ctrl F: goddess, women, woman. Selected poems 2012-2021 by Elizabeth Cunningham


I began writing quarterly posts for FAR in July 2012. The poems below are selected from journals kept during these nine years. As indicated, I searched for the words goddess, women, woman. April is poetry month, but I also realize that right now I don’t have any essays in me. Sometime this year, I may embark on my first nonfiction project.  In spite of and/or because of that new focus, this post is my last as a regular FAR contributor. I am grateful for having been a reader and writer in this community. Thank you and much love to you all.

Photo:  Mila Tovar

dream: Kali Ma

in the dream
my daughter is a child again
her name is Kalima
I rub her limbs
with dark purple dye
this pleases her: she laughs

later at a cocktail party
she tells the guests:
I am the goddess of life and death
I can take you down
and bring you back
would you like to come?
I whisper in her ear
they can’t understand yet
who you are, let them be awhile.

her limbs are purple, she is young
she laughs at me
she laughs.

my grown daughter

My daughter sits on the curb at the bus station
hair part shaved partly long, arms shadowed with tattoos
long legs, tinted shades, one dangling earring, jean vest

She is the most elegant young woman I know
inimitable style: sexy, bold, witty, free
she rises to more than height. She has sovereignty.

limerick

there once was a nice pope named Francis
ordination of women, what were the chances?
alas he said no
forever no go
a priest must have a prick in his pantses

moon

the moon rises low and huge as a dream moon
not the small, distant, out-of-reach ball it becomes
but the face, our goddess, golden, bright and brooding

memory of my three-year-old daughter

she asks, where is the goddess?
she is everywhere in everything, I say.
she looks up into the trees and says,
these are the branches of the goddess.
she looks down at her hand holding mine
these are the hands of the goddess.

not safe

not safe to be black
not safe to be gay
not safe to be a woman
not safe to be transgender
not safe to be young
not safe to be old
not safe to assume
you know anything
about the person
or people you shoot

not safe to be human
not safe to be not human
animal, plant, water, air,
dirt or cloud. unweaving
the web, we weave a shroud.
I would rather live for you
and with you, dear earth,
giver of fruit and flower,
but I am no saint, I take
too much and deplore
my own kind. I have
no virtue, I just don’t
have a gun.

dream tanka

we find saint Sarah
made of mounds of river stone,
blue loose-woven dress,
carbon dated, eons old.
help me remember her song

heard in meditation

me: I left you for the goddess
him: you came back to me as the goddess

women’s march signs

consent in the sheets/dissent in the streets
we need to talk about the elephant in the womb
if toddlers can’t vote, they shouldn’t hold elected office
you’re so vain, you probably think this march is about you
a woman’s place is in the resistance
don’t mess with mother rage
pussies against patriarchy
we stand on the shoulders of our mothers and grandmothers,
and we will not be silenced
this pussy grabs back
this pussy has teeth
if men got pregnant you could get an abortion at an ATM
never again (coat hanger)
boy with sign: I am marching for my little sister
taking away my birth control will only make more democrats
electile dysfunction
now you have pissed off Grandma
no dicktator
planned parenthood: grabbing pussies with consent since 1916
nasty women from Teaneck
bad hombre raised by a nasty woman
we are the noisy majority

this is how women march
with humor and passion and style
in pink pussy hats
turning denigration into power

dream tanka

I’m the celebrant
I munch communion wafers
and search for the wine.
a woman priest says to me
we’ll drink whatever is left

Aretha

With the rest of world
I pray for Aretha this morning
outside by the scarred, ancient rock
sentinel sunflowers and black-eyed susans
keeping a kind of watch with me,
random shuffle choosing song after song
as I move through the morning:
Oh, Mary don’t you weep
Natural Woman
People Get Ready There’s Train a Coming
The Thrill is Gone with the triumphant chorus
I’m free, free at last, thank God Almighty I’m free at last.

international women’s day

was my daughter’s due date
but she arrived two days early
claiming a day for her own.
last year in Kerala I saw women
marching in hot, shaded streets, wearing pink saris,
I listened to a young woman tell me her dreams.

dream haiku

writing a new book
a question for each chapter
women will answer

haibun: granny maples

Warm autumn afternoon. I’m walking a path new to me on the eastern side of the ridge. On the upward twist, the path narrows, whispers with fallen leaves. Here and there a meadow turning back into wood. I am stopped in my tracks by the sight of an ancient maple, knobby knees and peering faces, a hollow at her heart, a thick elbow of branch, remnants of brown leaves. Grandmother, how long have you grown here, weathered here, lost leaves and limbs, come back for one more spring? All I have to offer is awe. After a time I walk on, and around a bend, another grandmother maple, also ancient, her aspect just as distinct. I spend time with her. (I find have to say “her” as one aging woman to another more aged.) I walk on around the curving path and come to the third grandmother with her own spiraling beauty, rough bark, and tattered leaves. The forest around these old ones is so young. Did someone plant three maples long ago? Did they once wave to each other across fields of corn or hay?

three grandmother trees
rooted in my memory
living fairytale  

tanka

a baby girl born
late morning; early evening
an old woman dies
snowflakes falling on snowdrops
high winds, black clouds, brilliant light  

Elizabeth Cunningham is best known as the author of The Maeve Chronicles, a series of award winning novels featuring a feisty Celtic Magdalen. Tell Me the Story Again is her latest poem collection. Her novels The Wild Mother and The Return of the Goddess have both been released in 25th anniversary editions. She is also the author of Murder at the Rummage Sale. The sequel, All the Perils of this Night, was published in 2020. An interfaith minister, Cunningham is in private practice as a counselor. She is also a fellow emeritus of Black Earth Institute.  



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31 replies

  1. Oh no, don’t leave us! You will be missed. Like you I can’t seem to find the topics nor summon up the energy to write my blogs. In fact, this is the topic of my post for tomorrow. What is this malaise?

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thank you for your kind words, Carol. I have appreciated being part of this community. I always look forward to your posts and appreciate their range. I hope to be a guest contributor from time to time.
      Much love and encouragement to you and to all. And health and joy!

      Liked by 4 people

    • Carol, I too am having the same problem – I struggle to find the energy to write anything these days – spring feels so HARD this year.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Carol,
      You say – What is this malaise? It certainly seems to be affecting us all. Perhaps the world has just become so hard and so filled with hate (or at least hate has the loudest voice) that we are all exhausted. I think there’s a bit of PTS also after the 5 year assault on our democracy – which unfortunately continues though luckily doesn’t hold the reigns right now. For about 3 weeks after Biden’s inauguration I found myself tensing up every time I’d heard the word “president” on the radio or tv. I’d have to remind myself that the word held a different meaning now.

      Even before the orange menace and the pandemic I was always amazed at how you managed to post once a week. I struggle to get my monthly posts done. I’m glad you are allowing yourself a break when you need it.

      Like

  2. Dear kind editors who have always posted for me and braved the challenges of wordpress, I just located the edit button and reformatted the poems. I find it difficult to read multiple or long poems double-spaced. Unless the writer asks for double space, best to single space poetry within stanzas. That said, thank you again for all your hard work of beautiful, patient formatting. Blessed Bees to you all!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Oh Elizabeth you are a wonder. I do so hope to see your posts and your wisdom here at times. Oh my, I’m feeling a sense of personal loss with your leaving.

    Thanks for sharing these poems which are clearly a piece of you. Only you can discuss the “Pope’s pantses” and make it lively. I just want to hug your 3 your old daughter there. Goddess hands indeed!

    And your “Not Safe” poem speaks heartbreaking truth. In such simple language you nail the crux of the ills and dysfunctions of our world today.

    And that’s what I took away from my first reading. There is so much here I will have to come back and re-read, perhaps more than once and I am sure I will pick up many more layers that are meaningful to me.

    May your journeys going forth be fruitful, abundant, loving and fun!

    Liked by 7 people

    • Thank you, Janet! I have so welcomed your words and presence here. Thank you for your generous reading of the poems.

      I’m finishing the draft of a novel and may embark on the new non fiction project. There may be aspects of both I would like to share with FAR when the time comes. For now I need to develop some new thinking and ways of writing.

      All the best to you, Janet, in all your work–and play!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Elizabeth, I will so miss your calm, wise, magical, and lyrical voice as a regular contributor, and I do hope you will contribute occasionally. It has been such a pleasure to get to know the amazing author of so many beloved books through your posts and comments, and now these poems! They speak so eloquently of the many layers of meaning of life and the moments we are all living through now. I wish you joy, happiness, fulfillment, and excitement as you venture forward, and I look forward to not only occasional FAR contributions but your nonfiction project!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much, Carolyn. I have so enjoyed the wisdom and beauty of your work and spirit. Right on, write on!

      I would welcome the opportunity to be a guest contributor here. Finishing the rough draft of the most challenging novel I’ve attempted and contemplating something new might correlate to both gestation and the transition state of labor. Hmm. That just occurred to me. I will be in touch and keep you posted and progress.

      All the best to you, dear Carolyn, in all aspects of your life and work!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. OH NO… please don’t leave – take a break maybe – but don’t leave us…
    I know too that this is about me – and not you and that you must do what you need to do… but I look at that bare tree and something in me gives way – yes, it’s about me – but it’s more than me – I love your poems – I love your comments – you are dear to me. if you must leave then may you find exactly what you need, and surprise us with a visit someday?

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you so much, dear Sara, whose work speaks to my heart and my condition.

      I do hope to contribute again in the future. Yes, let’s say a break. To complete one work, as noted, and gestate another. And maybe just sit and walk and listen to birds and observe plants.

      I know you understand about balancing the commitment to community and the longing for solitude. Need to tend a little more toward the latter at the moment.

      Thank you for all the ways your keen observation and beautiful writing enriches us all.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Dear Elizabeth, you have been one of the primary influencers of my life since my bedazzled eyes first read “The Return of the Goddess.” You know I have reveled in your fiction for years. The day doesn’t pass when I don’t think of something Maeve has said!

    We will miss you greatly but it’s reassuring to know that you’ll be back from time to time.

    In the meantime, thank you for the beautiful gift of poetry this morning, especially the poems about your daughter. Those struck a particular chord with me. My twelve-year-old granddaughter, whom I’ve practically worshipped since the day of her birth, is doing the adolescent thing of pulling away from the family. All girls do this and I know that, but I do miss her terribly.

    Sometimes the kindest, best action to take is to let the butterfly go when it flies away from the flower. It’ll come back one day: until then, one goes on as best as one can.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and loving reading. Means a lot coming from you, Goddessfiction (whose other name I know!)

      Thanks for sharing about your granddaughter. And I will share that my beloved daughter who said (though she probably doesn’t remember) “these are the hands of the goddess” also pulled away at that same age. In her thirties now, she continues to be an amazing person whom I admire.

      Your granddaughter is lucky to have an understanding and adoring grandmother who knows how to let go and hold fast at the same time!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Always love your work, Elizabeth. My your new direction be blessed.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. These poems, so full of your wisdom and humor, made me feel light and free in the best possible ways I love the grandmother trees. I want to go out to the woods right now and visit them! But I also enjoyed the protest poems so much: “if men got pregnant you could get an abortion at an ATM” – hah! Yes! Whatever you do next, I know it will be wonderful.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Barbara! I just visited the Granny Maples today. They are just flowering that new neon green, so fresh and delicate adorning their gnarled beauty.

      Yes, all the lines in that poem were from signs I saw in 2017 women’s march in NYC!

      Looking forward to your next work, too!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Elizabeth, you’ve had a good run here on FAR. Like probably everyone who’s ever read one of your posts, I’m feeling sad. Maybe you’ll come back??

    I think I understand the malaise issue. I think we’re all staring at it and feeling frustrated. It’s the Covid. The pandemic. The awful stuff we’re seeing on the TV news and/or reading online. The Jan. 6 insurrection. Stupid men with guns shooting people. People running around in crowds without masks and getting sick. It’s all very discouraging and very depressing.

    As always, I love your poetry. Remember, I’ve got two books of your poetry next to your novels on my shelf. And a poem you sent me for a solstice a gazillion years ago. I framed it, and it’s hanging on my bedroom wall.

    Do your new work. What is this new project you have in mind? I’m sure I can speak for everyone on FAR when I say we’ll miss your posts and hope you come back. Brightest blessings on all your work!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much, Barbara! And thank you always for your sprightly, insightful, wildly original posts here that make us laugh and make us think.

      I agree with you that we have many sources for malaise every day and from so many quarters. It can be overwhelming and create a longing for simplicity and silence that is hard come by. Kudos to those who find ways to speak to this condition.

      The novel I’m finishing (a sort of fairytale, which includes four elemental grannies) is even more challenging than the nonfiction project I have in mind. And when I say finishing I mean the rough draft. Then the work of revision begins. I will be curious to see if I can work on two projects at once. When I’m in the swim and the flow, I hope to share some of the work on FAR. Too soon to say much about the new project, since all I have is a blue-sky file where I jot down ideas. I’ll keep you posted.

      Meanwhile and always, much love and gratitude and of course blessed bees!

      Like

  10. PS: FAR readers, it was Barbara Ardinger who introduced me to the FAR community. Thank you, Barbara!

    Like

  11. Elizabeth, your poems are just superb, they take me to a place where I wanted to be, the presence of being.

    May your new path being blessed with inspiration and fulfillment of what you love doing and what you are best.
    Your reader Cornelia from California

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I am sad to see you leave. Thank you for all of your contributions on FAR. May the road ahead be as you hope. Please visit us when you can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ivy. I’ve always appreciated your well-researched thoughtful posts. I have loved your wrestlings and reflections on passages from the Torah. I will be visiting in the future. Meanwhile and always, I wish you all the best.

      Like

  13. Elizabeth, I hope you continue to respond to posts at the very least. To lose your voice altogether on FAR would be terrible. Take a break, but come back with new ideas to enchant us. A fairy tale with 4 elemental grannies sounds like fun. I can’t wait.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Nancy. Except for finishing up here, I will be taking a break from posting and also from commenting on posts. Much gratitude for the community of FAR and for all the rich conversation. At this gestational, transitional time in my life, I am feeling a need for more silence. With love to you and to everyone at FAR, farewell for now and all the best.

      Like

  14. Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful poems. I understand your need for quiet and look forward to the day when you return to FAR, both as a contributor and commentator.

    I’m feeling pretty tired and overwhelmed also – notice how long after your post I’ve found time to actually look at it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, dear Judith! I am taking a breaking from commenting as well as posting. I do treasure your posts, including the recent one on wren. Commenting almost daily is a habit I am having to break. Please forgive my absence. I will return when I feel I can. Write on, paint on! Much love!

      Like

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  1. ctrl F: goddess, women, woman. Selected poems 2012-2021 by Elizabeth Cunningham – Laitress Love and Light

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