Today is the sacred midpoint between Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. For this Lammas festival and the first harvest of summer, I share a poem by Marge Piercy. It not only reminds us of Habondia’s gifts, but it highlights the right of choice, which women are again seeing violated. This week the only abortion clinic in my town was shut down by the state of North Carolina, following the legislature’s passing yet another appalling measure, this one designed to regulate such clinics out of existence. Can we celebrate Lammas, can we dance while the fiery gasps of the dying patriarchy torch our choices? How do we stand as witness to suffering while claiming our sacrament of joy? Piercy shows us a way. We can dance today as a way to enliven and empower ourselves in the face of suffering. We can move towards life even as the toppling structures around us move toward death. Dance and joy and celebration must be enacted as ways to address oppression. It is not a superficial pleasure, this Sabbath of Mutual Respect. It is the deepest dance there is.
The Sabbath of Mutual Respect
In the natural year come two thanksgivings,
the harvest of summer and the harvest of fall,
two times when we eat and drink and remember our dead
under the golden basin of the moon of plenty.
Abundance, Habondia, food for the winter,
too much now and survival later. After
the plant bears, it dies into seed.
The blowing grasses nourish us, wheat
and corn and rye, millet and rice, oat
and barley and buckwheat, all the servicable
grasses of the pasture that the cow grazes,
the lamb, the horse, the goat; the grasses
that quicken into meat and cheese and milk,
the humble necessary mute vegetable bees,
the armies of the grasses waving their
golden banners of ripe seed.
round fruit that gleams with the sun
stored in its sweetness.
ephemera of the summer garden, bloodwarm
tomatoes, tender small squash, crisp
beans, the milky corn, the red peppers
exploding like cherry bombs in the mouth.
We praise abundance by eating of it,
reveling in choice on a table set with roses
and lilies and phlox, zucchini and lettuce
and eggplant before the long winter
of root crops.
Fertility and choice:
every row dug in spring means weeks
of labor. Plant too much and the seedlings
choke in weeds as the warm rain soaks them.
The goddess of abundance Habondia is also
the spirit of labor and choice.
life, dear sister, I too would bear six fat
children. In another life, my sister, I too
would love another woman and raise one child
together as if that pushed from both our wombs.
In another life, sister, I too would dwell
solitary and splendid as a lighthouse on the rocks
or be born to mate for life like the faithful goose.
Praise all our choices. Praise any woman
who chooses, and make safe her choice.
Habondia, Artemis, Cybele, Demeter, Ishtar,
Aphrodite, Au Set, Hecate, Themis, Lilith,
Thea, Gaia, Bridgit, The Great Grandmother of Us
All, Yemanja, Cerridwen, Freya, Corn Maiden,
Mawu, Amaterasu, Maires, Nut, Spider-Woman,
Neith, Au Zit, Hathor, Inanna, Shin Moo,
Diti, Arinna, Anath, Tiamat, Astoreth:
the names flesh out our histories, our choices,
our passions and what we will never embody
but pass by with respect. When I consecrate
my body in the temple of our history,
when I pledge myself to remain empty
and clear for the voices coming through
I do not choose for you or lessen your choice.
Habondia, the real abundance, is the power
to say yes and to say no, to open
and to close, to take or to leave
and not to be taken by force or law
or fear or poverty or hunger.
To bear children or not to bear by choice
is holy. To bear children unwanted
is to be used like a public sewer.
To be sterilized unchosen is to have
your heart cut out. To love women
is holy and holy is the free love of men
and precious to live taking whichever comes
and precious to live unmated as a peachtree.
Praise the lives you did not choose.
They will heal you, tell your story, fight
for you. You eat the bread of their labor.
You drink the wine of their joy. I tell you
after I went under the surgeon’s knife
for the laparoscopy I felt like a trumpet
an Amazon was blowing sonorous charges on.
Then my womb learned to open on the full
moon without pain and my pleasure deepened
till my body shuddered like troubled water.
When my friend gave birth I held her in joy
as the child’s head thrust from her vagina
like the sun rising at dawn wet and red.
Praise our choices, sisters, for each doorway
open to us was taken by squads of fighting
women who paid years of trouble and struggle,
who paid their wombs, their sleep, their lives
that we might walk through these gates upright.
Doorways are sacred to women for we
are the doorways of life and we must choose
what comes in and what goes out. Freedom
is our real abundance.
c. Marge Piercy