and a vision of the anti-patriarchal sons of women. I have been working at it, dreaming at it… This raging crone has been sick with the reports of continuing invasions, open markets and hospital doors closed to women, children and the aged. Hoping to include men who are dedicated to end and expose systems of oppression, I have collected a list of men-who-know-love, who help expose the evils of oppression and whose qualities deserve a place in feminism. Your poem Mary, as well as Lorde’s anger and the powers of Goddess Kali-Kurga to stop male destructive ego with her mere presence, enlarge my heart in a reciprocal embrace to move on in the creation of space for the gentle boy-man and for the dynamic means of transformation or end of the sick oppressor.


  7. An intriguing discussion is worth comment.
    I believe that you need to publish more about this issue, it may not be a taboo matter but generally folks don’t talk about such
    issues. To the next! Cheers!!


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