Monday, October 30, 2023

The Muse of the Promised Land

News from the Muse of
The Promised Land

Naomi Ruth Lowinsky
Jerusalem  Sliman Monsour

A Dream of Jerusalem 
Jerusalem sits in mourning.  She’s sitting shiva.
Yehuda Amichai  Open Close Open  p. 136.

Isaac Frenkel Frenel
This blog piece was inspired by a dream: 

I am in Jerusalem, standing among others outside an imposing structure—part city hall, part synagogue. But this is not a sanctuary for the living. It reverberates with spirits who seem trapped within it. They lament and they clamor. They beat their spectral heads and hands against the walls and windows, demanding the Jerusalem we always said we would return to, next year—as part of the Passover ritual. It is as though the building itself is possessed—writhing in an agony of dead Jewish souls. This almost living being is trying to contain the torment, the longing, the sorrow, the rage of generations of ancestors railing at the living, demanding the Jerusalem of their souls. My paternal grandparents, who died in the Shoah, tug at me, as though they want to join those inhabiting “The City of God,” a protest tent city that sprang up after tens of thousands of Israelis hiked in 95 degree heat from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to protest Netanyahu’s Judicial Coup. One sign reads: “Bibi, haven’t the Jews suffered enough?” This cacophony of suffering invoked in me the Muse of the Promised Land—that shining angel of hope in Jewish history—which seems to lurch from catastrophe to miracle and back. But history had other plans.

Have You not, O God, abandoned us?
—Psalm 60:12 Translated by Robert Alter

By the Rivers of Babylon - Gebhard Fugel, c. 1920

On October 7th—a Saturday as well as the holiday, Simchat Torah, which celebrates the end and the beginning of the annual cycle of reading the Torah—the Jewish world was blind-sided by a brutal, entirely unexpected attack on Israel by Hamas, which invaded its southern border with Gaza by land, by sea, and by air. How could this happen to a warrior nation, famous for its masterful military and cunning intelligence capabilities? How could terrorists have crossed the border of Gaza, entered Israel, killing and taking hostage Israelis in their homes, towns, kibbutzim and at a night long music festival held near that border? Three thousand mostly young people danced and sang in the Negev desert until dawn to celebrate Peace, Unity, Love and Sukkot—the Jewish harvest festival. Suddenly, at sunrise, sirens clamored, rockets and missiles fell from everywhere, hundreds of terrorists shot at the revelers from every direction. The children of Israel were slaughtered, raped, stolen away on motorcycles—hostages to be taken over the border to Gaza. Survivors keep saying: ‘It’s the Shoah, all over again.’ What happened to Israel’s vaunted Defense Forces, its Iron Dome, its Pegasus spyware?

That refrain, ‘It’s the Shoah all over again’ is a trauma response among Jews that sends us whirling downward into a pit of despair and agony—there seems no way out of it.  I lived much of my childhood in that pit.

                                    In the Wake of the Shoah
                                    when my father’s fierce fingers made Bach flow
                                    our dead came in and sat with us    a ghostly visitation
                                    and my grandmother sang lieder     from long ago
                                    —Naomi Lowinsky Adagio and Lamentation p. 27

Haunted - Unknown artist

As a child I lived in the dark undertow of the Shoah. The dead were an unspoken presence. I felt them in my father’s rages, in my mother’s depression, in the sense of dread that emanated from the dark corners of the house; I saw them in my Oma’s haunted eyes. We were a family of Jewish refugees from Hitler thrown back and forth between catastrophe and miracle. There was nothing in between. The catastrophe that had befallen the Jews of Europe was just behind us. Daily catastrophes assaulted our household. My brothers chased each around the house, disturbing our father’s work on a musical score. He came roaring out of his study, looking and sounding like Hitler, grabbed each little boy by the ear and knocked their heads together. They wailed. My mother, who had married a distinguished thirty-year-old scholar when she was eighteen, had no authority over him—no gravitas. She wept. And I, terrified of father’s Hitlerian furies, hid out in a corner, said nothing. That was my catastrophe.

                                            Justice and law are the base of Your throne.
                                            —Psalm 89:15 Translated by Robert Alter

Promised Land

But there was redemption. The Muse of the Promised Land visited us often and cast a spell of hope and joy. She was a shapeshifter, answering to different names: Palestine, America, Israel. When She arrived, often on Shabbat, I watched my father’s face light up, I heard his language become mythopoetic, as he told us miracle stories of how he, our family, our people were saved from Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews by those three Promised Lands which took in Jewish refugees. Father told a magical story of how, in the clutch of history’s brutal fist, his path opened before him, and he was shown the way to sanctuary. 

I and the Village - Marc Chagal

My father was born in Stuttgart to a family of impoverished Jews who fled the brutal pogroms which targeted Jews in the Russian Pale. They found refuge in Germany, in the early years of the 20th century. Father was the only son among six children. He was destined to be the chosen one, the one who would bring the glories of German culture and the patina of knowledge and success to the family. He was well on his way, pursuing a doctorate in Musicology at Heidelberg University in 1932, just before Hitler came to power. I can hear father now, in the spellbinding tradition of Russian Jewish storytellers who leap gracefully from the everyday to the mystical and back:
A Stuttgart policeman—not a Jew—was the first miracle. He warned my family that we were under suspicion because my sister had a communist boyfriend. He told my mother to flush the left-wing pamphlets down the toilet and flee the country immediately. Word got to me in Heidelberg and I—again a miracle—was able to complete my dissertation in six weeks and—another miracle—cross the border to Holland at dusk, while the guards were looking the other way. And wasn’t it a miracle that my dissertation was about a Flemish Renaissance composer, Orlando di Lasso, who was of great interest to Princess Juliana of Holland whom I happened to meet on the street one day, which led to my becoming the royal piano teacher, which led to my becoming the piano teacher for the Hoffman family, which led to my marrying the youngest daughter—your mother—just before the Anschluss, when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938. We knew Holland would soon be invaded. 

The Promised Land was calling all Jews to get out of Europe. My father-in-law saw it clearly—no place in Europe was safe for the Jews. He was a miracle maker who had the means and the intelligence to figure out how to get people out. He helped to get three of my sisters passage to British controlled Palestine years before it became Israel. What a miracle that they found refuge and community, that they were able to marry and raise families in the Jewish homeland. Your Opa would not have thought it a miracle that he helped my sisters emigrate, or that he found passage out of Holland for his family and new son-in-law. He was a practical and ethical man who would consider it the only thing to do under the circumstances.  
Father never spoke about the difficulties of the family’s long passage. The Promised Land of America was calling. But America was in no mood to take in Jewish refugees from Hitler—anti-Semitism was widespread, and the country was recovering from the Great Depression. The Hoffman–Lowinsky family had to wait in Cuba for 20 months before the miracle of entering the Promised Land could happen. How my Opa managed that was never clear to me until well into my midlife, when a relative’s death brought letters into my possession that explained what had happened—Opa had purchased Haitian passports. No wonder my family identifies so strongly with people of color. The passports worked to get the family into America but were no help when it came to getting visas, or citizenship. I gather, from the letters, that Opa had to go through a difficult legal struggle. A few months later, shortly after I was born, Opa dropped dead, while playing chess with himself. He’d had a stroke. He had devoted himself to helping many members of our family immigrate to America. I heard the Muse of the Promised Land in the stories my mother’s cousins told of how Opa had saved them. Whenever I hear news stories about the difficulties refugees from dangerous situations face when they try to enter our Promised Land, I feel grieved and furious. But for luck and Opa’s skilled perseverance, none of my family would be here.
      I reviewed Arab history
      found no dream to borrow…
      the tortured homeland infiltrated me

     Siham Da’oud The Poetry of Arab Women p. 92
Olive Harvest in Palestine - Maher Naji

My ancestral rememberings are constantly interrupted by news from Israel and from Gaza. I feel suffused with the news. I remember when my husband Dan and I visited Israel in 1987, just before the first Intifada—Arabic for Uprising—every Israeli home we visited had the television news on constantly. They lived in a state of perpetual vigilance. These days I feel like an Israeli, caught up in my own Shoah trauma vortex. But of course, I’m not living in the horror of today’s Israeli reality. I’m not hearing sirens and rockets go off many times a day. I don’t have to drop everything I’m doing and run to the bomb shelter. I’m not getting news of dear friends or family who have been slaughtered or taken hostage. I’m not going to funerals. But I am flooded with the agony of the moment. My moral compass keeps spinning.  My heart hurts for the Palestinians in Gaza who are being brutally bombarded day after day. They have no bomb shelters. My heart hurts for the mother in Jerusalem whose beautiful 23 year old son was at that music festival. His left arm was blown off by a grenade attack before he was taken hostage. Is he alive?  My heart hurts for the mother in Gaza City, where the siege of Israeli bombing has begun. How can she find food and water for her little ones, without risking her life? Israel has stopped the transport of food, water, fuel and electricity. How will she and her little ones survive? My heart hurts for Tony Blinken, our American Secretary of State, who has a Shoah history much like mine. His grandfather fled from Russian pogroms. His stepfather survived Auschwitz and Dachau. He’s engaged in indefatigable shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East, trying to calm the fevers of war. He too must be in a trauma vortex. 
Always there is hope
always one is born to pay off
an old debt…

—Anat Zecharia A Winding Line p.145
Zvi Adler - Judean Hills

Back in 1950, the Promised Land of Israel, opened its doors to my mother’s sister Ilein. She chose to make Aliyah rather than remain in America with her parents and sisters. She married, became a chicken farmer, selling eggs on the outskirts of Haifa. Unable to bear children, she adopted them. My Oma, an accomplished painter of portraits, landscapes, and still lifes, visited her Ilein often and returned with glowing canvases—the beach at Haifa, the azure blue of the Mediterranean Sea. The Muse of the Promised Land spoke to me through those paintings, gave me a vision of Israel as a land of light blessed by its ocean port. Many of these trips happened in the 1950s, before people traveled by air. Oma must have seen the Port of Haifa often, as her ship approached The Promised Land. 
The Muse of Israel added trees to this vision. She spoke through my father on Shabbat, who loved telling stories of “The Miracle that turned the Desert into Paradise.” How had this been achieved? By the planting of trees. At Sunday School the Muse took the form of small blue and white metal boxes with slots for coins. We were urged to make offerings to the “Miracle of Trees in the Promised Land.” 
The Muse of Israel spoke in the voice of my Tante Ilein, who came to visit every few years, bringing laughter, joy and music to my mother and our family. We had chamber music evenings. She played the cello, Mother played violin and viola, Father played the piano. Tante Ilein told stories of the wonders of this new land. She told us about a Kibbutz near her home. She marveled that these intentional communities revolutionized family and gender roles based on egalitarian and communal values. In the Kibbutz she knew, children lived together, played together, studied together, and worked on the land together. Maybe their parents would visit them on Shabbat. Maybe not. Maybe they’d grow up to continue in the community, work on the land, keep the traditions. Maybe they’d leave, go to a university, learn a profession. The Muse of those times in Israel was not interested in whether you studied Torah, or kept kosher, or observed Shabbat. She was a free thinker, agnostic, progressive. But I never heard Her speak of what happened to the Palestinians whose houses and lands were stolen in the mass displacement of indigenous people that occurred during the 1948 Arab Israeli war—despite the United Nations resolution calling for two states—and continues to this day.

Catastrophe versus Catastrophe
My longing weeps for everything. My longing shoots back at me, to kill or be killed…
I am from here, I am from there, yet am neither here nor there.
—Mahmoud Darwish Unfortunately, It Was Paradise p. 4

To Where? - Ismail Shammout

Many say that the painful history of the Palestinian people is behind the horror of the October 7th attack. Palestinians lost their homes, their land, their way of life when Jewish refugees from the Shoah—which means catastrophe—took over what Palestinians believe belongs to them. Israelis, however, see the land as their ancestral homeland. Palestinians call their mass displacement and dispossession during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war The Naqba—which also means catastrophe. The agony in Israel and Palestine has its roots in these competing catastrophes. Israel’s 75-year history is filled with attempts to negotiate a way for both peoples to live together peaceably, interrupted by wars, uprisings and the intrusion of Jewish settlers into Palestinian areas under Israeli Occupation—notably the West Bank.

The recent attack on Israel came from Gaza, a narrow strip of land into which 2 million Palestinians are crushed—commonly referred to as an “outdoor prison—because the Israelis on the northern and eastern side and the Egyptians on the southern and western sides control the borders. Though Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005 many consider it an occupying power due to its continuing blockade of the territory. The Israeli government doesn’t agree. At this point Israel is at war—the fifth Gaza war since 2007. It is also the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, when a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria crossed ceasefire lines and entered the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. Again my moral compass is spinning. The Hamas terrorists committed horrendous atrocities. Israel needs to fight back. But if the Israelis, and their allies don’t consider the context out of which these catastrophes emerge, they will continue to repeat this catastrophic history. Some say Hamas is also responding to the normalization of relationships between Israel and other Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia which Netanyahu is promoting. They feel squeezed out, forgotten. 

                    Mister, Prime Minister
                    you must be very proud of your country
                    as you observe what’s going on with your eyes shut…
                    Which gives us a reason to stand for years
                    in the square and sing.
                    —Anat Zecharia A Winding Line p. 131

The Spring that Was - Ismail Shammout

On October 8, the day after the attack, an editorial in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz laid the blame for what happened on Prime Minister, Netanyahu, and his policies concerning Palestine. In Haaretz’ view the catastrophe was the result of Netanyahu’s “fully–right” coalition of Ultra-Orthodox, racist ministers who took “overt steps…to annex the West Bank and to carry out ethnic cleansing” in areas the Oslo Accords had protected, including the Hebron Hills and the Jordan Valley. The editorial holds him and his cronies responsible for the “massive expansion of settlements and bolstering of the Jewish presence on Temple Mount, near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as boasts of an impending peace deal with the Saudis in which the Palestinians would get nothing.” Haaretz expressed outrage about the “open talk of a ‘second Nakba’ in his governing coalition.” They point out that a Prime Minister who has been indicted in three corruption cases will hardly have time and energy to attend to matters of state.

Before the Israeli–Hamas war broke out, I thought I was writing about a different catastrophe, one that has also been attributed to the Prime Minister—his treacherous Judicial Coup. The autocratic, self–serving and criminal Netanyahu has made common cause with extreme right wingers in a plot to strip the judiciary of its power and independence. This would mean no judicial checks and balances on government power. In response to this there has been a mighty wave of protests. Of course, as soon as Hamas struck the demonstrations stopped. Israelis rallied to the war effort as they must. Army reservists who had threatened not to serve because they were angered by the Prime Minister’s assault on democracy, rushed to protect their country. 

This story is fast–moving, changing every hour. As I write a ground war against Gaza seems to be the next step, putting two million civilians at risk. The Israeli government is warning citizens of Gaza City to leave. Where are they supposed to go? They have already been denied food, water, fuel and electricity by the Israeli government. Hospitals are running out of power, just as thousands of civilians are being bombed. This is punishment of non-combatants, considered a war crime, just as the Hamas brutality against civilians is a war crime. My ancestors, always with me, are lamenting-- “Oy veh is mir”. 

In what feels like a ray of light in all the chaos and misery of war news, my favorite former American president, Barack Obama, makes a significant statement: “Thoughts on Israel and Gaza.” No longer constricted by the politics of his former role, Obama tells a truth that calms the clamoring ancestors in my soul, who have been crazed with worry about the very danger Obama names. After expressing his outrage at the “horrific attack against Israel” Obama goes on to argue that the way Israel is conducting the war is likely to backfire. My ancestors say, “That’s right. It is very bad for the Jews”! Obama says:
The Israeli government’s decision to cut off food, water and electricity to a captive civilian population (in Gaza) threatens not only to worsen a growing humanitarian crisis, it could further harden Palestinian attitudes for generations, erode global support for Israel, play into the hands of Israel’s enemies, and undermine long–term efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region.
Obama, you may remember, made a valiant attempt to achieve such a peace in 2010 and was undermined again and again by Netanyahu’s refusal to withdraw from the occupied territories in the West Bank.

                                  Catastrophe   American style
                                  My family had a Sabbath ritual
                                  We lit the candles sang Go Down Moses   sang Swing Low 
                                  Sweet Chariot   sang slave music   freedom music   secret signals 
                                  in the night music   My father said   you never know
                                                                                                  when Pharoah will be back

                                  —Naomi Ruth Lowinsky Death and His Lorca p. 16

Moses with the Ten Commandments - Rembrandt

As the first-born child of refugees I saw the Muse of America as a guardian angel. I heard her in my father’s voice, extolling the virtues of the American Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence—“liberty for all.” He knew full well that America had not lived up to those ideals, that Black people were discriminated against, as were other minorities including Jews. But because we had been lucky enough to find our way to the Promised Land he was grateful, and believed devoutly that America would fulfill its promise. He was a Martin Luther King liberal. On Shabbat and at Passover we sang “Go Down Moses” because for us Black Moses and Jewish Moses were the same.

The Muse of America as the Promised Land lit a passion for the Jewish ethical tradition in my father as it did in me. I clearly remember my first experience of the Great American Shadow—the Army McCarthy Hearings of 1954. I was 11, recovering from eye surgery, which freed me to stay home from school and listen to the drama on the radio. I can hear McCarthy’s noxious voice to this day, shouting: “Point of order, point of order Mr. Chairman.” McCarthy was a Republican Senator from Wisconsin, a bully, a demagogue, a virulent anti-communist who saw communist infiltration everywhere—the government, universities and the film industry. He chaired the subcommittee on Government Operations which accused the Army of harboring communists. In the dramatic story I followed day after day the Senate was investigating the conflicting charges made by McCarthy and by the Army. Joseph Welch was chief counsel for the Army. I took pride in reporting the events of the day to my father when he came home. I was filled with righteous indignation until the day the tables turned. McCarthy had accused a young lawyer on Welch’s staff of Communist sympathies. Welsh responded with words I will never forget: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness… Let us not assassinate this lad further senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?” That phrase—no sense of decency—proved the downfall of McCarthy. The American people in 1954—glued to their TVs—could see what a bad actor McCarthy was. The Muse of the Promised Land won that battle. 

Most of a lifetime later, it grieves me greatly to see a similar bully, provocateur, and criminal—currently facing 91 felony counts— who trumpets his anti-democratic and autocratic attitudes as he leads the charge against justice and ethical behavior in our land. He led the attempted coup against his own government on January 6th 2021. I hear “Have you no decency?” as a subtext of the myriad indictments made against our former president who wants to be president again. It disturbs me profoundly that the question of decency, of telling the truth, of not being cruel, of being ethical seems to have little power over a renegade politician these days, at least in America.

But in Israel, before the attack by Hamas, the story was different. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem shouting “Busha!”—the Hebrew word for “Shame!” It comforted me that Jews in the Promised Land were standing up for our ancient ethical tradition. I was moved by an urgent and devastating request for support by Mika Almog, of She is an Israeli writer, journalist, political activist and the granddaughter of the late Shimon Perez—former prime minister and former president of Israel. Here is some of what she said:
Israel is facing the greatest threat in its 75 year history…We are literally fighting for our survival, not just as a democracy but as a homeland for the entire Jewish people. The ground is burning beneath our feet…The Judicial Coup is not an internal Israeli matter…This is about shaping the future and the story of the Jewish people. Israel is the glue that kept us together for millennia, our homeland is a safe haven for a people without a home.
Reading this I was in tears, reminded of a story my father never told his children—though he was born in Germany in 1908 he was stateless because, in those days, Germany had no birth-right citizenship. I learned this recently, when my nephew, Hillel, moved to Germany to marry Aurelia, a German woman he met in Israel. He petitioned to become a citizen under German laws that allow for the renaturalization of Jews whose ancestors were victims of Nazi persecution. But he needed to show proof of German citizenship. My mother’s family fled a few months before Hitler came to power. And my father, it turns out, was a citizen of nowhere—not Russia, not Germany not Holland. No wonder the Promised Land was so essential to him. It hurts my heart now, generations later, to imagine how frightening it must have been for him and his kin to be stateless and unprotected. Hillel has created a Café in Hamburg, which he calls Lowinsky’s. His logo is a photo of his grandfather’s face. He has brought his Opa, my father, back to a very different Germany than the one from which he fled.

Lowinsky’s NY Coffee and Tea in Hamburg

As Almog said: “No war is as dangerous as a government attacking its own people.” Isn’t that what happened in Germany? Didn’t a version of that happen here in America on January 6, 2021, when the outgoing president provoked an attempted coup? Isn’t avoiding that the whole purpose of the Promised Land?

“Where There is Much Light There is Much Shadow”
Emma Hoffman

The Ghosts - Miki de Goodaboom

That is what my Oma used to say to me, when I complained to her about my father and his rages. At night, deep in the pit of my Shoah trauma, I hear her voice saying: “That is true of countries as well as people.” I don’t know if Oma ever read Jung. But she was an artist who worked with shadow and light. She used shadow to delineate the shape of what she drew and painted. As I think about her wise words, heroic stories coming out of the agony of the war come to mind. I marvel at the Muslim medic who stayed to take care of the wounded after the attack on the music festival. He thought speaking Arabic would protect him. Unfortunately, it didn’t. I marvel at the doctors and nurses at the hospital in Gaza City who do their best to care for the sick and wounded despite Israel’s blockade of medications, food, water, fuel and electricity to the suffering population. I marvel at the son whose mother, an Israeli peace activist, is believed to be a hostage. He said: “Vengeance is not something to build foundations on. It is not a strategy. How many dead Palestinians will be enough for us to feel safe?” (Quoted in Nicholas Kristof’s column, October 27th 2023.)

The Camel  Carrier of Hardships
Sliman Mansour

Shadow and light, catastrophe and miracle seem to take turns on the stage of Jewish history. Consider the Psalms, to which we turn for comfort and support when we feel overwhelmed by suffering and grief. Judaism gives us a deity who can be ruthless and cruel as well as just and loving—which, of course, is true of us all. The Psalms move from shadow to light and back. Sometimes it is the Lord who puts us “in the nethermost pit,/in darkness, in the depths” (Psalm 88:7), sometimes it is other humans: “How long the Wicked, O Lord,/ how long will the wicked exult? (Psalm 94:3). But Psalm 89:1 sings “the Lord’s kindnesses forever.” And Psalm 95:1 invites us to “sing gladly to the Lord.” 

Robert Alter—whose translation of the Psalms is the one I quote—points out in The Art of Biblical Poetry:
The God of biblical faith…is not a God of the cosmos alone, but also a God of history. A good many psalms…are responses to the most urgent pressures of the historical moment. (p. 121)

Perseverance and Hope - Sliman Mansour

I wanted to sing gladly to that God of history on the morning of October 18th when Dan and I woke to hear the voice of our President, Joe Biden, speaking from Tel Aviv—the only American president who has visited Israel in wartime. I wept, listening to his empathic, strong and ethical response to the atrocities:

Shock, pain, rage—an all-consuming rage. I understand, and many Americans understand

You can’t look at what has happened here to your mothers, your fathers, your grandparents, sons, daughters, children—even babies—and not scream out for justice. Justice must be done.

But I caution this: While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it.

The vast majority of Palestinians are not Hamas. Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people.
And Biden, who is so familiar with sorrow, spoke to the Israeli people about the nature of grief:
To those who are living in limbo waiting desperately to learn the fate of loved ones, especially to families of the hostages: You’re not alone … 

To those who are grieving a child, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, I know you feel like there’s that black hole in the middle of your chest. You feel like you’re being sucked into it.

The survivor’s remorse, the anger, the questions of faith in your soul.

Starting at—staring at that empty chair, sitting shiva. The first Sabbath without them…

For those who have lost loved ones, this is what I know: They’ll never be truly gone. There’s something that’s never fully lost: your love for them and their love for you…

Read full text: transcript of U.S. President Joe Biden's remarks in Tel Aviv on Oct. 18, 2023. 

Jaffa (A Palestinian City before 1948)   
Juhaina Habibi Kandalaft

Biden also spoke passionately about the humanitarian issues raised by the siege on Gaza and declared it time to return to negotiating a two–state solution! I wonder how that went over with Netanyahu? I say to my inner Oma, ‘isn’t this also a miracle?’ We have a president who, in our angry, unstable, cruel times, has the courage to speak out for justice and compassion. The shadow is, he gets so little credit for his valor, his moral compass, and most of all for his decency. These virtues are not, it seems, in vogue. The shadow is that, as I write, the people of Gaza are still being bombed. The count of Palestinian dead keeps rising and rising. Many who obeyed the Israeli command to evacuate Gaza City and go south have been struck by bombs in what they were told would be safe areas. Most of Gaza City is debris and death—appalling, unbearable.

I began this blog piece thinking I was telling a story about courageous protests by Israelis against their government—which has gone seriously awry. But on October 7th the story shifted into a hell realm—the Jewish-Palestinian trauma vortex. As I come to the end of this piece, with the story still changing every hour, it strikes me that the second story is actually an outcome of the first. The Haaretz editorial I quoted earlier makes the connection. As President Obama knows all too well, the catastrophe in Israel has everything to do with the Netanyahu government’s consistent undermining of a two–state solution. They have thrown gasoline on the fires of Israeli and Palestinian conflict by their support of the settlers in the West Bank, who are encouraged to be violent with their Palestinian neighbors. And they eased the way for terrorists to invade Israel, by their lack of a military presence at the Southern border. Netanyahu, I’m told, dislikes the kibbutzim and small towns in what is called the “periphery”—because they are inhabited by progressive people who don’t vote for him. Some say Hamas was surprised and a bit shocked by how little resistance they met. As the protesters have shouted at their government for many months of marching in the streets: “Busha!” “Busha!” “Shame!” I am moved to quote the words of Nir Avishai Cohen, author of Love Israel, Support Palestine, and an Israeli reservist in his way to join the war (published in the Opinion Section of the NYTimes, Sunday, October 15th, 2023):
At the end, after all of the dead Israelis and Palestinians are buried, after we have finished washing away the rivers of blood, the people who share a home in this land will have to understand that there is no other choice but to follow the path of peace. That is where true victory lies.
Many years ago, during another time of terrorist attacks in Israel, when the ground was burning beneath Israeli feet, I wrote a Psalm to the God of history that is, sadly relevant again:

Unnamed - Ahlam Al Faqih

Your Face   in the Fire

Descend upon me   you who are source
before source   fire in the sky   gleam
in the back of my skull     Come in the wind
with wings     Come in my breath    I cling
to the luminous stair     Sing me your names
spirit    void    darkening sea    world
tree      When thunder speaks      come into my heart
where terrible stories are told
                                                                             The woman
whose womb has cast pieces of flesh   all over the streets
of Jerusalem   that son of your prophet     whose light
splintered   into thousands of dangerous

              I gather it all for the altar
                                        the blood    the rage    the weeping
                                                                            Show me your face
                                                                                                    in the fire

                                                                           (forthcoming in Your Face in the Fire)


Alter, R. trans. 2007. The Book of Psalms. W.W. Norton.
______ 1985. The Art of Biblical Poetry. Basic Books

Amichai, Y. 2000. Open    Closed    Open. Trans. Chana Bloch, Chana Kronfeld. Harcourt, Inc.

Darwish, M. 2003. Unfortunately, It Was Paradise. University of California Press.

Handal, R. ed. 2001. The Poetry of Arab Women. Interlink Books.

Keller, T. trans. 2023. A Winding Line: Three Hebrew Poets. Zephyr Press.

Lowinsky, NR. 2007. Adagio and Lamentation. Fisher King Press.
_________, 2021, Death and His Lorca. Blue Light Press.
__________, (forthcoming) Your Face in the Fire.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Sister from Below invites you to:

Spectral Presences as Healers of Cultural Complexes


10AM – 5PM


12 Possible Continuing Education Credits Approved for MD, PhD, PsyD, MFT, LCSW,


Can the presence of our ancestors both speak as well as act
 to help us come to grips with our collective histories of racial,
 ethnic, gender identities and biases?

Using the healing processes in poetry, literature, visual arts and
 psychoanalysis, the presenters will consider how phantomatic and
 ancestral forces act in us through “cultural complexes” and “phantom
narratives.” We will contemplate the ways we come to grips with our
 collective histories of racial, ethnic, gender identities and biases
 through reparation, implication, forgiveness and clinical work.

The contemporary written word from African Americans about
 the spectral presences who act as our guides from our world to 
in-between worlds, landing on mythical shores where history can
 be revealed, witnessed, and cleansed in our souls will be used to 
amplify the need for such presences. Clinical examples of this
 process will be included.

SAM KIMBLES, PhD, is an analyst member of the C.G. Jung Institute of
 San Francisco and a clinical professor at UCSF. His published books include:
 Phantom Narratives: The Unseen Contribution of
 Culture to Psyche and Transgenerational Complexes in 
Analytical Psychology.

NAOMI RUTH LOWINSKY, PhD, is an analyst member of the C.G.
Jung Institute of San Francisco and a widely published and anthologized
 poet. She is the winner of The Blue Light Poetry Prize and the Obama
Millennial Prize. Her fifth poetry collection Death and His Lorca,
 was recently published.

ALAN VAUGHAN, JD, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and an analyst
 member of the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco. He is the author
 of many articles including recently, “Phenomenology of the Trickster
Archetype, U.S. Electoral Politics and the Black Lives Matter Movement” 
in the Journal of Analytical Psychology.

FANNY BREWSTER, PhD, MFA, is a Jungian analyst and professor at 
Pacifica Graduate Institute. She is the author of African Americans
 and Jungian Psychology, Archetypal Grief: Slavery’s
 Legacy and The Racial Complex.

MEDRIA CONNOLLY, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in private practice 
in Santa Monica, CA. Her work is particularly attuned to the challenges
 faced by people of color. Recently, Dr. Connolly has focused her attention
 on the psychological case for reparations to descendants of American slavery.

BRYAN NICHOLS, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist with a practice
 located in West Los Angeles, CA. Nichols is a certified trainer, and trainer
 of trainers in the Effective Black Parenting Program. He has also conducted
 numerous groups and trainings in anger management utilizing elements
 of the “Dealing with Anger” program that was designed for African
 American teens.

Date: Mar 18, 2023 and Mar 19, 2023 
10:00 AM - 05:00 PM


CE Hours
Registration closes on Mar 19, 2023 01:00 AM

Activity Type
  • Extended Education

Requirements for CE Credit

Participants will receive credit following the completion of the post-test and evaluation, based on actual attendance.


Monday, October 10, 2022

The Sister from Below is Delighted to Invite You

 Naomi Ruth Lowinsky and the Deep River Poets

invite you to a reading of

Soul-Making in the Valley of the Shadow


Kent Butzine, Virginia Chen, Sheila deShields, Dossie Easton, Connie Hills, Raluca Ioanid, Daniela Kantorová, Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, Clare Marcus, and Anita Sánchez

Sat. Oct. 22, 2022 


On Zoom

Cover Image: Kent Butzine

General Admission: $25

Esse in anima (Live in the soul)–C. G. Jung

How does one live in the soul during dangerous times? The ancient mode of mythopoesis is an imaginal practice which can confront shadow and give voice to soul. Since 2006 the Deep River Poetry Circle has provided a temenos for this process. After the trauma of the 2016 election, followed by the pandemic and the climate catastrophes that have followed, we in Deep River have engaged the Spirit of the Times as well as the Spirit of the Depths. It has become a sacred river we wash ourselves in, as the Hindus do in Ganga Ma—Mother Ganges—to cleanse our souls and heal our broken hearts. We gather at the river to follow the flow of our poems; they take us to surprising places, show us the unexpected—the Tree of Life around a bend in the river, its roots deep in the earth.

We gathered to create our anthology, Soul Making in the Valley of the Shadow, as a gift to the community.  We offer this reading to the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco, in celebration of its passage from a beloved old home to a transformative new home, in memory of our Jungian ancestors, and as an expression of deep gratitude to the Extended Education Committee, who have given us support, visibility, and a way to gather for so many years, through so many changes.  

Please join us. The $25.00 admission fee will get you a copy of Soul Making. All proceeds will go to the Extended Education Program.

- No Continuing Education Credits are available for this event.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Muse of Free Women

“Lady Liberty”
by Theodore Bonev St. Martin

We Dissent:  There are few greater incursions on a body than forcing a woman to complete a pregnancy and give birth. For every woman, these experiences involve all manner of physical changes, medical treatments (including the possibility of a cesarian section), and medical risk. Just as one example, an American woman is 14 times more likely to die by carrying a pregnancy to term than by having an abortion…

Today’s decision strips women of agency…It forces her to carry out the State’s will, whatever the circumstances and whatever harm it will wreak on her and her family. In the Fourteenth amendments terms, it takes away her liberty. 

Dobbs v. Jackson Women Health Organization Dissent, by Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomajor.

Musing in the Desert by Jeremy Bishop

An Awful Bleakness of Being

The Muse of Free Women has gone on retreat. No one knows where or why. You say: “It’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the overturning of Roe v. Wade—that upsets Her.” True. But She left us much earlier, went off, it is said, to the desert, alone. Women have stopped celebrating Her, praying to Her, bringing Her offerings. Maybe She’s learning how to ride a camel over the Abyss. Maybe She’s praying for Our Mother the Earth, whose future looks bleak. Maybe She’s waiting for America’s psychotic episode to be over. Could the recent good news, about the Inflation Reduction Bill which addresses Climate Change, or the surprising vote for Women’s Freedom in Kansas, which rejected an attempt to overturn the existing constitutional right to abortion in Kansas, lure Her back to us? 

Like most women in America, I felt gut punched by the Supreme Court’s Ruling in Dobbs, ending a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. We knew it was coming but it continues to feel unreal that so many women will have to return to back-alley abortions or, for those who can afford it, trips to faraway places. Maureen Dowd, in her NYTimes Opinion Column, quoted the author Niall O’Dowd: “Now that the world has turned upside down, there will be charter flights from America to Ireland for abortions.” Remember, Ireland was virulently anti-abortion until 2018, when the Irish voted to legalize it, and to free women. Dowd wrote:

Ireland and the United States have traded places. Ireland leapt into modernity, rejecting religious reactionaries’ insistence on controlling women’s bodies. America lurched backward, ruled by religious reactionaries’ insistence on controlling women’s bodies.

Once, Ireland seemed obsessed with punishing women. Now it’s America. (July 17th, 2022)

An Awful Bleakness: “Magdalena”  by El Greco

An awful bleakness of being descended upon me in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. I have heard that word—bleak—from so many women, on media and in my life. Did you feel it? It’s as though our inner world has turned into a barren, dangerous landscape where women are shamed and punished just for being women—made to cover our hair and faces, not allowed to be part of the world of school, sports, work, politics, the arts. Have we been transported to Afghanistan, where, just a year ago, women’s rights and freedoms were torn away from them as the Americans left and the Taliban took over? Have the Taliban taken over America? 

The Patriarch: “Zeus” by Jacob Potma

In Thrall to the Patriarchy

I grew up in a Patriarchy. Always attuned to my mother’s feelings—though she never spoke of them to me—I felt her inner bleakness as she trudged around like a pack animal doing my father’s bidding—typing his manuscripts, tending to us children, doing all the housework and cooking, having no life of her own. Years later, after she left my father, my mother became one of the freest, most self-actualized women I knew in her generation. She made a rich life for herself, doing what she loved—working with young children, playing violin and viola in chamber groups and orchestras, giving music lessons. She traveled to Prague because there was a workshop on performing Bartók she wanted to take. She travelled to Florence, to visit me and Dan when we were there for a conference, and then went off to visit friends in Northern Europe, laughing at us when we worried about her plan to spend the night in the train station, which she did, and was just fine.

Mother Doing Her Thing

Mother died in 2018. I’m grateful that she did not live to see her granddaughters and great granddaughters lose their rights. The Patriarchy has spoken. It has cut women’s freedom out of the American constitution, handed it over to the states. It has enacted its misogynous cruelty over women’s bodies and souls as it has for thousands of years—stigmatizing and controlling women and girls as though our only function is to be vessels for new life. Our bodily autonomy, our right to make our own decisions about childbearing has been plundered in many states in American—the so called “land of the free.” Our freedom to travel to nearby states that allow abortion is in question. If a basic right we’ve had for close to fifty years can be torn out of the constitution by a virulent minority, if our dignity can be denied, our authority over ourselves ripped up like a contract that has been reneged on, how are we equal citizens?  Like Jews forced to wear the Yellow Star, we walk on dangerous ground, unsure what will set the powers that be against us.

The Patriarchy has determined that it owns our wombs. It is up to them and not to us what use we put them to. The Supreme Court has determined that my uterus belongs to the state I live in.  I am lucky to live in California, and to be past the age of childbearing. But what of my granddaughters? The Patriarchy has plans to make the abortion ban federal. What if a granddaughter should need an abortion, or have a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy that requires an abortion-like procedure to save her life? It was up to the state of Ohio to determine whether a ten-year-old girl, raped by a twenty–seven–year old man, could have an abortion in her home state. “Not in Ohio! Not even in cases of rape or incest!” the child and her parents were told. She had to be driven to nearby Indiana, where a gutsy doctor did the procedure. Sadly, that doctor has been harassed and threatened. Sadly, Indiana has changed its mind on abortion. Another child in that situation will need to be driven all the way to Illinois. Would her freedom to travel remain intact? Or would she and her doctor be at risk under the brutal law of the Patriarchy?

Don’t get me wrong, when I say Patriarchy I don’t mean men. The men in my life don’t buy into the hateful ideas promoted by the Supreme Court majority or the people in charge of states like Ohio, Texas and Florida. The men I know consider themselves feminists and value their inner feminine side. In my lifetime I have seen women’s rights and freedoms expanded exponentially. Most Americans, even Republicans, support women’s freedom to choose in childbearing as well as in work and in relationships. What we are seeing, I believe, is an enormous Patriarchal backlash, because some parts of America feel a loss of power and privilege, and because misogyny lives in both men and women’s unconscious. This, accompanied by extreme economic and class inequality, and racism, makes life a living hell for many poor people, especially women with children and women of color, for whom, having to bear an unwanted child can sink them deep into poverty. 

“Witches being Burned in Derenburg, 1555”

Akin to Slavery and to the Inquisition

It is the work of The Muse of Free Women to bring our fierceness and grief out of the woodwork. She comes to me in the form of furious ghosts. The witches of Salem are howling in me.  The witches who were burnt at the stake during hundreds of years of the Inquisition, which murdered women of power, women of wisdom, uncanny women who had visions, who knew the medicinal uses of herbs, who were midwives and performed abortions, are moaning and keening in my soul. Women who died too young having back-alley abortions before Roe became law, are weeping in my heart. They cry out:

We thought this was over, that this hatred of us, of our bodies, which are so powerful that no one can be born without coming through us, had ended. That a woman’s power to bear life would be honored. That her right to refuse a child was part of that honoring and basic common sense. What child wants a mother who wishes it had never been born? What child needs a mother whose own life and future is sacrificed in bearing one she is not ready to mother, or can’t afford to feed, clothe and love?

This is not a country that recognizes the essential work of mothering, or that healthy, loved, well–educated children are the backbone of our democracy. We don’t give new parents time off to bond with their babies and make the transition into being parents. We don’t support childcare and make it affordable; we don’t pay childcare workers a living wage; we don’t support early education and pay teachers decently. We don’t support single mothers so they don’t have to work multiple jobs and can be with their children. The unborn child that is so precious to the anti-choice people is on its own and so is its mother. I know there are well intentioned people who are setting up centers to support women who are bearing unwanted children. But from what I’ve heard none of these programs goes very far beyond early infancy. And none can deal with the wound to a woman’s sense of self, when her reality and truth are denied and she is compelled to do something as difficult as bearing a child against her will. Being forced to bear a child is like being forced into a marriage—a violation of the most essential human freedom. Both are akin to slavery. Jamelle Bouie puts it well in an opinion piece in the New York Times of July 17th, 2022:

When a state claims the right to limit your travel on account of your body—when it claims one of the most fundamental aspects of your personal liberty in order to take control of your reproductive health—then that state has rendered you little more than another form of property.

“A Slave Interrupts General Lee’s Breakfast”
during the Civil War

The Motherline

I became a mother very young, age 19, a decade before Roe v Wade freed women to live full lives. I was lucky because I was married, had a mother who loved being a mother, and had family support and resources. But I felt the disrespect for mothers acutely—the Patriarchal attitude that demeans and marginalizes women and mothers. Mothers were a joke in popular culture and blamed for most psychological issues in therapy. For me, having children young was a profound education in life. I learned child development from my children. They taught me the basics of psychology. When I decided to become a psychotherapist, I was infuriated that none of my experience as a mother was valued—none of it could be claimed in a resumé, or help me get into grad school.

Cover art by Sara Spaulding-Phillips
Cover of Fisher King Press Motherline

That fury led to my writing my first book, The Motherline. This year is the 30th anniversary of The Motherline’s publication in 1992. Thanks to my publisher, Fisher King Press, it is still available, and I still hear from women who value it for its alternative view of women’s lives. At the time I wrote it I saw women rejecting their mothers and “wandering like motherless daughters in the too bright light of Patriarchal consciousness.” I wrote that it is “our task to integrate our feminine and feminist selves. We must connect the historical self that was freed by feminism to live in the “real” world, with the feminine self that binds us to our mothers and grandmothers” (p. 32) and to the Deep Feminine. Thirty years later, I still consider this essential. For most women I know, valuing being a mother and wanting to make our own choices about childbearing, are totally interconnected. Here are some quotes from the Motherline that seem pertinent to our times:

The Great Mother, in all of her aspects, is especially fearful for women who identify with feminism and the women’s movement. Many of us broke free of the stranglehold that biology has on our destinies. Surpassing our mothers we charged into the world of achievement and mastery. We want to feel we are living conscious lives directed by muscular egos. The Motherline and matriarchal consciousness are at odds with these goals. The heroism of yin, which opens up the boundaries of the female body to take in seed, allowing new life to grow within it and be born out of it, is seen as a frightening swamp of passivity. Female flesh—fat, breasts, hips—become a fearful shadow…

We are left only with feelings of shame and inferiority for the blood, sweat, desire, and fury of our female experience.

Integrating feminism and the feminine requires bringing to consciousness the Motherline as it is expressed in the very texture of how women talk, the looping that ties together life–cycle experiences…the sacred nature of organic experience. This requires honoring the ebb and flow of a woman’s body…

A woman who can integrate her hunger for the world with carnal self–knowledge lives in relation to her body, as well as to her generation. She can attend to her life’s unfolding from the inner whispers of her dreams, to the interpersonal dialogue with kith and kin, to the collective currents that sweep her time. She knows who she is, where she comes from, where she is going, and what her place is among the living and the dead. (p. 36)

Free Women: “The Witches go to Market, 1876” by Alice Boyd

What Does it Mean to Be Free? 

“Free” is a fascinating word. It means the obvious—“not in bondage.” But its root can be traced back to Sanskrit “priyah,” meaning “love,” or “beloved,” German “Friede,” meaning “peace,” and to the Norse Goddess “Freya” alias “Frigg,” whom Robert Graves, in The White Goddess, associates with the Goddess of Love and Death.” 

The Goddess is a lovely, slender woman with a hooked nose, deathly pale face, lips as red as rowan–berries, startling blue eyes and long fair hair. She will suddenly transform herself into sow, mare, birch, vixen, she–ass, weasel, serpent owl, she–wolf, tigress, mermaid or loathsome hag… In ghost stories she often figures as “the white lady; and in ancient religions…as the “white goddess”…The test of a true poet’s vision, one might say, is the accuracy of his portrayal of the White Goddess…The reason why her hairs stand on end, the eyes water, the throat is constricted, the skin crawls and a shiver runs down the spine…is that a true poem is necessarily an invocation of the White Goddess, or Muse, the Mother of All Living, the ancient power of fright and lust…whose embrace is death. (p. 21)

“Freya” by John Bauer

Barbara Walker, in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets has a long entry about Freya:

Great Goddess of northern Europe, leader of the “primal matriarchs”…”divine grandmothers…Freya was…the ruling ancestress…who ruled before the arrival of Odin…Myths say Odin learned everything he knew about magic and divine power from Freya.

The pagans said nothing could be lucky without Freya’s presence…

Freya represented sexual love, which is why her alternate name Frigg became a colloquialism for sexual intercourse.

Walker speaks of Freya’s “Kali–like function as Destroying Goddess, which she would assume when men and gods displeased her by forgetting her principles of right living, justice, honor and peace.” (p. 325) Is it any wonder that when the Patriarchal gods took over, they feared this powerful Muse of Free and Beloved women? In many of the myths, though Freya was married, she was strong willed, slept around, belonged to herself, knew more magic than any other god, wasn’t controlled by any male. It’s not hard to understand the hatred and fear that underlie the dying throes of a Patriarchal mentality that denies the mysteries, tries to gun down death, has forgotten how to live in the dark, in connection with the ancestors, in the vagaries of the moon, in harmony with the seasons and in service to the earth. 

Goddess Ambika Leads Eight Mother Goddesses
in Battle Against the Demon

Freya the Free, the Beloved, the Terrible

What, you wonder, do we do now? How so we get our Muse, our Beloved, out of the desert to free us? She’s scary. She’s uncanny. She makes no sense to the Patriarchal mind, which punishes us for Her powers. And yet She is in us, of us, and we need Her badly.

She’s been with me since I lived in India, as a young woman with young children. India is full of images of powerful Goddesses fighting demons.  The Goddess changed my life by helping me understand the cycles of birth and destruction and the distinction between personal, cultural and archetypal experience. 

“Goddess Kali” Calcutta Art Studio, 1883

She came to me as Kali, who gives birth and death in one fell swoop. As I was wrestling with writing The Motherline, I came to understand that Kali is essential to female psychology: 

Every woman has a Kali side, every mother has a secret devourer, a baby killer in her soul. When contemporary women write honestly out of their lived experience, they wrestle…with their Kali natures; they dare to name…their murderous impulses…(p. 195)

At a psychological level the abortion issue is about our capacity to confront Kali consciously. Those who would deny women the right to choose abortion seek to control Kali by forcing women to bear children. Kali will then take other forms: ruined lives, neglected and abused children, women maimed or killed in illegal, back–alley abortions. However those who support a woman’s right to choose abortion also need to face the truth that…abortion is not merely a medical procedure. It is the tearing from the womb of our own flesh and blood. It is a sacrifice of life, hopefully for life. (pp. 196-97)

To bear her children, her mother, her life in the presence of Kali…requires that a woman know her carnal self, bear her mother’s pain and limitations, face the bones of her ancestors and the bloody truth that she has no control over what she is born into, or what she gives birth to…; though we have our human responsibility, we are not in charge of destiny…Our personal mothers are not to blame for what is in the nature of human life. [Kali] links us to the blood and bones of our female knowledge, to our mother’s suffering as well as our own. She tells us that we are flesh and blood; that we give life and take life, nurture and destroy, suckle and poison; that these are in the very nature of existence, not the fault of women. She knows that it is in the very corruptibility of our flesh that our human souls bloom. She knows that we live in the great hands of history, which can tear our small lives to shreds. (pp. 206)

“Lilith as the Temptress” by Raphael,
between 1509 and 1511

Whether we call Her Kali or Freya, The White Goddess, the Muse of Free Women, or Lilith, we need to claim Her in our own souls in order to find our footing on female ground. I am reminded of a phrase used by the Jungian Analyst, Irene de Claremont Castillejo, in her 1967 book Knowing Woman, in which she called a woman’s ability to choose whether or not to bear a child “the Second Apple.”  The first apple is the one Eve tempted Adam to eat from the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. The Second Apple is the one every woman tastes when we make the choice to use contraception or to have an abortion. That is how Eve becomes Lilith—Adam’s uppity first wife who refused to lie beneath him and was sent into exile by the Red Sea—how she loses her innocence, faces her shadow, takes responsibility for her freedom. In Raphael’s version of the story, Lilith and the Serpent/Satan are the same. Tasting the Second Apple is always dangerous and essential. Women are eating Forbidden Fruit all over the country and handing it out to others. How do we support them?

Donate! Did you know there is an abortion clinic in Portland, Oregon called “Lilith”?  Those women in Oregon are calling her back from her exile. There are brave women and men all over the country opening abortion clinics in states that allow them. Send them money as your way of offering others the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, which grows on female ground. Whole Woman’s Health, for example, was an abortion provider which, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, went all the way to the Supreme Court, taking on Texas’ Abortion law, which outlaws abortions after a fetal heart beat is detectable (usually 6 weeks) and authorizes the public to become bounty hunters and sue anyone who performs, aids or abets a post–heartbeat abortion. This law sent shock waves of terror into those who support women’s rights. Women usually don’t know they are pregnant by six weeks and certainly can’t arrange an abortion that quickly. Which means you can’t get an abortion in Texas. Whole Women’s Health is moving to New Mexico. Its Abortion Wayfarer Program helps free women to find the medical help they need.  

Vote! Your vote in the mid-term elections is essential. Vote for those who support Women’s Rights and Freedoms. Help get other women registered to vote by donating to Register Her.   

Suffragettes, 1917

Pray! Call Her into your life!  Do whatever you do to invoke the Muse or the Goddess. She shows up in unexpected places. She showed up as I was working on a poem about the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. She stands on top of the dome—beautiful, strong, a woman of color.  She is known as Freedom—a manifestation of Lady Liberty. Notice that Freedom wears feathers in her hair, and a beautiful blanket wrapped around her, Indian style. Her story holds some of the shadow truths we like to forget. She was created just before the Civil War, when the Capitol Dome was being rebuilt. Her creation was facilitated by a brilliant slave, Philip Reid, “who came up with the idea of using a pulley to move the statue, was then paid $1.25 a day by the federal government to ‘keep up fires under the moulds,’ according to the architects records.” His owner pocketed the money. But when the final cast of the Statue was raised in 1863, Reid was a free man. It took until 2014 for his contribution to be recognized in a ceremony on the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Freedom,” by Thomas Crawford, 1863

Freedom leapt into my imagination and took over the end of my poem, “The Day They Roughed Up Lady Liberty.” I saw her surrounded by angry white men, ready to savage her. But she is an ancient Goddess, armed and fierce, as well as a midwife who knows: “The most dangerous time is transition”—in a woman’s labor, in our personal lives and in our collective lives. She knows that our country and our world are going through an enormous transition, due to climate change, drought, floods, fires, political extremes, economic inequality, racism, the backlash and power hunger of the Patriarchy—Putin’s War is a frightening example. “She Sings a Different Story,” knows different truths. Listen to Her. 

The Day They Roughed Up Lady Liberty
is still happening   on Instagram   You can’t stop watching   
Can’t stop   trying to make sense   of the senseless
Maybe you’re Black   and haunted
by your grandmother’s grandmother   born a slave
That whirlwind   of Confederate flags   agitates   her spirit
This Capitol was Built   by Slaves

Maybe you had a Cherokee grandmother  
grew up on stories    of the Trail of Tears
What’s up with that guy in face paint   bison horns
calls himself   Q Shaman
What kind of shaman is Q?

Here comes Trouble  

Maybe you’re a Junior   in High School   the Covid has trapped you at home     
You’d rather watch the Insurrection   of Jan 6th 2021     watch members 
of Congress   push furniture against the doors   as the mob snarls and shoves
than listen to your teacher drone on about    “The   Insurrection against King George”    
How will they teach this day   in fifty years?     Now there’s a question for the quiz
A Noose Hangs Over   the Capitol Dome

Maybe you’re undocumented   slipped across the border years ago
You work as a gardener     Stayed out of sight   during the terror years   
of the President of Hate    Since the election   you breathe   more freely   
but this riot on Instagram   is what happened   to your country     
Why you left     Where could you go   from here?

He weaponized Fear   Resentment

Maybe you’re an aging Jew   whose parents   may they rest in peace  
were refugees from the slaughter in Europe     This is their   American Nightmare
You too have seen it coming     But that rioter   in a “Camp Auschwitz”
hoodie   or the other one   emblazoned with the slogan 
“Six Million Jews Are Not Enough”     knock the holy wind   out of you

Tyranny   Like Hell   is Not Easily Conquered
Hear that sound of breaking glass?
That’s Kristallnacht!   That’s how it begins
The Big Lie     The Invasion of the Temple
They’re thundering up the stairs   breaking
and entering    chambers   sanctuaries   offices
shouting   N a n c y     W h e r e   a r e   y o u ? 

No!   No!   No!   No!   No!  No!  No!
They’re shaking the Capitol Dome   They’ve knocked down   our Lady 
of Liberty     Look!     She’s surrounded!     They poke her with flag poles
The man in the “Camp Auschwitz” hoodie shouts     That bitch
has feathers in her hair     Look how she drapes her blanket   Who 
does she think she is?     Pocahontas?     Who let her rise above us?

Here Comes Trouble

Where are you from?     Who created you?     
These angry white men   want to savage her     But she rises   
to her larger than life   ethnically ambiguous     full height     
She’s armed    with a sword   swings it in figure eights
with the slash of a warrior   with the grace of a dancer

Armed with a Lyre, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1842

She Sings    a Different Story

She’s armed with a lyre   strums it softly
as the dazed horde backs away   sits down
like kids at a campfire     She’s the storyteller
Once I was a Goddess   ran wild in the woods   me and my girls
knew the ways of the animals   the ways of women in labor

The Most Dangerous Time    is Transition 

In Ancient Rome   I was Libertas     I was worshipped   given burnt offerings  
for I’d freed the slaves   freed women   given the people a choice   a voice   a sword
In Old English   Old German   the word “free”   comes from the same root   as “love”
Old Man Trouble   stole my thunder     Forbade me     Denied me     Burnt me as a witch     
But I lived on   in the hearts of runaway slaves   the tribes on the Trail of Tears   the women at Seneca Falls
This Capitol was Built   by Slaves

I came to my creator   as the spirit of my grandmother’s grandmother   
born in her own mother’s wigwam     She saw what she saw    knew what she knew
tended the fire   had voice   had choice   in the life of her tribe
I came to my high position   at the top of your Capitol Dome
thanks to a slave   one Philip Reid   who fashioned a pulley   to lift me up

Then came   Big   Trouble
They called it the Civil War   but for Philip Reid   it was Freedom      
Now all of you fight over me     The prophesies of Q claim me  
Anti-Maskers claim me     The Bougaloo Bois claim me     The Proud Boys claim me    
Black Lives Matter claim me    Me Too claims me
So does United We Dream   and the Tribes at Standing Rock

She Sings    a Different Story

I tell you warring suitors     No one owns me
I’ve got my voice
I’ve got my choice
I’ve got my sword     We’ll need it
I see what I see   Know what I know

The Most Dangerous Time is Transition

May Freedom be your Goddess, your choice, your labor. May Freedom be our rebirth into love for our Mother, the Earth, and for all creatures—flora and fauna—including one other.

“Joy of Life: The Quintessential Maternity of Nature”
by Mrinal Kanty Das” 2016

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