Bent-Over Woman

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.”

His touch

Like hot oil, flowing through my whole body

Filling every empty, broken place.

Overwhelming Joy


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.”


Psalm 9

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

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