When God Was a Woman – Judy Swann

I looked my visitor full in the face. I recognized her now; she was my nurse when I was little, my mother, Earth. “Why have you come now?” I asked, “Now that I’m in prison.”

“I could never abandon you,” she said, “although it has been hard trying to get your attention. Invested people have always believed they could rape me, commoditize me, and disown me. Me, whose milk they have drunk. And I’m not surprised they feel the same way about you or that they want you to feel the same way about me. That I’m somehow dangerous or marginal or an object of contempt, a thing to be used.

“But,” the goddess added, “do you recall that billion billion billionth of a second right before everything expanded? Before there was air? Back when words were radiation? You were at your most creative then. Everything was elemental, wild, and you were too. Not elementary, mind you, elemental, in the sense of wildly contextual, a creatrix of the known.” The lady noticed my open mouth and panicked eyes. “So are you silent,” she asked, “because you recognize me now? Aren’t you ashamed you threw me away? You just didn’t realize. That’s what they all say. But you can take up the realization project again (and may you never stop!) because it’s never too late to escape the subliminal indoctrination of the medium that surrounds you. You are not a vessel. You are not a reflection. You are an original. It is OK to split yourself into many pieces; in fact, is a beautiful thing. Do it every day! You can! The universe is your guide and your mother; her hydrogen and helium are yours. Ten percent of your body weight, in fact, is hydrogen; hydrogen’s George Fayne is oxygen, the famous cousin O. Helium is too restless to make your body its host. You breathe it in, you breathe it out. Helium wants no part of you. It’s your Boo Radley, she added in a stratospheric timbre, as if her vocal folds had just lost all their nitrogen.

“Think about Ishtar, giver and taker of life, one of the thousand-breasted goddesses – writing, mathematics, legal codes, and astronomy, all – prospered under her brilliance. When military might and weaponry became the darlings of mankind, she retreated into the sacred caves. Bang! Bang! Who’s there? Justice! Justice Who? Just Ishtar and you, old shoe. In Mosul, they’re still fighting.

“Think about Kali, who survived the division of life and death, who died in sati day after day, and lived to die again, dying. O Kali Ma, who lived and died at the Michigan Womyn’s Festival and in the old Ladyslipper catalog and who lives and dies in every act of childbearing. Kali Ma is the womb you come from and the tomb from which the new mother emerges. O Kali Ma.

“Think about Sophia before she was reborn as the B.V.M, before she was reborn as Emily Dickinson. She was the first of us to not be associated with her own egg.

“But here we are, in the beautiful present, where we can laugh at the ignorance of the Invested as they hoard and stomp and bloviate. We are protected, you and I, and all our kind, by a wall of Women Who Cannot Die.”


Judy Swann is a poet and essayist. Her work includes Fool (Kelsay Books, 2019) and Stickman (John Young, 2019). She lives in Ithaca, NY and is rewriting Boethius’s Consolation as a feminist utopia. See her other work at judith marie brugger swann.

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