The Massachusetts Review, Vol. 31, No. 4 (Winter, 1990), pp. 511-512
MATA HARI IN SAINT-LAZARE PRISON, 1917
My lawyer came this morning. Looked through the bars with his old weepy face
and said, "We can get you out of here. All you have to do is say you are pregnant."
"But the only man I have seen is you,"
I said, and laughed so hard they thought I had gone crazy.
They need a witch, I thought, for destroying.
To get their minds off how badly the war goes.
And thought of my cart back in Holland pulled by the little goats.
Five years old in my crimson dress, flying
faster, it seemed, than anything.
I remembered finding the temple at the top
of the mountain in Java. Climbing the shining
steps in the moonlight
trying to find Shiva
who had given the whole world life
with his body.
My son had been poisoned, and I was delirious -
the names flying around me like brilliantly colored birds -
Anangaranga, Apsarsis, Kali.
My own name, which means eye of dawn.
Which means now, through these bars, the sun barely rising.
It was such a little spying I did. So small. Nothing.
Dance for me, my cellmates said, and the Sister,
too, all of them ... I realized
again, I had no country.
The only country I ever had was my body -
and I danced then, forty years old,
my hair horrible, gray from the not dyeing -
but from their faces it could have been
opening night at the Musee Guimet?
- the place dark, Shiva, his four golden arms
behind me - and I'm almost naked -
just the two little cupolas on my breasts,
pearls around my wrists and ankles,
and I'm not dancing for them,
I'm dancing for my life.
Which I give to them,
just for these few moments.