The Chispa* Carrier: Rosemary Radford Ruether by Renny Golden
What kind of voice is breaking silence, and what kind of silence is being broken? Adrienne Rich
She came to prison with hidden keys. The way forward,
she said, is behind us. With only a spoon of history she
gutted a tunnel that ran below the plazas of Prince after Prince.
We sat waiting behind bars: mouldy histories, slop theologies
in mush bowls shoved under cell doors. Eat this or starve.
We prayed for deliverance we could not name.
We imagined her walking through deserts, our prophet
searching the sand for bones, pouring through ancient scripts,
gospels, archeologies, the dank stacks of basement libraries,
reliquaries with their throb of real blood, archives.
We rattled the bars with questions: Can she pick locks?
Can the past be more than our requiem? She kept digging:
turned over rocks until truth slithered forth, a sacred
snake that remembered the hour of women.
It was our singing she said that opened the tombs.
Everything rising from the Hidden, desert in bloom
purple cholla, fingers of scarlet ocotillo, feathered dalias
releasing their clutch of sleep. This rising of women
is what she wrote for, the fire she lit again and again
carrying the chispa in her own blistered hands.
The spirit of foremothers trudging beside us, luminous
where we pull the song wagons over the gutted paths.
We are her legacy, a choir of wild women intoning a Magnificat.
1. Rosemary Radford Ruether, Georgia Harkness Professor of Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston 1976-2000, Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology, Pacific School of Theology, 2000-2006, and Professor of Feminist Theology, Claremont Graduate University and Claremont School of Theology, 2006, has written over 20 books whose analysis of religious faith includes a critique of racism, patriarchy, the domination of nature, and hierarchy. I met Rosemary in the 1970s and without her brilliant historical critique of the Catholic Church, I would have had no way to re-claim the prophetic dimension that allowed so many saints and revolutionaries to side with the poor and ignore Rome.
2. p. 54 Adrienne Rich, The Art of the Possible, (NY: Norton), 2001 (p.150).
3. “The Chispa Carrier” was a Semi-Finalist in Jane Stories Press Foundation, Fall 2010.