A One Woman Riot

1 Corinthians 14:34

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

For more than the first half of my life, that passage of scripture cast a shadow over me, seeping into my physiology, accompanied by the style of parenting that sets it into the neural pathways, often choking, inhibiting, paralyzing. I’m past 50. I’m still ousting the darkness of its influence though I have long renounced its claim. The women of this epoch are making it easier and easier to oust. But the work is still mine.

When the song “Quiet” morphed into the anthem of the Women’s March, I was drowning in a silent scream of grief and life events way beyond my capacity to actually weather. I was holding my breath. So, I missed the originator of it, MILCK, though I heard groups of women standing, holding hands and singing “I can’t keep quiet.” It pricked my ears.

My sister shoved the video in my face, finally. And so, I can’t sing this song without sobs. So, I sing it a lot. And then some more. I have yet to get through the song without stopping to let things roll out of me. I’ll get there. MILCK found the words I haven’t. Imagine that. I have so many words and I never could keep quiet for long. It’s my biggest, baddest sin, that and boat-rocking, cage-rattling insistence on truthseek. And while it’s not like I have a big secret to tell, it is definitely that I and many other women are still unlearning the silence. Minute by goddamn minute.

Folks, girls are still raised under the strain of the lie of misogyny. Right now, and in the name of Jesus. I imagine he’s pretty pissed about it. It’s cloaked in all kinds of alleged holy. And it’s even dressed up in versions of pretend liberation, the kind that works as long as you speak up only within the prescribed, allowed lines. Dare not announce you will no longer tolerate certain things. Dare not boldly be. Dare not call people on their shit when you’ve had enough. Dare not be anything but a new version of quiet. Fuck that shit. All of it.

Under Leaves…

Under leaves those lies and shows you thought I’d grow up to blow
on my knees perpetually for your testimony of delusions,
the paradise you claimed and named as real,
all those lies and shows, all their fangs and claws,
chains and saws dissolve around me.

Under leaves I am.

Under leaves these cells sing, sound and bellow something never meant to be silent or still.

Under leaves every fiber of me hums, shouts, and pounds a drum no one can claim.

Under leaves and on their scatterings my feet bare and drinking, gulping up the gobs, sigh.

Under leaves the chunks and corpses sink into dirt, all the lies gone.

Under leaves the bones rumble to life, a resurrection unrelenting.

Leave me here, I’ll dance, I’ll laugh at the scars and all the servitude scenarios.

Fly these arrows to the missionary madness, leave me to the sane and true.

Under leaves you could never be.

Under leaves I am.

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2018

Trails Lead…

maybe these trails lead
somewhere deep within love’s soul
where a lil girl leaps
and heart plays freely
skipping along her power
and the trees sing sight
faeries’ smiles light paths
as eternal youth blossoms
from within time’s keep
and a woman’s face
turns to decades trailing life
her roots finding gold
for in these woods, we’re never old

j. ruth kelly, 2017, all rights reserved

 

The May Monet

In May Monet brews
deep hues’ agony and love
the vista reveals
A woman reeling
deeply resonating hope,
courage poised, still.

j. ruth kelly, 2017, all rights reserved

My daughter, Marion, is often called May, and in May we visited Carnegie Museum of Art. The month of May turned out to be a very challenging and difficult time for my daughter. Her courage, strength, and depth of awareness struck me as I turned to look back at her lingering over Monet’s magnificent and imparting work of beauty.

A Harvest Calls

When the winter stole my song, all the lovely bits of me blew away
and the night chained the dirt of my soul to the earth,
a forest of dead leaves and berries cloaked my blood.
So I wailed into the mire, a sort of siren sob for ice and snow, but no.
The season remained anchored to an epoch, bored by all my ire
and, instead of relenting, carved notches in my throat,
binding my voice to memories of long ago, whispering secrets stored in lifetimes past.
And so I listened.
And the notches cut deep, freeing waters dank and tired.
They ran in rivulets down my neck and into the valley hardened by hope’s abortions,
flooded all the flotsam jamming up my flow and washed old corpses out to sea.
And I listened more
as the ice and snow melted down into my core, warmed by embers unseen.
Then a new song gripped the heart of every screenplay refusing tRuth,
wringing out the lies, peeling back the armor ancient,
fucking the mindlessness out of every habitual, knee-jerk bullshit
reactionary presentation.
Stripped, disintegrating but the truest hum emanating.
Out past the dirt and mire, through the cracks in my grave…
a harvest calls,
a song is freed,
and these feet remember the dance.

j. ruth kelly, 2017, all rights reserved

Moon Mouth

“Where there is a woman there is magic. If there is a moon falling from her mouth, she is a woman who knows her magic, who can share or not share her powers. A woman with a moon falling from her mouth, roses between her legs and tiaras of Spanish moss, this woman is a consort of the spirits. Indigo seldom spoke. There was a moon in her mouth. Having a moon in her mouth kept her laughing. Whenever her mother tried to pull the moss off her head, or clip the roses round her thighs, Indigo was laughing.

“Mama, if you pull ‘em off, they’ll just grow back. It’s my blood. I’ve got earth blood, filled up with the Geechees long gone, and the sea.”

Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange