Loving Venus, a poem by Marie Cartier

Dedicated to Carol Christ, 1945-2021, who taught so many of us how to love the Goddess

She is called “Nude Woman” and currently lives
in her natural museum house in Vienna.
Nude woman. She is art, but she is not in an art museum.
And there are questions:
why was she originally painted red? Why are her breasts so large?
Why is her stomach so large?
Why does she fit in a human hand?
What was her purpose?
Was it to entice men, or to comfort women?
Historians disagree.
Is her hair woven? Or is it a hat?
Why does she have no eyes? No feet? Why is she there?

Why did we name her Venus, goddess of love, if we did not?
If we did not love her? If we still do not love the stomach of her, the
breasts of her, the contemplation of her, the inner
self of her as she is, unto herself, her eyes inward?
If we did not love the self-protection of her as her hands rest on her breasts?
If we did not love that large body—why did we call her Venus?
If we did not love women enough to put them at the center?

Nude Woman

The center where breasts give milk, where a large stomachwombsacredplace
births a baby, and where women bleed for years.
For fifty years, I bled every month. I wish I had known to hold Venus
in red ochre as I bled and bled and bled.

My mother used to…
My mother used to…
My mother used to…

Who mothered me? Perhaps it was the Great Mother.
I see myself, the “parentified child,”
my therapist calls her.
I call her also brave as she climbs trees, high-high-high,
ice skates for miles on frozen rivers, plays with
snakes in the woods and lies in a blueberry patch
flat on her back, unseen, stripping berries into her mouth.

Who mothered me? I imagine the nude woman, the Venus,
in my hand now and I send her to my child self in her four-story tree fort.
I send her something so old,
the oldest woman, the woman who survived 28,000 years. I send
my thirteen-year-old bleeding self the T-shirt I
would wear when I left the New Hampshire home, when I left
the mother and the father who never mothered or fathered, and when I left them

I found—women, gay people, activists, artists, my tribe of misfits and warriors
who often took new names—Oak, Tree, Acorn…Venus.

I kept my original name because I earned it.
That twenty-one-year-old wore a shirt that read, “I am Woman.
I can bleed for days and not die.” And it was true. I did that.
I put blood on my forehead and walked in public.
Did not shave my legs or underarms.
I took back the night.
I made love in the restrooms of dyke bars,
and in the alleys next to them. I drank Johnny Walker and smoked cigarettes
and gave women my phone number and figured out vibrators and threesomes and
my Venus.

My Venus was a nude woman owning her breasts and her vulva and
my nude woman became a Venus, a goddess of love owning multiple orgasms,
crying Oh, God with women crying Oh, God
as their ocean dripped from my mouth.
Nude Woman. Venus. And then she became Mother, my Self,
and I birthed the world.
Venus of Willendorf, in your little house in Vienna,
With the red light and the music that turns on when you are visited.
When the museum shuts down in the night, I wish everything for you.

Nude woman, Venus, Mother.
May we never know everything about you.
May you keep something for yourself.

May we never know everything.

May you be a mystery.

May we never know everything.

May we never know your name.

– Marie Cartier
California, July 2021
(Thanks to Surprise the Line Poetry Workshop Writer’s Shadow: The Divine Feminine, with Armine Iknadossian)


Marie Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.  She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall (Routledge 2013). She is a senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge, and in Film Studies at Univ. of CA Irvine.

9 thoughts on “Loving Venus, a poem by Marie Cartier”

  1. Marie
    you made me smile as I read your adventures, recognising some of myself there though some in later years than you I think. Thank you for your characteristic boldness to tell the story. You have also given me a new connection with Goddess of Willendorf, a connection also fired recently when I had a dream after which She came to mind. The dream I had revealed a deep reality about relationship with my daughter – and in that world all was well: but it was almost unspeakable and and so different from the manifest everyday appearance of reality. So I felt I understood at least one of the reasons for Her eyes being covered: She is seeing a shamanic type truth.

    I love how you have brought Her to life and expressed your understanding of her capacity to embody and nurture all our wildness, and see us safely through.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marie — Thank you for your wonderful poem. The Goddess of Willendorf has been a goddess for me for many years. Love that she offers a new vision of “Goddess” from the one my students thought of in 1978 when they asked if I was talking about Marilyn Monroe. One small correction: the oldest goddess statue is the Goddess of Hohe Felt, about 35,000-40,000 years old,

    Liked by 1 person

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