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Dirge post-roe by Liz Cooledge Jenkins



Dirge post-roe by Liz Cooledge Jenkins


I saw something sad.

Faces twisted by a stranger (unfair anger) outside a clinic

Or sitting at the table laughing

As if the world wasn’t so shaken under half its feet

(No, all of them)

(No, all of us)

Or shouts of celebration when a cry of pain corresponds.

We played your flute and you didn’t dance.

We sang a lament and you didn’t cry.

(What’s wrong with them?

What went so wrong with us?)

I saw an extremely sad thing.

Compassion extended to life that was just beginning to form

At the cost of a fully formed life

fully human

Completely female.

Those who trade in women’s lives

Who uses them (no, us) as a negotiating tool

And those who truly believe that they are defending the defenseless

And they are even scarier for it.

We played your flute and you didn’t dance.

We sang a lament and you didn’t cry.

I saw something serious.

Screams of “murderer” that darken the already sober day

When you made a tough decision

And she chose herself

And he chose his family.

And he whispered as he did so:

We count.

Pastors telling women to give birth to their rapist’s child

Being with your attacker

forgive

And give

And give.

We played your flute and you didn’t dance.

We sang a lament and you didn’t cry.

I once thought that I would always choose the inner life.

The cost doesn’t matter

But now I know if I had to choose

and he chose me

it wouldn’t be selfish

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

It would be dignity, survival and clinging to the holy life.

Holding on to the divine

And how we live now as women

Forbidden to choose us?

How, when whoever has the power has not chosen us

And it won’t choose us

And you won’t choose anything.

But his own terrifying, terrifying, illegitimate control?

i saw something sad

And it is fair and beautiful to cry.

This refrain is taken from Matthew 11:17 (NIV).

liz’s comments

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade on June 24. He hates writing those words, as if somehow putting them on paper makes them more real. I don’t want them to be real.

As I sit with the reality of this decision and the tragic consequences it brings to women, families and communities, I also sit with the reality that I was once someone who would rejoice when this happened. I have grown and changed a lot since then. For many years, mostly in my twenties, I have been doing slow eighties, feeling more and more strongly that women deserve reproductive rights and comprehensive reproductive justice that allows us autonomy and action in the most intimate decisions we make for ourselves, our bodies, and our families. As my beliefs changed, I remained for many years in conservative Christian communities, where I found myself increasingly in the minority.

Remember that these conservative evangelical communities are full of kind, loving and well-meaning people. People care. Compassionate people. However, people who had been raised in a religious tradition who felt the need to take strong stands on social issues in order 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 about the perspectives of conservative Christians on reproductive rights and their positions towards women experiencing an unwanted pregnancy, and I feel sad. This poem, Post-Roe Dirge, expresses some of that pain.

In this poem I embrace the biblical tradition of lament. The Jewish prophets complained. The psalmists complained. The biblical book of Lamentations is quite a book of laments. In some forms of Christianity there is not much room for pain, grief, anger, rage and other emotions that are considered negative. I want to be among those who make space. That is why I offer these words as testimony, as an act of mourning, and as an invitation to a more nuanced conversation. I offer them as a testimony to the divine inner authority in every woman. I offer them as an outlet for the pain when this sacred reality is not honored.

As the days and weeks pass since the Supreme Court decision on June 24, the initial impact may diminish, but the reality of its impact remains. We live in a society that expects us to get up and move on. But we can choose to take a break, to be still, to sit with our pain, to express our pain and our anger. As I share Post-Roe Dirge, I imagine myself sitting next to our pain. I guess we hold together the weight of our reality and the weight that maybe somehow gets a little lighter when we remember that we don’t carry it alone.

BIO: Liz Cooledge Jenkins is a writer, preacher, and former campus minister living in Burien, WA. She regularly shares biblical reflections, poems, “super cool book reviews,” and more on justice-related topics at lizcooleledgejenkins.com. When she’s not writing or reading, she can be found swimming, walking, trying to grow vegetables, and/or drinking a lot of tea. You can also find her on FB (Liz Cooledge Jenkins, writer) and Instagram (@lizcoolj).

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Categories: Abuse of Power, General, Women and Communities, Women’s Agency, Women’s Power, Women’s Rights, Women’s Spirituality, Women’s Voices

Tags: abortion, abortion rights, Liz Coolidge Jenkins, Poetry, Roe v. Wade

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