Two Poems by Elisabeth Greene

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Visiting Lalla Essaydi’s Revisions

A security guard follows me
while I visit Lalla Essaydi’s photography,
paintings, and multimedia art exhibit in DC,

with close pursuit in latticed space
he asks me what these harem girls mean
Odalisques? with all the writing on their bodies,

if I think they’re pretty, lying there seductively,
even if a little angry in the face
how do I like her pose?

They’re better in the gallery
down the street, he goes on, you know the ones
typically shown

not by this Moroccan woman
who forgot to take off
all their clothes.

Bible Museum

I: In the Doors

In the beginning
there were words of many letters
foreign dusty shapes
projected sculpted painted
engraved embossed gold-plated
hewn inked stained-glassed fêted
admired in opaque forms
and primary colors of connotation

Rendering nothing
and everything

Uncommentaried, simplified,
uncontested, artfully untranslated
bookworship without conversation
in tour guide dictation

II: Elevators

Play oud music from the region
while saturated hummingbird flits
in and out of occupation
Lift a people beyond questions
of providence and provenance
into elation

III: History of the Bible – Translation

To solve Biblical translation
millennia of speech-to-page transit
though history geography politics linguistics
Draw a line, peel a pomegranate,
Merely spin the wheel to assign
any indigenous idea from the ends of the earth
to the correct English designation

IV: Bible in America

Display The Woman’s
Bible closed. Too dangerous
to read, or open.

VI: Stories from the Bible – Animation

An immersive experience:
Eve dances naked until pregnant
Hagar is absent while Sarah dissolves
Deborah brandishes a knife in flames
accomplices Jael and Barak behind
Orpah, darker than Ruth, has no name
Naomi matchmaker presides
Bathsheba conspires to become queen
There are eight women in the Bible

V: History of the Bible – Biblical Names
Naming is an act of love
Forgetting tribes conceived in strife:
son of my sorrows, judgement, my struggle
or a woman who named herself bitter

VI: Stories from the Bible – Animation
An immersive experience:
Eve dances naked until pregnant
Hagar is absent while Sarah dissolves
Deborah brandishes a knife in flames
accomplices Jael and Barak behind
Orpah, darker than Ruth, has no name
Naomi matchmaker presides
Bathsheba conspires to become queen
There are eight women in the Bible

VII: Children’s Experience

Roll ping-pong ball [sex-slave] Esther
to [abusive tyrant] King Xerxes!

Use magnets to guide
Joshua’s spies [to the brothel]!

A ball toss game:
Maim “enemy combatants”
before you cut off their heads!

Pose for pictures as [terrorist] Samson,
about to kill [civilian] Philistines at a party!

VIII: Stories from the Bible – Theophany

Shhhhhhh…
Further still
listen and hush

Did you hear the voice—
the voice under the voice—
a woman’s
speaking from the burning bush?

Elisabeth Mehl Greene is a writer and composer working in the DC area. She is the author of Lady Midrash: Poems Reclaiming the Voices of Biblical Women, and was the founding editor of Untold Volumes: Feminist Theology Poetry. Her work appears in VoiceCatcher, Mizna, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and the anthologies Erase the Patriarchy and District Lines IV.


Image by Chajm Guski, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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