Womyn's Wisdom


  • DIVINING THE BODY,Jan Phillips

  • What is a Luminous Woman?,Wakefield

  • The Woman's Movement, Hope

  • THE TAO OF MOM,Taro Gold

  • We'd Embrace the Feminine Face of Spirituality,Coyne

  • Love,Woodman

  • Heart&Soul of Sex,Gina Ogden

    by Jan Phillips

    Many of us are told as children that our bodies are temples of God, houses of the Holy Spirit, and that within our very beings exists a spark of the Divine Itself. Following this joyful pronouncement, we learn that our bodies are dirty, shameful, not to be touched, enjoyed, played with. We’re taught to deny ourselves pleasure, to fight temptation, to hold back, go without, resist carnal connection.The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas á Kempis, was first published 500 years ago and remains in print today.

    It has been translated into nearly every language and has a reputation as being second only to the Bible as a guide and inspiration. In the latest version, we read: “Sometimes you must use violence and resist your sensual appetite bravely. You must pay no attention to what the flesh does or does not desire, taking pains that it be subjected, even by force, to the spirit. And it should be chastised and forced to remain in subjection until it is prepared for anything and is taught to be satisfied with little.... You must know that self-love is more harmful to you than anything else in the world. You should give all for all and in no way belong to yourself.”

    It was this contradiction, this kind of training, that kept me confused and disembodied for the better part of my life. I grew up reading The Imitation of Christ every night before bed, from age eleven through thirteen. I was trying to be as good a Catholic as I could be, and I thought if I read that book I’d end up being more Christ-like. But its message only helped me sever my soul from my body, kept me from tuning in to its urgent, loving messages, fortified a fear that all light was outside me and all darkness within. I trusted, as a young one, those voices of authority, placed my faith in their words, turned my power over to the ones who “knew.” And only now am I coming around to my body’s wisdom, coming back to the Source of my passion, my light, my deep, dawning ecstatic joy. The great tragedy of Western religion is that it elevates disembodied love over embodied love, leading us to believe that it is better to be out of our bodies than in them. Even in Webster’s dictionary, the definition for carnal which simply means “of the flesh,” is charged with the added connotation: “usually stresses the absence of intellectual or moral influence.”

    It’s not specifically a Roman Catholic upbringing that will distance the soul from the body, for this mentality pervades our whole culture, and it has for hundreds of years. There was a time when humankind honored its oneness with the natural world and lived in peaceful, full-bodied harmony with nature. There are statues made in the image of the Mother, figurines of fabulously abundant bodies with huge breasts and hips, the image our early brothers and sisters had of the One they looked to in praise and supplication.

    During the time when the Goddess was honored as the source of life, fertility, and abundance, there is no evidence of warfare, no weaponry, no relics of battle. But all this changed as the energy shifted from feminine to masculine in the normal cycle of ever-changing poles. The Great All-Loving Mother of Nature was replaced by the male All-Powerful God in the Sky. Religions were constructed and codified, once an alphabet was in place, and words upstaged the image.

    In the fourth century B.C.E, Aristotle became a voice to be reckoned with. His pronouncements were revered and accepted, turning the citizens of the day into the first misogynists the world had known. He considered femaleness a “deformity” and maintained that whatever is superior should be separated as far as possible from what is inferior. Because, in his opinion, males possessed the superior faculties of reasoning and deliberation, males were naturally superior to females: “For the female is a mutilated male, and the catamenai (menstrual discharge) are semen, only not pure; for there is only one thing they do not have in them, the principle of soul.”

    This patriarchal attitude rooted itself in every institution, and the voice of authority became a masculine voice, bent on domination, separation, and the violation of women’s right to participate in the creation of culture. Nature, associated with the Feminine, also took a blow at the hands of Francis Bacon and René Descartes, both of whom formulated sharp distinctions between soul and body, mind and matter. Bacon attacked Aristotle’s ideas as passive, weak, and feminine. He wanted to inaugurate the “truly Masculine birth of time,” leading men to “bind Nature to your service and make her your slave ... to conquer and subdue her, to shake her to her foundations.” Up until the sixteenth century in Europe, people believed in the earth as a nurturing mother, but this attitude shifted with the scientific revolution, which promised security from Nature’s “wildness.”

    The new world view, according to Carolyn Merchant in The Death of Nature, sanctioned the domination of both nature and women “by reconceptualizing reality as a machine rather than a living organism.”

    Religions, other than the nature-based traditions of aboriginal people, were all colluding in this tearing apart of heaven and earth, devaluing nature, the body, and the feminine in one fell swoop. Some historians estimate that during the Inquisition more women were burned at the stake in Europe than lost their lives in concentration camps during World War II. It’s no surprise that someone came up with this tragicomic bumper sticker:

    There was a time when religion ruled the world. It’s called the Dark Ages. Our bodies hold these memories in their cells and sinews, and it is no wonder why we fear rising up, speaking out against this madness. But the time has come to re-pair what has been torn asunder, for we are on the edge of disaster here and our own lives as well as life on earth depends on our actions. Patriarchy triumphed because it separated not only nature from heaven, male from female, body from soul—it triumphed because it separated us from ourselves and us from each other, denying the most basic truth of our existence: that we belong to each other, need each other desperately.

    Real enlightenment will never occur until we embody the soul and ensoul the body. There is nothing to learn, but a lot to let go of—a lot to unlearn, unravel, undo. And if we listen well enough, our bodies will lead us toward what is true and away from what is false. We’ll feel a gut response about something, we won’t be able to stomach it, we’ll need to walk away from it, we won’t be able to put our arms around it, or our heart into it. We will know from the inside out all we need to know to be that lamp unto ourselves.

    A tremendous power will be unleashed when energy flows as freely through our bodies as it surges through the redwood. In the Gospel of Thomas, we’re promised: When you make the two into one, And when you make the inside like the outside And the outside like the inside,

    Jan Phillips, DIVINING THE BODY,,

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    by Chelsea Wakefield

    A woman becomes luminous when she begins to live by her own inner light. This light grows as she establishes a taproot into the creative power of her archetypal depths, giving her a quiet dynamism that emanates from the core of her being. As she listens to the voice of her soul and tends her inner flame, she becomes aware of her own particular passions and discovers the gifts and strengths that will open the path for their expression.

    The luminous woman cultivates a core of peace and self awareness. She rests confidently in her own original essence and therefore she can genuinely appreciate the gifts and beauty of others without the sense that they diminish her in some way. She does not live life comparing herself to others and thereby avoids the pitfalls of competition and envy. Because her sense of worth is not dependant on the positive feedback of others, she knows her needs and wants and has her own opinions and positions on life. She can take a stand for her own truth regardless of whether others understand, agree with, or approve of her. A luminous woman has archetypal fluency, able to inhabit, speak, and act from many places in the psyche. She is not trapped by narrow definitions of herself. Her depths inform her that she is much more than her titles, social standing, appearance, talents, roles or history. She does not shrink from life and the challenges that life brings. She embraces her destiny as it unfolds.

    The luminous woman is not afraid of her own shadow. She recognizes that we all have dark impulses and emotions and that this energy can be transformed into fuel for living a rich, creative and purposeful life. The luminous woman has made peace with her past. She celebrates the uniqueness of her story and how every experience has brought her to the place where she stands today. She is not overly identified with her wounds. She has gathered their gold, learned the lessons and moved on. She is not shame bound. Because she is anchored in her depths, she walks through the dark passages of life letting go of what needs to be released, experiencing suffering as a necessary part of transformation and moving through life’s challenges with an increasing sense of trust in the process. Over the years her experience with the many cycles of life, death and rebirth deepen her sense of trust in the transcendent power which orchestrates all of life. This growing trust prepares her to relinquish the body with courage and grace in the final passage of death.

    The luminous woman balances connection and independence. She loves deeply, but with an open hand. She loves from a place of fullness rather than emptiness and shares her fullness with others. She experiences her own depths as her primary source of fulfillment and is not afraid of solitude. She does not sell her soul for the promise of safety, love, approval or security. She can chose to pour herself out and give of herself deeply, but knows when she needs replenishment and goes to the well when she needs it. She does not cling to childhood illusions or demand that those in her life live according to her script. She allows those she loves (children, friends, lovers, and husbands) to grow and change as their own journeys evolve. She lives with courage and integrity.

    The luminous woman knows her value. She is well bounded and able to set limits with those who do not respect or appreciate her value. In tune with herself, she knows her needs and wants and can state them clearly. The luminous woman is in touch with her vulnerability and knows how to protect herself when those around her will not. She is free to say yes and no to the requests of others. When people, positions, and situations no longer serve her soul’s journey she can relinquish them and move on. The luminous woman sees and accepts people as they are and this clarity of vision gives her wisdom in her choice of relationships. Because she is listening to her inner leading and not clinging to childhood illusions she can recognize harmful and exploitive people and situations, and decline the invitation to become prey. Her clarity of vision allows her to partner and form loving bonds and working alliances with others who share her deeper values.

    The luminous woman remains sensually embodied throughout her life enjoying the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and sensations of life on earth. The energy of eternal spring and the bounty of summer is experienced and expressed in all her creative endeavors, whether they be in the kitchen, garden, art, lovemaking, or in a passionate commitment to a chosen life work. The luminous woman inhabits, enjoys, and cares for her body with appreciation all the days of her life. She relinquishes her attachment to the body of her youth as the years pass and grows more deeply beautiful with age because she has cultivated her depths and continues to experience the greening power of the soul.

    A woman is luminous whenever she is aglow with a sense of meaning and connection, passion and deep feeling. She can appreciate the fresh beauty and energy of the young women around her as they blossom and become aware of their presence, power and sense of self. The presence, power and wisdom that emanate from her make her a “super model” for younger women. Aphrodite’s sparkle is with her at all ages. It warms and inspires others to live a little more passionately, take more chances, and open to life. Lucky is the young woman who has a luminous woman in her life as a mentor on the great journey.

    The Luminous Woman is an archetype of the feminine. She dwells in women of all ages but we celebrate her most assuredly in our cherished elders, guardians and crones. Because she is an ideal, we will not always embody her energy, but we can invite her and cultivate her at any time. We all want the beauty, depth, courage and confidence of the Luminous Woman. Every woman can be a luminous woman because every woman can cultivate her connection to her archetypal depths. Her light can never be extinguished. Any woman can be a luminous woman.

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    by Audrey Hope

    "Girl, you made it to the other side." -Sade

    Her revolution, that has been turning inside of her, since the beginning of time, has really been about the movement to her true self and soul. It seemed as if her fight was about finding her place in the world, her work, her status, her money and standing tall for equality. Yet, in all her battles, what she truly wanted was to be free to be her self - Again. FEMINISM IS SPIRITUALITY. It is, and always has been, a journey to reclaim her voice, her deep strength and self-esteem. She has been longing to live in her inner temple, her secret garden, and to follow the inner laws of her heart- Again.

    Women once gathered in circles under the moon, and watched the changing cycles of the sun and the stars. She listened to the sacred sounds of nature, and the intuitive whispers in the wind. When she was raped throughout history, they took her gifts to revere mother earth and the creation of all human life. The truth is that all people in all parts of the world, in all of time, worshipped the female deity as female. There is too much evidence on the planet to support this. When we stop denying this truth, and allow it back into our lives, we reawaken her magic for divine wisdom, inspiration and compassion. A contemporary reclamation of goddess history is not for the pretty stories, or to imagine her sitting on a golden throne, able to fly through the heavens. She is real. And in her honor, we restore her gentle omnipotence that knows how to guide with loving hands.

    When we instill positive images of womanhood back into the culture, into our daily lives, we refuse the destructive forces of hierarchy and racism and sexism and patriarchialism, in all forms. We end the thought system of any group having the divine right to rule over another. We stop false beliefs that one is better than another, that women are less then men, and men are so much more.

    A wrong history is damaging, not because it is a wrong story retold to our children, but because it destroys women in the present moment. With the heavy baggage of a false self, she cannot step gracefully into the future. The chains of an untrue yesterday make her always wanting. She then strives too hard to be perfect, to be young and beautiful, and to climb an impossible ladder, a mountain with no top. She thinks that she is never enough. She must always change. Her problems with anorexic, bulimia, rape, abuse, instability, depression, and unhappiness come directly from the rape of the goddess. The emancipation of women has been her cry for personal freedom. It is the kind of freedom that breaks the inner chains, and has a thunder that screams- “I am enough. I am perfect, now in this moment. I love myself.” And in that place, is true ecstasy that needs and wants nothing. It is a present that each woman can give herself - Now.

    The goddess lives within all. A woman, who honors herself, is a queen. And a man who knows how to love a goddess is a king. Then both can join together and make the earth a paradise. The goddess is for today. We need her. In her embrace, we relearn the ancient secrets of the universe, and the ways of love. We can find hope in her eyes. Silence the goddess, no longer. Then and now she holds the key to peace.


    Women are the enlightening strength of every civilization. They innately possess the gifts to inspire, create and the power to heal. It is their feminine gifts of love and compassion that is the hope for our world. It is time for women. Women can save the world.

    Audrey Hope, www.hopesrealwomen.com,

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    THE TAO OF MOM: The Wisdom of Mothers from East to West

    by Taro Gold

    "Too many women in too many countries speak the same language of silence"-Anasuya Sengupta (Indian social activist and poet)

    "Don't be surprised when a child's adolescence begins before a father's adolescence ends." -Great Aunt Iko (homemaker, beauty salon owner, Soka Gakkai Buddhist teacher)

    "We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained." -Marie Curie (Polish-born French scientist who became one of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century, winning two Nobel Prizes in physics in 1903 and in chemistry in 1911. She performed pioneering studies with radium and contributed profoundly to the understanding of radioactivity.)

    "Creative minds have always been known to overcome any kind of bad training" –Anna Freud (Austrian pioneer in child psychoanalysis and daughter of Sigmund Freud)

    "I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people." -Indira Gandhi (Only child of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Became the first woman prime minister of India from 1966-1977)

    "Liberty and equality are the two inalienable rights of the individual" –Madame Sun Yat-sen (Chinese civil rights advocate and political leader)

    "The fragrance always stays in the hand that gives the rose" –Hada Bejar

    "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." –Anais Nin (French born author and diarist)

    "An absence of rainy days in life makes for a desert in the heart." –Taro Gold's mother

    Excepts taken from THE TAO OF MOM, by Taro Gold (Andrew McMeel Publishing, 2004)

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    by Tami Coyne

    As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother. (Julian of Norwich, 1373)

    When I was younger, it didn't bother me that here in the West the deity is most often referred to as "God the Father." My nonchalance at this gross exclusion of my gender in the Judeo-Christian religious worldview should have made me madder than hell. After all, I've got great feminist credentials. I went to Smith College back in the late '70s--and I'm old enough to have seen for myself that women can do anything they damn well feel like. It's just that until I contemplated creating a new life, it didn't dawn on me that our universe shouldn't be solely run by a single dad.

    Don't get me wrong--dads are great, but mothers are also great. And since none of us would be here without one, it's more than strange that we females wouldn't have a recognized role in the cosmic creative process. After all, except for one-cell organisms and sea horses, the female of the species is the big Kahuna when it comes to incubating, birthing and nurturing new young.

    In late 1997, before I got pregnant, I went on a spiritual retreat. In the company of three laywomen and one kick-ass nun, I finally woke up to the female nature of divinity. And it changed my life for good.

    Hidden behind God the Father, I found Sophia, which means "wisdom" in Greek, the female face of God. And anyone, male or female who has ever encountered our ancient, primordial, ever-present mother knows that, as the bridge between heaven and Earth, she has as much to do with creation as our universal father. Sophia is known by many names: Nature, the Holy Spirit, the World Soul. But she doesn't really care what you call her, because she is not some otherworldly egomaniac. All she really wants, like most mothers, is for her children to call her regularly, listen to what she has to say, and take her advice when she gives it.

    I needed Sophia to prepare me for motherhood, which she lovingly did. My daughter was born less than a year after I first encountered the glorious Goddess within. I named her Sophia so that she'd always remember that she's not only the daughter of a powerful father but of a magnificent mother, too.

    (Excerpt taken from IF WOMEN RULED THE WORLD)

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    by Marion Woodman

    As time goes on, you begin to realize that all these men, or women, you are so fatally attracted to are all very much alike at their core. You're really falling in love with your own projection each time. Gradually, it gets through to you that it's not the other person you're in love with, but part of your own self that you're projecting onto that person. It's those projected parts of ourselves that we have to pull back.

    That [pulling back] is the most painful, agonizing process in the world. Because you have to recognize that what you thought was out there in an other person is not out there, but inside yourself. Most people experience pulling back a projection as isolation, as being cut off from the outer world. But if you have loved a man and you have projected your inner god onto him, you have to recognize that he isn't a god after all. The real god is inside. You have to recognize the illusions, the delusions and the pain of human limitation. Then gradually it dawns on you what a huge mistake you've made.

    When you're able to recognize that it's your god you've been projecting, or, in a man's case, the goddess, you learn to hold that divinity within. Then you're able to ask yourself, "Do I love that human being?" And you may find out that you do. That this man is sharing the journey with you, and he's put up with (dare I say) all your shit (that's how dreams image it), and you've put up with his, and there the two of you are, walking through life, together. There's something noble in his suffering. There's something noble in your own suffering. You're not leaning on each other. You're walking parallel paths, you're not holding each other up. That's a marvelous thing, to love another human being like that.

    [This means] you have to be able to separate the human from the divine...to say "Last night I was in transcendent space. I was a goddess and I felt myself loved by a god. But this morning I wash the dishes and eat my oatmeal".

    (Excerpt taken from CONSCIOUS FEMININITY by Marion Woodman).

    NOTE: An excerpt from CONSCIOUS FEMININITY can also be found at Voices from the Underground

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    THE HEART AND SOUL OF SEX: Doors to the Universe

    by Gina Ogden

    (The following is an article published in THE CENTER POST, Fall 2006.The Center Post is published by the Rowe Center)

    Isn't there more to sex than this?" This is what nearly every woman coming into my therapy office really wants to know. Whatever her presenting problem, there's an ultimate longing for connection and meaning in sexual experience—for more than intercourse, more than genital foreplay, more than "was it good for you?"

    Over 3,000 women responded to my survey: "Integrating Sexuality and Spirituality (ISIS) and most say that sexual experience can involve an intense spiritual journey. It can open up "doors to the universe"—a universe of vibrant light and color, intense feeling, revelation, and encounters with God, Goddess, Spirit, Higher Power, or whatever name fits your belief system. It can open up the deep stories of your own life, too—profound truths of creativity and resilience. When sex and spirituality meet, you feel at one with yourself, with your partner, with nature, with all that is. All's right with your world.

    Our spiritual journeys wake us up. They delight us, inspire us. Women speak of increased energy, power, and pleasure—more positive attitudes, more honest relationships, clearer purpose. A 32-year old woman says connecting sex and spirit liberates her from the doubt that sometimes assails her sexual pleasure. "I feel myself climbing upward, and when I reach the peak, I'm released of any bad feelings, any bad thought. It's as though I've done no wrong and can start over again."

    I have experienced sex as a gateway to the soul—my soul, the soul I am making love to and God and all that is. By experiencing sex as a spiritual tool, I have grown strong in intuitive and telepathic abilities and grow closer and closer to God. More one-ness with All and more power to open doors to create what I choose.

    The word "spiritual" comes from the Latin spirare, which means to breathe—a process that's central to our life force. So your spiritual journey doesn't mean turning away from your body, away from you senses. To the contrary, it may mean tilling your garden of earthly delights as thoroughly as you can. This is a paradox, of course, and women often speak in paradoxical terms of the "divinity" of down-to-earth activities—a familiar smell, a whispered name, an intimate touch that inspires and moves them beyond the physical. They speak of heartthumping excitement and at the same time a peace that passes understanding. A 50-year old woman writes that connecting sex and spirit is "powerful enough to manifest joy through me and bring me to my knees at the same time."

    In short, spiritual sex is not an out-of-body experience. It's connected with physical sex, too, as long as it is meaningful sex—from your first earth-shattering orgasm to the alley-cat phase of falling in love to the slow details of intimacy as you mature.

    Looking back on my own life, I can see that the connection of sex and spirit was at the center of my most generative choices—certainly for sexual partnership, and motherhood, even my choice of career as a therapist and researcher. For most of my life, I had no language to affirm these experiences. I was a grandmother before I fully understood how intricately woven my physical desires were with what I felt was most precious and holy. I'm totally impressed by the young women I know who already understand this and can articulate when and how they learned this truth.

    Most women tell me they connect sex and spirit through relationship with their partners. Some say they've been aware of the connection from earliest memory. "I learned from the good, respectful, and sexy marriage of my parents." "I grew up on a farm and connected sex with birth and death." Some became aware late in life: "I discovered the connection when I was forty-eight" and some as recently as "last week." Others say they're acutely aware of the connection even though they've never felt its full power. Others say they learned directly from their bodies. I love what a massage therapist writes about her capacities for accessing what she calls life-force energy—and her wish for equal partnership:

    "My explorations and experiences as an energy worker have brought me into contact with others who are as sensitive as I am. However, I have yet to experience a lover with my abilities. When I do have the pleasure of sharing on this level with my partner...well, Planet Earth will get the ride of her life."


    When you integrate sex and spirit, you're likely to meet both religion and spirituality on your sexual journey, for rich connections weave through sex, spirit, and religion.

    It's easy to confuse the terms "spirituality" and "religion." They're both about beliefs and values. They both suggest there's something out there that's more than physical, more satisfying than performance. There are major differences, though. Spirituality is about your personal beliefs and values. It concerns your relationships with human beings, nature, and divine presence as you directly experience them. Religion is an established system of beliefs and values about the divine; it involves cultural traditions and rituals, some of them literally carved in stone centuries ago. Your spiritual beliefs may shift over time. Religious doctrine is fixed.

    The connections between sex, spirit and religion stem from pre-Christian religions, which worshipped the human body along with sun, moon, wind, rain, and other sacred mysteries of nature. Especially, they worshipped women's bodies and their magical cycles of blood and pregnancy and birth. To celebrate all this natural fecundity, sexual union was built into early worship—sometimes to wild excess, as in Bacchanalian orgies and Celtic Beltane ceremonies with May Day bonfires and gluttonous mating. Lustiness was next to godliness—along with feasting, drinking, and dancing. Pleasure, orgasm, and ecstasy weren't sins. They were routes to the deity.

    Some religions are still based on the idea that sex can be a path to spirit: Tantric Buddhism, Chinese Taoism, Wicca, and various indigenous practices. Even some of our major religions carry vestiges of the early sexual rituals. Candles and incense, wine, flowers, music, anointing with oil, laying on of hands—all these come from those pagan rites. We've adapted them into the Catholic Mass and Protestant Eucharist without ever acknowledging their sexual roots. Here's the most interesting part—we've also adapted them into our customs of courtship and mating without ever acknowledging their spiritual connections. When we consciously make the associations, we can use them to bring spirituality into our sexual relationships.

    Over the years, I began to understand that women were often using religious terms to express their sexual feelings. The flush of sexual ecstasy is "holy," "sacred," a "revelation," "a sacrament." We cry out "Oh, God!" in both churches and bedrooms the world over. The truth is, the scientific and locker-room language we have for sexual experience describes only a fraction of the whole picture—the performance part. The picture changes when women's voices are factored in.]

    The way religion affects our sexuality is complex It can be negative: "I was afraid to be a sexual person because of all the rules laid down by the Baptist church. It can be positive, too: "My deep religious faith has led me to know that sexual love is also sacred love." "My spiritual practice gives me the courage to work through the intensity of my relationships." "It's in orgasm that I've seen the face of God." A 42-year-old teacher braids all of these elements together in a small miracle of a poem about sexual-spiritual-religious communion. Notice that she begins with the word "breath"—the spirit of it all.

    Midnight Mass

    the breath
    of life
    between us
    as we pray in
    near darkness
    the door
    slightly ajar
    lines of yellow light
    streaming in on
    the pious

    sips of water, wine
    cleanse us
    as we atone for
    half-truths and old scars

    we dance
    on cotton cloth
    hymns sung behind us
    before the offerings
    in praise
    of body
    and spirit

    being in bed
    with you
    receiving communion.

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