When I read the prompt for the second stage of our discussion, words failed me. Really. I was torn between the impulse to dive deeper into my own personal baggage, the desire to pour out an idealistic political agenda, and the wish to bear witness to everything that I’ve seen in the lives of my mother, sisters, and friends. But truthfully, my own story isn’t the primary narrative driving my feminism, my desire to get political is outweighed by my conscience’s desire to maintain moderate discourse, and ultimately, the stories of the women in my life aren’t mine to tell.
So I listened to the questions, turned them over in my heartmindheadgut and wrote this poem, inspired by the challenge of John Updike’s “Seven Stanzas At Easter,” a poem I turn to every time the holiday comes around, looking for reinvigoration. For me, a Christian still in the wrestling match with Orthodox theology, questions of faith and practice must be shaped in light of a theology of Resurrection, of new creation.
I’m especially conscious of this struggle in Lent, a season when liturgically-minded Christians contemplate Jesus’ obedience to all-surpassing Love. For me, right now, my work within feminism is shaped by these questions: What does a practical Resurrection mean? What does it look like to obey Love? What does Justice look like to Jesus? (Aside: My friend Sarah Moon wrote beautifully yesterday on what love and justice look like to her. Read that post!)
Here’s my current answer to the question, in light of my faith in Resurrection, love, and justice.
Stanzas for the Resurrected
“Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.”
from “Seven Stanzas At Easter,” John Updike
Perceptible and palpable,
Change walks down the straight—
road of time,
measured in lives saved, shaped, renewed.
Stories of reclamation, new creation
Told by those who sang the angry song—
told by those still singing
embattled behind opposing lines—
refugees of the old eternal wars,
foremothers and brothers
of a new and unending life.
To ask if their work has mattered,
To wonder if there is more work to do
is to wonder if they mattered,
these sojourners for the Truth,
Disturbers of a so-called peace and quiet.
Would you ask
These scattered builders of new houses
framed from the upended foundations of Empire,
“Does justice matter?
Do women really matter?”
I ask you, people of the still-green earth,
Who would you be
when histories are written,
when the roll is called up yonder,
every valley exalted,
every hill made low?
Are you Romans—
people of the so-called peace,
of paterfamilias ruling without question,
trading his family for promises,
making of men the masters of women?
Will you, as you write your history,
hear the wholeness,
hear the fullness of humanity
Or close the door?
I am a man.
In many ways, this story is not mine—
can never be mine—
born as I was into so-called victory,
beneficiary of false and cursed peace.
But I will not march the road of Adam,
Abram, Judah, David, or Caesar.
I will not speak FOR women.
They have a voice of their own—
in all colours, every shape—
Rich with half of the fullness of everything.
I will not speak for or over women,
nor CAN I,
because they are their own selves,
no one’s slaves.
He also is a man,
whom still I, hopeful,
look to as Author & Perfector,
Builder of a shining mountaintop city,
man born from the uterus,
through the vagina, of a woman—
and not a rich girl neither.
His mother, the story tells us,
Also sang the angry song,
of thrones cast down,
the mighty beggared,
the lowly raised to new and level ground.
He is a man who,
against all the instincts of those
aspiring to religious mastery,
Listened to voices of both men and women,
people who hungered, thirsted not abstractly,
whose very justice was bread and water,
survivors of wars waged for so-called peace.
He did not,
when children, sons and daughters,
were brought to him, say,
“Cast out these lesser ones to outer darkness,
the blessing is for one-and-only sons.”
Rather, he welcomed one and all,
lowly and those “not human,”
and at his feet taught:
whose following feet
beat drums for justice.
Women, whose mouths proclaimed what must—
for those who hope—
be rooted, flowering truth:
Life, freed by new creation.
Can you hear the people sing,
singing the old-new angry song?
These are people—
men and women—
Who will not be dragged along,
accessory characters to a drama
Written by no one,
Enacted by rote and by pattern
in service to an Empire of dust,
the illusion of a long-gone, once-gold
good old day.
Listen as women
Choose new roles,
Live out their selves,
Breaking open the Mad Attic,
Broadening each hearth, each home,
Entering a world rife with opportunity.
No one will stop them by prescribing old words
with narrow meanings,
And no one can force a word or meaning on them—
Neither shame-wielded assault weapons:
(Whore. Bitch. Slut.)
Nor churchmen’s pulpit-words, their sermons:
(Wife. Mother. Daughter. Never more.)
They are choosing for themselves,
And always will.
Not because you let them,
Not because they hate you,
(They have deeper concerns.)
Not because they covet what you have,
(They need not throne or sword.)
But because choice is their freedom,
As fellow children of one still-green earth.
Real and resurrected,
Change walks on down the straight—
road of time,
Still-hindered by wayward hill and valley,
Still hazarded by outposts of Empire,
But walking, not stopping.
Does the Resurrection matter?