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Pre-2008 Posts

Come Together Blog Carnival, March 8, 2008 — Hagar and Sarah

Hagar and Sarah
by Jennifer Wildflower

Hagar:

Hagar tied a knot
and slipped through it

she tapped her
skull to
her son’s

and together they
dipped into the
river of life.

She could lead a battalion
to a place of
naked peace
if not for her flesh,
wrapped in butcher’s paper.

She was unvisited by grace
and so she spelled it out
in the sand.

We are rent from her now,
God’s own beauty

strong only by breaks
in every conscience.

Sarah:

Sarah
you know you
are the one
broken lines
make straight in your wake
and
synonyms are hushed.

Sarah made of fathers
blood and
wooden temples

you are my mother
horned or winged
I am in love with you.
Sara is flexed
she is taut as gums
she is ready for
the king’s house
the new testament
and ungodly pain.

Sarah you could
rule us all
but you lay down
in dirt and
said:
‘action’.

When the body collapses
Sarah alone remains
to taste and see
what damage you have done

she will set your face beside stone
and call you beautful.

My piece is a tribute to Sarah and Hagar, women of ancient times. Their story is known well by most women of Jewish, Christian and Muslim backgrounds.   Sarah and Hagar were wives of Abraham.  Their descendants are Jews, Christians and Muslims.  Muslims are said to be the descendants of Abraham and Hagar; Jews are said to be the descendants of Sarah and Abraham.

I wrote these poems one right after the other, as an attempt to stand squarely in the midst of illusory divides between women, divides which are age-old, enforced dichotomous paradigms that were meant to and do divide and conquer womankind as a class.

These dichotomous paradigms are meant to divide us from each other and to divide us from our selves.

They include the notions of the virgin and the whore, the pure and the defiled, the indentured servant and the slave, the childless and the childbearing, among others. All of these states and titles are,  in varying degrees, the exact same thing. As long as they are accepted, promoted, or indulged to whatever degree, no woman is free.

This story is from the Biblical account of Hagar and Sarah in Genesis. I love both of these women, relate to both, come from both.  Both are my sisters.

Shalom-Salaam,
Jeyoani

Jennifer Wildflower is a feminist, child advocate, writer and musician and lives in Reseda California where she works at a no-kill cat sanctuary.  She is currently working on a music project centering around the story of Goldilocks which explores gender and racial identity, rites of passage, mother/daughter love and betrayal and various female archetypes.

___________________

We have room in the Women’s History Month Blog Carnival for more submissions! If you missed the deadline or are inspired by the words of another contributor, send your essay, poem, artwork, video, etc. to cheryllindseyseelhoff@gmail.com or whattamisaid@gmail.com.

Discussion

10 thoughts on “Come Together Blog Carnival, March 8, 2008 — Hagar and Sarah

  1. This is a beautiful poem, I’ve read it a few times, and it does touch on so many important issues.

    As women, we’re just taught so often not to see each other, or even ourselves, we’re just erased all the time.

    I really love women’s creativity and feminist creativity, because so often it is about articulating our lives, thoughts, feelings as women, resisting that erasure, resisting the boxes and categories men try to place us in. Creativity for me has always been a central part of my feminism, and I love to see other women doing it too. Thank you for this.

    Posted by Dissenter | March 10, 2008, 5:12 am
  2. you are my mother
    horned or winged
    I am in love with you.
    Sara is flexed
    she is taut as gums
    she is ready for
    the king’s house
    the new testament
    and ungodly pain.

    This gives me chills every time I read it. It is as succinct and powerful a statement of the reality of fundamentalist women as I have ever read.

    Posted by womensspace | March 10, 2008, 4:59 pm
  3. Thanks!! Glad yous like. 🙂

    “As women, we’re just taught so often not to see each other, or even ourselves, we’re just erased all the time.” -This is SO true.

    Posted by Jeyoani | March 10, 2008, 9:21 pm
  4. I have always found the story of Hagar and Sarah to be a profound one, timeless, applying to all those instances when patriarchy has created hierarchies among women based upon race and ethnicity, relegating some women to be victims and others to be protected, that protection existing in theory at least….

    Posted by pioneervalleywoman | March 10, 2008, 9:27 pm
  5. pioneervalleywoman, I love this story, too, not the way Christian (fundamentalist, especially) men so often tell it, but from a woman-centered perspective. Hagar was the first woman to encounter God in the Bible, and she was the first person in the Bible to name God, to give God her own name she made for him. She was also the first woman in the Bible to whom God promised descendants (lots, 12, if my recollection serves!), and he promised descendants to her, Hagar, not to any man, because Hagar didn’t have a husband at that time, she was an outcast.

    Male centered perspectives on this story always seem to focus on the jealousies between Sarah and Hagar, and they make the story all about Abraham or Ishmael, but really, this is a story of two women doing the best they could inside of a patriarchal system that victimized both of them, though in different ways. Sarah is cast by fundamentalists in a negative way as impatient, cold-hearted, “taking matters into her own hands,” (like that’s a bad thing!), when the reality was that she had to do what she had to do to protect herself legally, to protect her rights. If she couldn’t bear a child, her future was jeopardized. She was facing things head on, not being turned aside by her fears of whether she would lose Abraham’s affection or loyalty, dealing with her reality.

    Male-centered fundamentalist scholarship also focuses on Sarah as jealous and hardhearted towards Hagar. But really, the story suggests that after she had Ishmael, Hagar came into her own in certain ways, became outspoken, felt pride in herself, even though this was risky, given her status. Really, the men in the story play minor roles and the focus is on the courage and dignity of both women and the way God honors their courage. I know that when I was in my old fundamentalist world, time and time again when I was scared for myself and my children, I recalled the story of Hagar, formerly a slave, cast away into the desert with nothing to eat or drink, a single mother in a world that made no provision for her or her child, and God “seeing” her and hearing her voice and taking care of her in a way that was preserved in the text. God also “heard the voice of the lad,” her now-abandoned son, something at times in my life I could very much appreciate. I always think that women in oppressive systems and churches often read a completely different text than men do! But rarely get a chance to speak up about what they read.

    Posted by womensspace | March 10, 2008, 10:47 pm
  6. I, Heart, said: She was also the first woman in the Bible to whom God promised descendants (lots, 12, if my recollection serves!), and he promised descendants to her, Hagar, not to any man, because Hagar didn’t have a husband at that time, she was an outcast.

    I often wonder whether there is a dynamic or inclination at work, even subconsciously, along these lines among those of us who have many children, especially with multiple men. By most, of course, we are hated or pitied or resented or mocked or scorned. But you know, there’s something there. Leaving aside population issues, wanting to leave a soft footprint (a huge consideration, of course, but for the moment, laying it aside), why shouldn’t a woman raise up descendants to herself if she wants to? However she wants to. This is something men fear, of course, especially if women do it outside of marriage or in multiple marriages and so there is determined and dedicated attention paid to controlling the babies women have and especially, to making sure they legally belong to the man and not the woman. In many feminists circles, a lot of attention is paid to not having babies, women’s right not to have them, because of the way the law uses our children to tie us to men in ways that harm us, and because of the way motherhood is forced on women. But there’s a lot more than that to think about. As women, we can have babies if we want to. A lot of them, if we want to. We can decide who we have them with as well, and in fact, in the end, we’re the only ones who know who our babies’ fathers are, apart from scientific tests. Even then, all those can do is rule men out. They can’t prove who the father is if we don’t tell. There’s some power there. I think patriarchy has been extremely interested in reining in that power. When I see a woman who has a lot of kids, even with several different men, I don’t immediately pity her or scorn her or think she’s a lost soul or whatever. I wonder what’s going on with her that she is raising all of these descendants to herself, matriarch style. Interestingly, the person who really got me thinking deeply about this is Jeyoani, who wrote this poem. It’s heresy, blasphemy, to think like this or entertain these ideas, in patriarchy, and in feminism too!

    Posted by womensspace | March 10, 2008, 11:19 pm
  7. Thanks for the info on Hagar and Sarah, Heart. My memory of Christian stories is often very fuzzy, not having heard most of them since early childhood.

    And yes, so true about men’s obsession with maintaining control of ‘their’ children…perish the thought of women becoming the founders of their own family lines!

    Posted by Dissenter | March 12, 2008, 11:13 am
  8. And how about creating new last names as women’s family lines get created!

    Posted by Satsuma | March 12, 2008, 8:14 pm
  9. Yeah!!!

    Posted by womensspace | March 12, 2008, 8:34 pm
  10. Jeyoani, this comment is a little late, but I am co-moderator of a blog that posts women’s/feminist creativity, and I was wondering if we could put your poem up on our blog? You can check it out here:

    http://spinningspinsters.wordpress.com

    Posted by Dissenter | March 27, 2008, 9:50 am

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