Poetry Friday: Mary

h1 December 18th, 2009 by jules

Mary, depicted as Our Lady of GuadalupeA friend who made me a holiday mix CD put a version of Patty Griffin’s “Mary” on it, sung live with Shawn Colvin, and I was very pleased to hear it. It’s one of my favorite songs in all the universe, and it’d been a while since I’d heard it. I’ve been listening all week and wanted to share it today in this brief Poetry Friday entry.

This is a song about Griffin’s grandmother (or so I’ve read, or maybe heard, since—as Eisha can tell you—I like to rub it in how many times I’ve seen Patty Griffin live, mwahaha). It’s also about the Mary, and it’s a song that ran (happily and constantly) through my head during my honeymoon stay in Rome and Florence almost ten years ago, having seen a lot of early Medieval art depicting the Virgin Mary. I’m a Big Sap: This song makes me well up every time I hear it. I mean, EVERY time. To me, it’s many things — but primarily a nod to the complicated art of motherhood. I don’t know what defines a mother better than Patty’s line “and always you stay.” (That brings to mind this from Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, which I’ve shared before: “Walking to the honey house, I concentrated on my feet touching down on the hard-caked dirt in the driveway, the exposed tree roots, fresh-watered grass, how the earth felt beneath me, solid, alive, ancient, right there every time my foot came down. There and there and there, always there. The things a mother should be.”)

Here she is performing it live with Natalie Maines. (I know little to nothing about Maines, but this is the best live video version out there, and she does a fine job of singing back-up harmony here.)

Some of the lyrics:

Mary
You’re covered in roses
You’re covered in ashes
You’re covered in rain
You’re covered in babies
You’re covered in slashes
You’re covered in wilderness
You’re covered in stains
You cast aside the sheets
You cast aside the shroud
Of another man who serves the world proud
And you greet another son and you lose another one
On some sunny day and always you stay
Mary

Jesus said mother I couldn’t stay another day longer
He flies right by and leaves a kiss upon her face
While the angels were singing his praises in a blaze of glory
Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place

Mary
She moves behind me
She leaves her fingerprints everywhere
Every time the snow drifts
Every way the sand shifts
Even when the night lifts she’s always there…

I can’t find a single Web site that shows the lyrics in their entirety that won’t also throw some obnoxious pop-up ad in your face, so if you want to hear the rest, you can watch the video, which will, quite likely, make your day exponentially better anyway.

Today’s Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted by Susan Taylor Brown. Enjoy, and happy holidays to all…

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16 comments to “Poetry Friday: Mary”

  1. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

    You so nailed it with your words about motherhood. These two lines from the song really hit me hard:

    While the angels were singing his praises in a blaze of glory
    Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place

    I was reminded of my own dear mom a couple of years ago when my brother was totally off the rails. He had made life difficult enough for the rest of us that we had written him off. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but it’s just true. And he had been harder on her than any of us, but she refused to cut him loose — stuck with him to the point where we were all questioning her sanity. And in the end, she was right…probably saved his life and gave our family another chance to heal.

    Thanks again…


  2. Wow, Jeremy. That’s ….well, that’s a powerful story is what that is.

    The original is sung with Emmylou Harris, and I’m sure you can imagine how beautiful that is.


  3. Sounds like a strong, loving mom, Jeremy.

    Jules, it is indeed song day!


  4. Oh, lovely. First time hearing this. I don’t know much of Patty Griffin’s music, but I do love Natalie Maines (“the” voice of the Dixie Chicks). :)


  5. Lovely, lovely song. Made me well up also. Thank you for sharing, Jules. And thanks also to Jeremy for sharing his story — ’tis the season for healing.


  6. Lovely song…great video. Thanks, Jules, the song lyrics and your post really spoke to me.

    Jeremy, good mothers are certainly worth more than their weight in gold.

    My mother was the core of our family for so many years–the one everyone depended on. She was always the person giving of herself to make things better/easier for the rest of her family. If it hadn’t been for her taking care of my daughter when she was little, I might not have been able to keep my teaching position. Mom did more than babysit–even though that’s all I expected/asked her to do. She helped clean my house and did laundry . Because she did so much for me, I was able to spend more time with my daughter and be a better mother.

    My mother is nearly ninety-two. Now it’s my turn to help make her life easier as she isn’t able to get around so well any more. It was hard for her to accept help from her family for a time. She’s adjusting–and getting used to the fact that can’t do everything–as she had when she was younger.

    I just hope I can help to make her final years happy ones.


  7. Did you know how close this was to her feast day? Our Lady of Guadalupe who is pictured here. I have a feeling that she did. It was the 12th. Maines is one of the Dixie Chicks and Patty is awesome. Happy Birthday, Nicki.


  8. Elaine, that was a beautiful tribute to your mother. From what you wrote, she’s blessed to have you, too. Thanks for sharing.


  9. I should have noted in my earlier comment that my mother’s name is Mary.


  10. I actually learned about Patty Griffin through the Dixie Chicks (they’ve covered a number of her songs) and have since become a BIG fan. I have this version on my iPod and listen to it nearly every week. It’s an incredibly beautiful song made more so by the beautiful harmonies. As a mother to an 11 yr. old boy myself, this song is especially poignant.


  11. Thanks, everyone. Elaine, that’s perfect!

    Jannis (and everyone), yes, I had heard that Natalie Maines is a big fan of Patty, and didn’t The Dixie Chicks cover “Every Little Bit” or something like that?

    Happy holidays!


  12. LOVE LOVE Patty G! And this song is gorgeous. It’s amazing how songs become such a part of our lives, isn’t it? There are songs in my ‘soul’ that move me every time as well. MANY of them are Patty’s! Thanks for sharing this version – I hadn’t heard it and it’s SO beautiful.


  13. Kelle, yeah, this is one of THOSE songs for me. Thanks for visiting!


  14. Oh! One of my most favorite songs ever, and one of my most favorite songwriters, too.

    Wow, I couldn’t watch that video without bursting into tears. Thanks Jules.


  15. Kathi, I know. I know. I cry every time.


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