Psalm for Roe v. Wade

I am God’s body in the world, I share in the breath of the trees
these are God’s arms, these are his legs,

but you there believe you are God’s body, arms grown to push me
legs grown to block my way. God, I thought you did not believe in war

but you created it. Holy is the hell between us,
holy is the road they claim, holy is the violence

made all night by God’s body in the world. I sleep fitfully, cry out where
is my body tonight? God, you’re a stranger to me now when men in the world can claim you.

I wear my quiet shoes, walk in the dark, feel my way into the houses of friends.
All day we have been singing and weeping beside the riverbank

lay down your grievances against the women of your lives, our power



Click here to read Julia Lisella on the origin of the poem.

Image: photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash, licensed under CC 2.0.

Julia Lisella:
This poem was written in response to the Supreme Court’s June 24, 2022 decision: Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which essentially overturned our federal constitutional right to an abortion granted by the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. The Dobbs decision was said to return abortion rights laws back to the states, but I am not alone in feeling that the decision expresses instead a general war on women’s rights and any advances we have made for gender equity and opportunity to control our own lives. Why a psalm? I’ve been working with this form on and off for a couple of years now, since my last book came out. I find the months after a book is published to be the most difficult for me—the poems that emerge often feel like a revision of the poems just published. Setting myself a new task or form enables me to move past the old work. I love the psalm form’s long, nearly flat lines, its ability to contain big feelings with common speech, and its potential to create powerful, direct discourse with the divine through complaint, grievance, and sometimes praise.

Julia Lisella
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