I’m ceded, I’ve stopped being theirs

Editor’s note:

In the space between the fresh work of the last poetry calls and the next, we turn to Emily Dickinson, from whose words we draw the series name, Untold Volumes. In this poem, Dickinson asserts autonomy from family and the spiritual institutions she was born into. She prophetically proclaims “self-affirmation, survival, power, and self-determination,” essentials Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza claims as “the central spiritual and religious feminist quest.” 1

King Crown jewels in Louvre, Paris, France

I’m ceded, I’ve stopped being theirs

by Emily Dickenson

I’m ceded, I’ve stopped being theirs;
The name they dropped upon my face
With water, in the country church,
Is finished using now,
And they can put it with my dolls,
My childhood, and the string of spools
I’ve finished threading too.

Baptized before without the choice,
But this time consciously, of grace
Unto supremest name,
Called to my full, the crescent dropped,
Existence’s whole arc filled up
With one small diadem.

My second rank, too small the first,
Crowned, crowing on my father’s breast,
A half unconscious queen;
But this time, adequate, erect,
With will to choose or to reject,
And I choose—just a throne.

Public domain: Emily Dickinson, Poems by Emily Dickinson, (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1893), 60-61.

1  Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, “The Will to Choose or to Reject: Continuing Our Critical Work,” in Feminist Interpretation of the Bible, ed. Letty M. Russell (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1985), 125-126. (back to text)

Elisabeth Mehl Greene
Elisabeth Mehl Greene is a writer and composer working in the Washington, D.C., area. She is the author of Tobit Detours and Lady Midrash: Poems Reclaiming the Voices of Biblical Women (reviewed here on CFT), and was the founding editor of Untold Volumes: Feminist Theology Poetry. Her work appears in 45th Parallel, CIRQUE, Lucky Jefferson, NonBinary Review, Bourgeon, VoiceCatcher, Mizna, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Erase the Patriarchy, and District Lines IV.