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.
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
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.
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
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 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.
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
now you have pissed off Grandma
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
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
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
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.
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
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.