Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

( In the following guest post, writer Debra El-Ramey** graces us with her beautiful poetry.** Show her some love and leave a comment!)

Passover

Summers, Aunt Kathleen traveled south
to Bible Belt Land with Uncle Jim in effort
to save our souls from the burning hell
we born-again Baptists believed in.

Mother said the couple had once been
kissing cousins, married in the Christian
faith. A shame, she said – a crying shame
what they became: Jehovah’s Witnesses

of all things. Going door to door. Refusing
war, politics, blood transfusions, and even
Christmas. Icons, idols, images, the Easter
bunny, and hunts for colored eggs on the

bright green grass of a church lawn.
At sixteen, the age of rebellion, I visit
a Kingdom Hall – much to my mother’s
chagrin – And sit with the chosen at a

Passover celebration. Refrain from tasting
the wine when it’s passed around
, they warn.
In silence I wait out eternity while the chalice,
forbidden as sin, goes from hand to hand,

unsipped as poison. Here I listen
to the sound of a funeral dirge in the
background and miss my mother, and even
the tasteless Styrofoam wafer they serve to

church members with the thimbleful
of Welch’s that no more quenches our
thirst than the sourball melting on my
tongue along with the sermon.

–Debra El-Ramey
(“Passover” was first published in The Lyricist)

******************

From Faith to Faith

Grandmother Mittie eased away in her sleep
one dreamful night, slipped on out as quick

as a fish evading the capture, escaping the
hook. By morning, Grandfather awakened

to sudden shock. There was nothing wrong
with the woman. It just happened as fast

as the rapture. I wonder where she spends
her timeless days. With those Sunday

morning Methodists whom she joined to
sing His praise? Or does she speak in

tongues with those wild ones and ride on
the wings of the snow-white dove as she

did on Sunday evenings? Do the Baptists
still wash her feet at the midweek meetings,

then sit with their “Swords” upon their laps?
Do the young Mormon men in white

shirts and black ties who came to her
door to proselytize and gather in another

soul at harvest time now steer their bikes
down streets of gold?

–Debra El-Ramey

Debra El-Ramey’s work  has appeared in numerous publications across the U.S. and Canada. She recorded a collection of songs (“Glowing in the Dark”), completed a novel (Broken Angels), and is currently in the final stages of a manuscript about her life-learning adventures.

Visit her blog:
Pure and Simple

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2011

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Comments on: "Poems: Passover, From Faith to Faith" (31)

  1. I feel the spirit of my forebears and my Baptist upbringing in these poems, Debra. In From Faith to Faith, I love how you give us a glimpse into the life of Grandmother Mittie even as you describe her death, really stunning. Thank you so much for sharing these. ❤

    • Adriene, thank you for sharing these poems with your readers. I found it interesting to learn awhile back that some of your forbears are from NC.

      I want to go like my grandmother: in my sleep. I pray that I will drift off unconscious to a peaceful place. It was from my mother’s journal that I ‘met’ Grandmother Mittie for the first time. I’d never known she was a seeker until I learned about her from the stories my mother told me before she died.

  2. great post and very well done by you and guest. god s words and faith in him dose reach us all. thank you both for sharing god bless

  3. tony degrazia said:

    Religion is all around us. Depending on where you are at, it is sometimes alive in the culture outside the church. Doing my internship for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in the tiny towns of southwestern Oklahoma, I experienced this unabashed faith in a grocery store. The woman in line in front of me received $6.66 cents in cahnge from the clerk. Loudly, for all to hear, she said ” That is the number of the Devil, I will not touch it!” Time froze as people looked on, some wondering if they would take the money in the same quandry. I asked her, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ has saved your soul and cleansed your sins?” She said” Of course I do.” I then said, “Don’t you know that the Devil has no power over you, and that that number does not mean a thing?” She said” I suppose so.” She then bravely, and a bit shakily, picked up the money and walked out the door. Today, I don’t share that kind of faith, anymore. I am a Unitarian Universalist and worship with the athiest and the pagan. I refuse to live my life in fear, seeing the devil around every corner. But there was that moment, of being able to pull a fellow believer up out of the pit of doubt and despair and fear. And to do it, unashamed in the public square was quite the experience.

    • Wow Tony! It sounds like you have some colorful stories from your own experience. Were you there that day by accident? Or was it divine providence that led you into that grocery story to meet the woman who lived in fear? I admire your boldness. That takes some real faith. Most would have stood by idle and laughed to themselves. Religion is all around indeed, and like you say, it’s alive in the culture outside the walls of the church.
      The Williamsburg Unitarians used one of my poems during their services. I stumbled upon it awhile back. It’s called “Come As You Are” and you can read it here. http://wuu.org/wordpress/?p=1209

  4. Martha Orlando said:

    Stunning poetry, Debra! Simple, yet profound. I’m amazed!

    • Thank you Martha! So glad you stopped by and met my relatives from the past. So now I’m writing yet another memoir about my religious heritage, which has been rich. This one I think I’ll publish first, before the life learning stories.

  5. I got so hooked by the first lines in the first poem that though I had a hard time – for some unknown reason – loading this post, I just had to read on. Both poems told fascinating stories about religion and the fears and misinformation it feeds congregants, but in such a way that I felt the writer was reciting/telling them to me personally. Loved them, Debra has a great talent, and would like to read more. Thanks for introducing her to us.

    • Thank you Penelope; your words make my day 🙂 Especially when you say they spoke personally to you, because I like writing that speaks to me too, and I appreciate hearing a writer’s voice when I read. If I don’t hear ‘voice’ I don’t like the writing.

  6. I understand your poetry having been in different Churches and sects throughout life, but what I’m really interested in is if you have that vital connection with Christ yourself as a Believer, or is this all that’s sadly left?

    • Elizabeth, in Him I live and move and have my being. Like my grandmother and mother and aunts before me I’ve always been attuned to matters of faith, have always been interested in what people believe and why they believe it. As I told someone else earlier, I’m writing all these things down because there’s a reason we are who we are – all of us. Our roots go deep.

  7. Cathy Beebe said:

    Debra, I enjoyed reading these. Very simple, and calm!

  8. God’s word is for us all, no matter what religion or branch of religion. Thanks for reminding us Debra.

    • Exactly Jim; it takes all kinds 🙂 How boring would the world be if we were all the same?
      Thank you again for the wildflowers. Stunning! I’ll take them all!

  9. Debra, it’s hard to describe, and I’ve been really good at telling people how I feel about their writings today. I really enjoyed your poems yes, of course that is one of the things I want to say but there is something else, its the way you say things you make it simple for “everyone” to understand.

    I grew up going to church with my Aunt,Grandma, neighbor’s basically anyone that would take me. Which meant I was probably going to baptist one weekend and catholic the next. I was a child at the time and I got what I needed from it…

    My parents weren’t religious, which meant it wasn’t something as a “young” adult I saw as a “need”, as I had my children church became more important in our lives, as I wanted my children to know and understand more than I did.

    Anyways I think up until 11 years ago, I believed in god etc. But I was basically “faking it”. It wasn’t until I became a preschool teacher at a “private christian school” that I really understood more. Its amazing how much I learned and “loved” it. I guess because I was teaching 5 yr old, which was with stories and songs etc. it helped me learn too.

    I’d go to my “then in laws” house on Sunday for dinner and actually knew and understood what they were talking about. It was exciting to be able to make a “smart comment” and not have to fake it. I still fake it some, but I guess the important thing is we believe and understand certain things and for that much I do.

    My point is your roots were religious and seemed to enjoy every bit of it, and they passed all that knowledge and enjoyment down to you. I think its great! But more importantly your words are said with a lot of power, yet simple understanding for those of us like me 🙂 Thank you!

    I rambled and got long winded, but I wanted to explain how I felt when reading your writings.
    Thanks 🙂
    deb

    • How sweet of you Deb to stop in and leave such a meaningful comment. I enjoyed your own church memories… of going to the Baptist one week and Catholic the next 🙂 Why don’t you write about this soon? Very interesting. Were you ever confused? Afraid? Which services did you like best? You could come up with a great post!

      Teach to learn, they say, and that’s exactly what you did when you taught preschool in the private academy. What a great way to learn.

      I used to pretend- teach my dolls and stuffed animals. I pretended my gray tabby cat Walter was born again, and so I took him to the backyard and plunged him in the bucket of water by the back steps. He zipped out of there faster than a jack-in-the-box, fur drenched and limp as a soaking wet dishrag, shaking and slinging water all over me and my clothes, and then darted under the pack house and out of sight.

      Thank you for the encouragement Deb, just look how you got me going again…

  10. Debra, your poetry is a prayer, a hymn, a gift to all of us. Powerful and personal, simple and universal…

    • Cathy, when I decide to publish a collection of poetry I’m saving this comment as a blurb for the back of the book – okay? It’s exactly what I’d want 🙂

  11. I feel at peace…

    • Alpana, a blessing…

      Deep peace of the running wave to you…
      Deep peace of the flowing air to you…
      Deep peace of the quiet earth to you…
      Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
      Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.

  12. I like the way the poems convey the human experience and need for religion to offer certainity amidst uncertainity through lines such as ‘..it happened so fast’, ”I wonder where she spends
    her timeless days.”

  13. Wow Debra didnt know you were a poet too. Loved it

    • Yes Rimly, I was born this way 🙂 Emily Dickinson hoarder of verses. Many published but not nearly all. I wonder if I have over 2,000… Some hide among drawers and boxes, waiting for their day to come.

  14. I am always in awe of your poetry. Your words open each of us to something higher or buried, so in my case lying dormant. I take away something to ponder. Not sure I was looking to do so, but it’s always good to leave with something in your virtual pocket.

  15. Thank you Brenda for the support. Your poetry is not lying dormant though. I should know; I’ve been to your place of writing and read a few that stirred my soul too. Poets and writers should feed on each other’s words.

    Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes. ~Carl Sandburg
    I think of writers and poets as gathering with our packsacks of keepsakes for ‘show and tell’. Except poets know to follow the rule: “show, don’t tell.”

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