Dear Margaret Atwood

NOTE: In early May of 2022 a draft of Supreme Court Justice Alito’s upcoming decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked to the public. At the time of this post, the final decision had yet to be rendered, but it was clear at the time of the leak, that the votes were there to make it happen.

Recently I was driving West on Interstate 80, and on the overpass at University Avenue in Berkeley, was a sign that said, “SLOUCHING TOWARD GILEAD.”

It was perhaps a reference to the final lines in William Butler Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming. It is the poem that asks, “What apocalyptic revelations await us?”

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (published way back in 1985) takes place in a fictitious country named Gilead.

So the little sign over the highway, “Slouching Toward Gilead,” has many layers of meaning. It speaks to me as a warning, and serves as inspiration for this poem…

DEAR MARGARET ATWOOD

You created a dystopian future,
in "The Handmaid's Tale," 
a patriarchal, 
hetero-normative, 
white supremacist 
theocracy,
where women are 
systematically, ritually
RAPED, 
forced into pregnancies,
forced into surrendering their babies, 
wanted, unwanted 
- it didn't matter -
to the guys in charge.

You thought 
you were writing fiction!

Today,
in the real world,
the conservative
"Christian" extremists,
who sit on our highest court,
blend Church and State
and hurtle us toward Gilead,
the Handmaids' nation,
an America 
that has turned misogyny
up to its fullest volume.

Are we there yet?
Tragically, yes. 
When did my body become
anyone else's business?
Oh deary - it has been
someone else's business 
since Eve offered Adam
a bite of her apple.

The exception to this 
has been the half century
since Roe v. Wade.
For this brief blip in history
a woman has been able 
to plan an education, 
a career, a family, 
a life of her own.
designed by her,
lived by her.

Roe v. Wade 
wasn't just about abortion;
it was about the audacity 
to choose differently;
the audacity to use birth control,
the audacity to love
within one's gender,
the audacity to marry
outside of one's race,
the audacity to not marry,
the audacity to schedule motherhood,
the audacity to remain childless,
the utter audacity 
to BE a woman.

I have this radical notion
that we, women, are 
sentient, thinking beings,
who can make decisions
for ourselves
about our lives.
I'm of the generation
that secured the right to choose,
only to watch 
as it is ripped from us

Again.

Dear Margaret Atwood,
please write us into 
a kinder, wiser, 
freer future.
Write us out of Gilead,
back to the shores
of the Black Sea 
beside our Amazon sisters.

We survived Gilead. 
We renounced Gilead.
We will not slouch,
We will not lean,
We will not slump towards Gilead. 
We will resist.
We will never go back. 

3 comments

  1. Dear Celenia, Your poem moved me greatly, gave me shivers, and expressed my fears. Thank you! This is Maura from Northeastern. It has been a long, long time. We both have had journeys and yours much grief. Thank you for sharing so candidly and beautifully. Ellen told me what you are doing and I googled to find you. Sending a big hug, Maura

    Liked by 1 person

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