Post-Roe Dirge by Liz Cooledge Jenkins

I have seen a sad thing.

Faces twisted in strange (un)righteous anger outside a clinic

Or sitting around the dinner table laughing

Like the world was not just shaken gravely beneath the feet of half of them

(No, all of them)

(No, all of us)

Or shouts of celebration when a wail of grief is due.

We played the pipe for you and you did not dance.

We sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.[1]

(What is wrong with them?

What has gone so wrong with us?)

I have seen an exceedingly sad thing.

Compassion extended to the life just beginning to form

At the cost of the life fully formed

Fully human

Fully woman.

Those who barter with the lives of women

Who use them (no, us) as a bargaining tool

And those who truly believe they’re defending the defenseless

            And are all the more terrifying for it.

We played the pipe for you and you did not dance.

We sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.

I have seen a grievous thing.

Screams of “murderer” darkening the already-sober day

            When she made a difficult choice

            And chose herself

And chose her family

And whispered as she did so:

We matter.

Pastors who tell women to bear the child of their rapist

            To stay with their abuser

            To forgive

And give

And give.

We played the pipe for you and you did not dance.

We sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.

Once I thought I would always choose the life within

            No matter the cost

But now I know that if I had to choose

And did choose me

            It would not be selfish

            (Why is that the worst thing a woman can be?)

It would be dignity and survival and grasping holy life

            Holding to the divine in me

And how do we live now as women

Forbidden from choosing us?

How, when those with power have not chosen us

            And will not choose us

            And will not choose anything

But their own terrifying terrorizing illegimitate control?

I have seen a sad thing

And it is right and good to mourn.


[1] This refrain is from Matthew 11:17 (NIV).

Liz’s Remarks

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade on June 24th. I hate writing those words, as if somehow putting them on paper makes them more real. I do not want them to be real.

            As I sit with the reality of this decision and the tragic consequences it holds for women, families, and communities, I also sit with the reality that I was once someone who would have rejoiced when this happened. I have grown and changed so much since that time. Over many years, mostly in my twenties, I did a slow one-eighty, feeling more and more strongly that women deserve reproductive rights and holistic reproductive justice that allows us autonomy and agency in the most intimate decisions we make for ourselves, our bodies, and our families. As my convictions shifted, I remained for many years in conservative Christian communities where I found myself increasingly in the minority.

            I remember these conservative evangelical communities being full of kind, loving, well-intentioned people. Thoughtful people. Compassionate people. And yet, people who had been formed in a religious tradition that felt the need to take firm stands on social issues to distinguish themselves from the surrounding (more liberal) culture—perhaps especially in a place like the San Francisco Bay area, where I spent most of my twenties. I think of conservative Christians’ perspectives on reproductive rights and their postures toward women experiencing unwanted pregnancy, and I feel sad. This poem, Post-Roe Dirge, expresses some of that grief.

In this poem I embrace the biblical tradition of lament. The Hebrew prophets lamented. The psalmists lamented. The biblical book of Lamentations is a whole book of lament. In some forms of Christianity there is not much space for sorrow, grief, anger, rage, and other emotions considered negative. I want to be among those who make space. And so I offer these words as a witness, as an act of mourning, and as an invitation into more nuanced conversation. I offer them as a testimony to the divine inner authority within each woman. I offer them as an outpouring of grief when this sacred reality is not honored.

            As the days and weeks since the June 24th Supreme Court decision pass, the initial shock may subside, but the realities of its impact persist. We live in a society that expects us to get back up and get going. But we can choose to pause, to be still, to sit with our grief, to express our sorrow and rage. As I share Post-Roe Dirge, I picture us sitting with our grief together. I picture us holding the weightiness of our reality together—and the weight perhaps somehow being made just a little bit lighter as we remember that we are not carrying it alone.

BIO: Liz Cooledge Jenkins is a writer, preacher, and former college campus minister who lives in Burien, WA. She regularly shares justice-minded biblical reflections, poems, “super chill book reviews,” and more at lizcooledgejenkins.com. When not writing or reading, you can find her swimming, hiking, attempting to grow vegetables, and/or drinking a lot of tea. You can also find her on FB (Liz Cooledge Jenkins, Writer) and Instagram (@lizcoolj).



Categories: Abuse of Power, General, Women and Community, Women's Agency, Women's Power, Women's Rights, Women's Spirituality, Women's Voices

Tags: , , , ,

2 replies

  1. Thank you, Liz, for this excellent lament. I too (at one time) would have rejoiced at the recent Supreme Court ruling reversing Roe. I realized at a certain point that taking away a woman’s ability to choose whether or not to maintain her pregnancy was really patriarchy’s ongoing effort to silence and control women. These two lines in your poem capture that well:

    “And how do we live now as women

    Forbidden from choosing us?”

    We are not pawns in patriarchy’s agenda! Let’s continue to work towards throwing off our shackles.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Truly the word for this catastrophe is LAMENT

    These following words hit me like lead – because here is the crux of the problem not men BUT WOMEN -have done this to the rest of us – betrayal betrayal betrayal of vulnerable women – unwanted children and ultimately all. We’re in breakdown – this decision divides women even more than they already are the worst possible scenario lies ahead.

    “And those who truly believe they’re defending the defenseless

    And are all the more terrifying for it.”

    There may well be an end to the world as we know before patriarchy breaks down.

    Like

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