When I was a child, my mother told me
God has many faces
And She reveals Herself
In many ways. God might be
The cleaning lady who came
To our house on Tuesdays,
Or the woman in rags sitting on the sidewalk,
Or the blind girl lost in the bus station.
You never know, she said, who She is
Or what She has in mind for us.
This from a Southern Baptist girl
Whose family sent her sisters to college
And passed her by. She learned
About the world through novels
And movies -- endless stories folded
Into endless laundry. She bore
Five children in five years.
This kind generous woman
Overwhelmed by work,
Sustained by dreaming, blinded
By the bright light
Of love, raised denial
To an art form. Everyone she knew
Was a secret perfection.
Our best selves were exactly
What she knew us to be.
Her husband was not
A narcissistic bully,
Vain, egotistical and angry, no,
He was a hero who charged
Into work every single day
To provide for his growing and
Perfect family. Her sister was not
A lesbian who hid a 40 year
Relationship with her partner,
Living a necessary lie,
But a woman who so loved
Her friend she would risk
The insults and injuries
I was not a lost young man
Baffled by life, who drank too much,
But her shining prince,
Her Byron, her Cary Grant.
When she shared her vision
Of God’s many faces
With her brother-in-law,
The pastor, he slammed
His fist on his desk
And proclaimed Blasphemy!
She never spoke of it again.
But once, I saw her sitting on the sofa
Stroking the cat, pausing at a page
In National Geographic – an illustration
Of Kali, the blue four-armed goddess,
Tasking her many children,
Nurturing, disciplining the unruly
World. The Divine Mother,
Her long pink tongue sticking out
Defiantly, stands with one foot
Stolidly on the ground,
And one foot on her husband
Shiva, the Destroyer of Worlds,
Who seems oddly content lying there,
While She, the Mother of Time,
Holds the dark severed head
Of His enemy in one hand, another hand
Holding a bowl to catch the dripping blood.
Janie Lu Cook Simms (1933-2012)
Michael Simms is the founding editor of Vox Populi. His latest collection of poetry is Nightjar (Ragged Sky, 2021). Originally from Texas, Simms now lives in Pittsburgh.
“Love” by Michael Simms is from American Ash published by Ragged Sky, copyright 2020.