we need a god who bleeds now
a god whose wounds are not
some small male vengeance
some pitiful concession to humility
a desert swept with dryin marrow in honor of the lord
we need a god who bleeds
spreads her lunar vulva & showers us in shades of scarlet
thick & warm like the breath of her
our mothers tearing to let us in
this place breaks open
like our mothers bleeding
the planet is heaving mourning our ignorance
the moon tugs the seas
to hold her/to hold her
embrace swelling hills/i am
not wounded i am bleeding to life
we need a god who bleeds now
whose wounds are not the end of anything
Introducing female God language into liturgy can feel forced: re-working Biblical passages may feel awkward, while new prayers may lack the power of Biblical imagery. But when new images for God are spoken by poets, the world can break open.*
Such is the case with Ntozake Shange’s image of a god who bleeds now.
Ntozake Shange’s god not only bleeds, she bleeds “now.” Ntozake Shange’s god not only bleeds now, she “showers us in shades of scarlet/thick and warm.” Her blood is not the splotch of red on white panties, staining our clothing and our lives with shame. This god bleeds the blood of birth, the blood of life, the blood of creation.
Her “wounds” are not the ones we have learned to celebrate. The wars of heroic traditions are “some small male vengeance,” nothing to be celebrated at all. The suffering of God on the cross is not the “mystery of God’s love for man,” but rather “some pitiful concession to humility.” Is there not, the poet asks us, some other way for god to express god’s closeness to the world? Ezekiel’s vision of a valley filled with dry bones holds no promise of resurrection, but only reminds us of all the marrow that has been lost in the name of an angry God.
The body of the god who bleeds now “breaks open” not to death, but to life: “to let us in.” The tear in our mothers’ bodies mirrors “the planet heaving mourning our ignorance.” And what is this ignorance? It is found in the literary and spiritual traditions that tell us that we must celebrate the taking of life.
No, the poet tells us: “i am not wounded/i am bleeding to life.” This “i” is the “i” of the poet: who is a woman who bleeds. This “i” is the “i” of a woman who dares to name a “god who bleeds now/whose wounds are not the end of anything.”
On the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete I get to read Ntozake’s words at the mouth of the Idean Cave.
A whole new world beginning here.**
In 1976 a budding feminist theologian’s world broke open when she heard a tall black woman dressed in red rise from despair to cry out: “i found god in myself/and i loved her fiercely.” I am that woman.
Blessed be the words of Ntozake Shange October 18, 1948-October 28, 2018.
May “we need a god who bleeds now” be read in churches, synagogues, and ritual groups all across the world in memory of her, re-membering her.
*With reference to Muriel Rukeyser’s poem “Kathe Kollwitz.”
**With reference to Adrienne Rich’s line “a whole new poetry beginning here” in The Dream of a Common Language.
Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist writer, activist, and educator living in Greece. She wrote the first essay critically analyzing Ntozake Shange’s acclaimed choreopoem for colored girls: it was published in Diving Deep and Surfacing. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.