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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 Of bigotry. And I… 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.