In my last post I mentioned in passing the feminist interpretation of the Biblical record.  There have been many kinds and layers of this.  I was involved in a number of them.  I attended meetings of the Evangelical Women’s Caucus.  I read Daughters of Sarah and Free Indeed, two periodicals produced by women seeking to reinterpret what they had been taught.  Both survived only for a time, which is typical of small magazines of all kinds. Free Indeed took its name from the passage from John, “If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.”  Daughters of Sarah published a few of my poems.

I learned to think for myself through looking at the many different women’s approaches to scripture.  I had gotten through college as a very good student who believed what I read, whether it agreed with my own experience or not.  Amid all the women’s perspectives, it was necessary to make choices, and one of the keys to those choices was “does it fit with my experience” instead of “does it fit with what I’ve been taught.”  This approach was the gift, for me, of feminist interpretation.

There are many stories about women in the Bible.  Some are extensive, some seem to be only fragments.  At one time I concluded, “The named woman is the one who got into trouble.”  Here is a poem I wrote during this period.

Sirens

As I circle stony islands
where ten foot tides turn ledges
into granite waves,
threats to an outboard propeller,
I hear Delilah sing
with Jael and Judith.

On a bluff of ragged rock
these three women, servants
to god and country, sing by turns
of Sisera, Holophernes, Samson,
of tent peg, sword, and scissors.
The song repeats like blues,
like scissors, rock, paper,
break, cover, or cut
to the next story,
the next severed head
served up on a fine platter.

The trays have corroded
on which the tribes they served
once served them empty honors.
Their hungry song blends
with calls of cormorants and gulls.
From such contagious sorrow
I flee to deeper water.

Among other things, this poem is meant to suggest that the situation for women is similar on both sides of the conflict; Delilah was, in the history, an enemy of Jael and Judith, yet I imagine their stories were similar.  I’ve placed them not in the Mediterranean but on the Maine shore, which I know, can describe more vividly, and have used to reflect their mood and situation.

Many of the women whose work I was reading in those days gave up on the patriarchy of Christianity, and Judaism as well, altogether; some became Wiccan.  I stayed in my tradition, but continued to rethink the reading of Scripture.  Now I look at my sacred texts from many points of view.  Some days I take the words quite literally, but I am convinced that, however much inspired, they were written down by people who could only communicate in the language of their time.  Other times I am struck by how much of our God language is, and has to be, metaphor.  Always I find it a rich source of story, language and reflection on the human condition.

“Sirens” was published in Daughters of Sarah in 1990.

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