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Scrap of scripture: What if Ms. Dickinson guarded heaven’s door?

I would have written a dose of the Good (and Not So Good) Words yesterday, I had plenty of thoughts I wanted to share with y’all. But the artist who shares a corporal address with me (and a few other folks- Professor WishUp, Scarlet Azalea, Sheila Claws, etc) needed all of our available writing time for a project that is technically due today, but she ain’t going to get it done until tomorrow.

In her magpie shelf searches at the library, she perused science fiction and fantasy novels that use images or rework mythologies about the seasons, specifically summer- The Summer Queen by Joan Vinge, Summer Knight by Jim Butler. She sought out books of poetry for children (the j800’s in the Dewy Decimal system if you were wondering), deciding upon Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year by J. Patrick Lewis. She was perturbed by how few books she could find about the seasons written for adults thought she was somewhat placated by Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day by Diane Ackerman. But the find that made her (and me) happiest had nothing to do with her seasonal search.

By chance, she came across The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson. Someday, I may actually pass the plate to fund some small part of my Mission to Save the Whole Wide World and Little Old You. Someday, maybe. But I will say right here and now that if any of my faithful or faithless followers wanted to get me a little something to help me keep on keeping on, they could get me this book.

The book is fat as a bible. It has a satisfying heft. It is heavy with meaning. But the ballast of this book is a playful, pointed, humor. I make my point with Poem 248.

Why — do they shut Me out of Heaven?

Did I sing — too loud?

But — I can say a little “Minor”

Timid as a Bird!

Wouldn’t the Angels try me —

Just — once — more —

Just — see — if I troubled them —

But don’t — shut the door!

Oh, if I — were the Gentleman

In the “White Robe” —

And they — were the little Hand — that knocked —

Could — I — forbid?

This week I wish Dickinson was at heaven’s gate, momentarily denying entrance to the Gentlemen “knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door.” Since Vfest, I have been hyperaware of the cracks that sexism leaves in our culture. I noticed how still, despite all of our hard work, the work of women is seen as less than. On the iBookstore Essentials Fantasy page, in a collection of ten “must read” authors, only two women are listed. The same ratio is found on the iBookstore Essentials Science Fiction page. Couldn’t they have given one of the slots to Octavia Butler? Then they could have a token black person as well as one more token woman. This week I watched part of a “humorous video” about Purim that reduced Esther’s role to that of a tasty bit of hamantaschen snatch, who withholds her “jewgina” to stop her husband, the King, from killing her people.

Last week, I gave a sermon about violence against women and women’s pleasure in a line up of all women at The Tabernacle of Hedonism. This week at The Tabernacle of Hedonism not one woman was on the bill, even though Scarlet Azalea, who shares the limited resources of our shared corporal address, had asked through the official channels to be in the line up. She had been told she would be part of the show and was disconcerted when she was not in the publicity. We all were too sick to make a fuss, and I’m sure it was just some slip up. But this week, those sorts of slips hurt more. It makes it seem that women only are welcome when it is “for the ladies.” I don’t think that was their intention, but it reinforces a norm where the default is male, kind of like labeling products “deodorant” and “women’s deodorant.”

You might think I am making too much of the carelessness of the overworked and over-extended organizer of The Tabernacle of Hedonism’s line up. But not seeing Scarlet Azalea on the list was a shock. “Why — do they shut Me out of Heaven?” The Tabernacle of Hedonism is not heaven, but being forgotten was seven minutes of hurts like hell.

I want Dickinson to “man” the gates, to bar the door. I can see her sticking her tongue out at the Gentlemen. She makes the Gentlemen wait while she lets in all the women who have waited and waited and waited and waited. She lets in the tan, the brown and black men and women whose knock is too often ignored or who have been prevented by violence from coming on through. Oh, she’ll let the Gentlemen in eventually. She won’t do to them what they do to hers.

Perhaps we need not to knock on heaven’s door but to knock it down. Then we all could wear a heavenly crown and sing as loudly or as softly as need be.

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