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May 3, 2019

My God is a Woman. {Poem}

 

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A post shared by Toby Israel (@tobyintheworld) on May 2, 2019 at 8:47am PDT

Modesty has never been one of my virtues.

I know my strengths, and I’m not shy about saying so. I love my body, and I defend my right to reveal it whenever and however I choose.

I respect the choice to dress, behave, or speak modestly, but it is not my path.

For me, in my body, modesty feels like the opposite of wildness. Throughout human history, across many cultures, we have subjugated our animal nature—our sexuality, our appetites, our intuition—in the name of transcendence. As if, to be more human, we must be less animal.

But I feel most myself, most in balance, and yes, most human and animal both, when I shed modesty, shame and fear in order to fully inhabit my body. When I slip comfortably into my skin and dance, sing, and melt into everything, then, then I begin to understand transcendence.

For me, in my body, modesty tastes a lot like shame. I challenge the implicit (and sometimes explicit) assumption beneath it: That this body is dirty. That this hair (this sexuality) is threatening. That this skin, that movement, these rhythms of my blood are impure.

I reject the fear—of and for and by women.

This body cries out for honor, for love, and for respect. Not because it is draped safely in modesty, but because it is, and its being is sacred.

This skin will not hide to make others more comfortable.

This skin will not cower for its vulnerability.

This skin will not tame its power.

Any god of mine loves me in my wildness—she loves to see my skin.

(This poem grew from a collection of experiences with norms of modesty in dress and conduct. I will always seek to be as culturally sensitive as possible, wherever I travel. However, I cannot pretend it never bothers me.)

 

~

My God is a Woman

I am tired of it.
Too many days
spent covering my body
for someone else’s benefit,

Anger boils beneath my layers
and I wonder
who
will respect my sensibilities.

I am tired of it,
and as I look at the cool,
clear water
just out of reach of my body,
I can finally admit:

Not. My. God.
Not my god, this hiding, this shame.
Not my god.

You see,
My god is a woman.
She is of the earth yet transcends the earth,
and her feet are stained with dirt.

My god is a woman.
She hails from the wild seas, yet transcends the sea,
and her hair tastes like salt and freedom.

My god is a woman.
She dances on the moon—
and you may not see her,
but we can.

My god is a woman,
and she loves.
to see.
my skin.

And so—
I am a worshipper of beauty.
of nakedness.
of water on bare skin.
of moonlight.
of blood.
of dirt.

And I am tired
of pretending
any different.

For I have known what it means
to slip naked
into the sea…

And I will never be content without it.

 

 

 

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author: Toby Israel

Image: tobyintheworld / Instagram

Image: Claudia Dea / Flickr

Editor: Julie Balsiger