I grew up in a liberal Catholic family (yes, they do exist!), attending church on Sunday mornings, catechism class on Wednesday nights, and dinner-table discussions of feminism and socialism throughout the week. Like many Catholics of my generation, as an adult I grew critical of the more divisive, socially-conservative values so often championed by some church leaders. Particularly, I started to wonder about what it meant for young girls to grow up praying to an exclusively male God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the (at best, gender-neutral) Holy Spirit. What it meant for them to read stories that featured exclusively male prophets and male heroes. What it meant for the most significant woman of the faith, Mary, to be venerated exclusively for her virginity and her role as a mother, rather than her strength, intellect, moral enormity and leadership. I couldn’t imagine these things have a positive impact on girls and the women they will be. In my recent creative work, I have been letting these questions drive re-imaginings of the women who surely inhabited the spaces of well-known spiritual scripts, and writing poems that feature their power and sacrifice.
As a part of this process, I’ve re-read significant passages of the bible as well as visited religious blogs and online discussion boards about spiritual scripts – these can take a person fast down some interesting rabbit holes. “Quiet Prophet” is of course a re-imagining of Moses parting the Red Sea. I was also pregnant with my son at the time I wrote this poem, and the unreal experience of a growing belly and a little human, alive and active inside my body, was fascinating. It made me consider what women take on with their bodies, what they absorb with them, and how this often becomes a significant sacrifice.
My poetry usually comes to me small, sliced thin before I can even get it to the page, and so the process of cutting it cleaner with a final razor is somewhat minimal. I let a poem sit for weeks, or sometimes much longer, and I try to come back to it with fresh eyes. I re-examine punctuation, lining and word choice, and I ask for feedback from a few trusted readers. And usually even after this, it never quite feels done. But there comes a time where I feel like I need to get it out into the world. Big thanks to Razor for making that happen with “Quiet Prophet”!