The Students’ May-Dance


The Students’ May-Dance

I went looking for a poem
For May, for my students, for spring,
For young women half-remembering
A ritual of celebration more ancient than Easter,
Celebration of the Goddess and the rising earth,
Goddess and her phallic consort,
Lovely Maypole adorned with flowers.
I went looking for a poem,
Searched five anthologies,
Rejecting the coarse, slick glimmer of male words
Celebrating cherry-trees, daffodils,
Owls and rings and daisies and their own wonder,
Rejecting also the dark angry assertions of certain women
More tuned to their own deaths than life.
There was no poem.

To be a woman and yet filled with light,
To be filled with light and yet rich and heavy and anchored,
Not filled with lightness floating away like paper balloons
Or Maypole ribbons lifted on the wind.

What do they mean by it,
What are they thinking, these women
Turning around and around this symbolic pole?
Do they think of spring,
Of the intense green of the uncut grass
And the cups of light dangling from the forsythia?
Or do they remember the Goddess in their blood,
Dark blood of births and beginnings,
The vast earth beneath their feet,
Beneath the warm, slanting light of spring evening
And the brave, airy words of men
Who think the Maypole is the center of things,
The phallic organ of the universe,
Ignoring the dark body of the Goddess
That holds it up, gives it function, purpose.

To make of these disparate elements a poem:
Women and spring and light,
Youth and the Maypole, dance and the Goddess,
Ancient fertility rite and the academic year
Drawing to a close as the world is reborn,
Re-bears itself out of the dark womb of the Goddess,
To the sound of academic voices reading dry poems
Washed alive again in light spilling through forsythia flowers.
These elements: women and youth and light
And the sweet green despair that is spring.


Note: The women of Wells College have many wonderful traditions. One of them is the annual May celebration. When I was academic dean there, I was asked to read a poem as a part of that celebration. This poem reflects that experience, and it also reflects my conviction that God is not an old man with white whiskers. God is too great for us to know fully. Though we may picture God as Father or Mother, he/she is both and greater than both. God is truly beyond our comprehension. God is a person encompassing and transcending gender. Some cultures have glimpsed God as Mother, and some have glimpsed God as Father. Neither is the complete truth of God. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that God is God.


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