This poem emerged after a request for an inspirational poem to accompany a Sunday morning message being presented by Elsie Goerzen, MCC BC Abuse Response and Prevention Program Coordinator. Luke 13: 10-17, the scripture passage telling the story of the bent-over woman, is usually thought to be about an older woman with osteoporosis. But there is nothing in the text that indicates that she is old. It simply says she has been bent over for eighteen years. What if she was bent over in body, soul and spirit from being beaten?
Reflecting on this story during a sunny summer day, I went out to cut my grass, which was full of bright dandelions. Half held their faces up to the sun and the half in the shade were closed and bent over. The poetry came so fast that I had to run inside to find a pen. As I wrote the poem, I could hear the slams of the woman being beaten and it had this deep almost visceral impact on my body. Somewhere from my childhood memories the sounds had arisen in the night, the sounds of my Mother being beaten by my Father. So I dedicate this to my Mother who eventually raised six children as a single parent. Her last beating occurred while she was pregnant with my youngest brother. She went back to college, the only single parent at that time to ever go to Toronto Baptist Bible College. She has spent her life caring for others. And so I dedicate this poem to my Mother.
It has been 18 years
Since I lifted my face
Full, faced into the sun
And felt its rays touching me
Warm, Welcome, Healing~
But I have toiled in its heat
Broken as I am ~
On a little wheel of pots
Where brokenness is all around me
As my bentness fits the trade
The work of my brother’s shop.
Kerush, I spit his name ~
Husband that he was
Beat me till I could not stand
Then beat me some more
Beat me for amusement
So he could call me names
Ugly, cripple, useless,
No man will ever love you! Again!
Beat me so often, I broke
And could barely work around the house.
The neighbours heard the sounds but they closed their ears.
Poor Mara, they would say at the well ~
What could they do, but pray
So we prayed.
Prayed for release
However it came ~
He continued to taunt me like a toy
Or an abused pet, chained to the house
Like a cage.
Not many women would think
Another woman was a blessing ~
But he found her, clapped his shoes
Three times in my face
For my ugliness, brokenness, useless body
And threw me with the few rags
I had for clothes out into the street
Screaming: An Unclean Spirit has done this to her
Evil woman that she is. I divorce you, I divorce you.
I divorce you. Slam.
A Spirit had done this to me
The Evil thing inside Kerush
Shamed to live, hidden now
In the rooms behind my brother’s shop
Praying, Hopeless Prayers
Forgotten, Broken, Outcast.
Voices, the street was full of excited Voices
They said He was coming, the Healer
The Blind See, The Lame Walk,
The Dead come back to Life,
The Dead come back to Life.
Something drove me to the street
Like an unseen hand pushing
Almost stumbling forward
To the Door of the Synagogue
I halted at the door
The crowd pressing all around
Afraid I would be cast out
Divorced, beaten, broken, woman in rags
He saw me ~ Me!
The crowd parted
“Come Here, Mara!”
He knew my name!
His hands warm on my head.
“Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”
Like hot oil, flowing through my whole body
Filling every empty, broken place.
He lifted my head, slowly
His fingers gently on my chin
To look into my eyes
Eyes that knew the darkness in my soul
Eyes full of Light, Life and Promise
Love I had never known.
Lifted my head
My arms, my voice
And I praised God
He had heard my prayers
He had not forsaken me.
Behind me, men’s voices mumbled
Grumbled, frowned, annoyed
Healing on the Sabbath
Be set free, He whispered in my ear
Free, as He turned me towards the door
Be Set Free.
Like a bird from the cage of my body
I could almost fly
My neighbours welcomed me into their arms
Laughing, touching me in awe and wonder
You are healed, You are free, You are whole!
Even as my brother smiled ~
“It has been a long time since I have seen your smile, Mara”
“It has been a long time since I have seen yours”
Laughter, a sound I had not heard for a long time
Delighted, joyful, free
We went home to break bread and make Pots
The warmth of the sunlight on my face as
I turn it up to God, and say “Thank You
Praise Be Your Holy Name. I am free.”
I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart
I will tell of all your wonders, I will be glad and rejoice in you
I will sing praises to You, O Most High…
written July 14, 2010 by Lorna Joyce Masters