Sister Joan Chittister Speaks Out On War, Feminism, And The Catholic Church
I am opposed to abortion as a birth-control method. At the same time, I ask myself how it is that the Catholic Church can hold that all abortions are equally, gravely sinful at all times, but that death may be inflicted in other circumstances without always being equally, gravely sinful. The Church teaches that you may kill to punish, to defend yourself, or to defend the state, and you are not committing a sin. In areas where men are most often in charge of life — as they are in the justice system or the military — they may kill by the thousands, and the Church won’t say a word about it. But when a woman is in charge of that decision, as she is when it comes to abortion, the Church pronounces that it is always, under all circumstances, gravely immoral and deeply sinful.
The poem is called “The Table,” written by Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade and translated by Elizabeth Bishop. My copy is underlined. When had I inked up the pages, taking note of this line: “Around the wide table . . . It was an honest orgy / ending in revelations”? No words I might struggle to string together this morning will resonate more, and no other object we own tells a story quite the way that kitchen table does.
I am the “man from ’Stanbul.” Yes, I cannot pee. Oh, I can squeeze out a few drops here and there. I can dribble; I can even trickle. Occasionally what passes for a stream arcs into the commode. But it’s no McDonald’s golden arch, let me tell you, not the yellow rainbow of satisfaction I once knew so well, the Victoria Falls of my not-so-distant youth.
I learned many things from my parents. They taught me the subjectivity of truth; they made it impossible for me to arrive at a single, definitive version of any story. They showed me the traps minds make for themselves, and how the early wounds can calcify and warp, weaken and deform the eager, ardent child brides and grooms in all of us.
At first there’s darkness, and then darkness becoming less dark, then vaguely dark, then just shadows and the glow of sunlight pushing on closed blinds. There’s Melanie’s tangled black hair falling on the pillow inches from my face, a sniffle and the ruffle of sheets as her leg moves. There’s a siren howling closer and closer and then fading. The phone rings, then rings again.
A week before reading of the sad incident in the paper / I have a dream in which I pick orange day-lily petals from the floor, / try to eat them, and choke. According to my friend Clare / I am already dead, unable to swallow the fact / of the brevity of life: yes.