Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #396: Historical Persona

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“…well-behaved women seldom make history,” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

This poetry prompt happened to coincide with a scholarship essay I started yesterday. The topic: A book that changed my life.

Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson, by Daniel Mark Epstein, was the book that changed my perspective on women serving as pastors.

For years, I was a member of a church that did not allow women to serve in the priesthood. I never had a problem with this, because if you don’t like a church’s policy, you’re free to leave it. (I didn’t leave for this reason, but for numerous others; however, that’s another story for another day.) I honestly didn’t have any desire to be ordained—enough demands were already made without that responsibility. I’m not the type to want something just because I can’t have it; I’m the type who says you can keep it.

I remember the reason behind this was explained quite eloquently: Women were innately more spiritual than men, and because they could bear children, men needed something to bring them closer to God, that being the priesthood. (Black men couldn’t be priesthood holders till 1978, so I’m thinking the policy on women will change in less than 100 years.)

I’ve always been one to follow the dictates of my own conscience, but one’s conscience is often clouded by the imperfect ideas of others. I realized the only reason it didn’t seem right for a woman to be a minister was because that’s what I had been taught.

I read this book because I was fascinated with the idea of a female evangelist—a twice-divorced woman and sometimes single mother who founded her own Church and helped feed the hungry in the depths of the Great Depression.

I think the illustrious life of Sister Aimee is summed up perfectly with this portion from an article by John Updike in The New Yorker:

She brushed aside the distinction between the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor, and that between legal and illegal residents. One Mexican, the actor Anthony Quinn, who as a teenager acted as a translator for her, told an interviewer, “During the Depression . . . the one human being that never asked you what your nationality was, what you believed in and so forth, was Aimee Semple McPherson. All you had to do was pick up the phone and say, ‘I’m hungry,’ and within an hour there’d be a food basket there for you. . . . She literally kept most of that Mexican community . . . alive.” (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/04/30/famous-aimee)

~

Ten Dollars and a Tambourine:

The Ballad of Sister Aimee

“True Christianity is not only to be good but to do good.” –Aimee Semple McPherson

I am an imperfect messenger,
relaying the perfect message.

I am the voice on the radio—
feminine flesh spreading the Word.

I am a widow, a mother,
a minister who feeds the hungry mouths,
who feeds the hungry soul.

I see the divinity in humankind—
the opposite of Darwin’s evolution—
where men and women are made in the image
of their Creator,
not the created.

I lost a husband in Hong Kong,
but gained a daughter.
My second husband gave me my second child—
my only begotten son.

I followed God,
but my husband did not follow me.

From tent to temple,
I preached that everybody is somebody to Jesus,
for everyone should matter to someone.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 396

Note:  I seem to enjoy writing persona poems from the perspective of strong, conservative women.  Here is the home for my third-person persona poem on Grace Coolidge: https://sarahleastories.com/2016/01/26/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-337-theme-persona-poem/

 

 

Poem-a-Day Writer’s Digest Challenge #22. Theme: Waiting for (Blank)

Several months ago, I read a story in “The New Yorker” about a woman whose mother told her that her father would come back before John Wayne died, because she thought he would never die (though I cannot find the story now, and I almost wonder if I dreamt it).  The story resonated with me, though, like it often is with a piece of art, I couldn’t say why.

The other night, I watched a movie called “Blossoms in the Dust”, starring Greer Garson (who, though not a beauty, had such a radiant charm, her beauty exceeded that of many others) and Walter Pidgeon (who I always thought was handsomer and more refined than Tyrone Power).  Blossoms” was about Edna Gladney, who fought for the word “illegitimate” to be stricken from birth certificates because of the social stigma.

Hence, the inspirations for this poem.

Waiting for her Father

She sits at the bay window,
surrounded by light,
her back to the shadows of the empty house.
From ages seven to twenty-one,
she has sat in this space on this date—
till the day the Legend died:
her birthday,
his deathday.

He will come, her mother had said,
before Elvis leaves this Earth,
he will come,
but then her mother had thought Elvis
would never die,
even though legends did all the time.

When the Legend passed on
to a world or worlds unknown,
it was like a second birthday,
a rebirth,
even though a part of her,
that part of her called hope,
died that day, too.
And yet, how freeing was a lack of hope
in things, or people, never seen,
and how limitless was hope in what was to come,
dependent upon her and no one else?

Fourteen years she had waited,
like Rachel,
laboring by being good
so that when he did come back,
he would stay.

But all those years had not been in vain,
for all the good she had been,
she had been for him,
till doing good became a part of her,
and it was only for that and her life,
she could thank him for.