Saturday, March 15, 2008


("At the Nile" by Amanda Evassy Tumusiime)

On the wall beside my bed are a number of photographs, hung beads, and a few pieces of paper containing lines or poems important to me. I'm sharing a couple of those today.

In the early 1990s, I went back to the Bay Area to visit friends for a week. I drove up to Napa to see my pal Gail, and we went to eat at a little cafe along the main two-lane blacktop through wine country. In the foyer of this cafe, along with many community notices and flyers, was a stack of pink handouts, each one-quarter of regular sheet of paper, on which someone had reproduced the lyrics to one of the chief lesbian anthems of the 1970's. There was nothing on the reverse, no indication of where these had come from, nothing to advertise: It was simply a gift to any who came by.

This song was almost indescribably important to my development as a human being, as a woman, as a lesbian, and (I believe) to much of my sisterhood's generation. Although I know the lyrics by heart, I picked up one of the little pink slips -- how could I not? -- and slid it into my datebook. When I got home, I tacked it up beside my bed as a daily reminder, and it's been there until now. I'll be returned it to its outline on the plaster, having typed it for you below.

Just above it has rested a postcard sent to me by an ex, when we were still in the agony of break-up, containing a poem whose author was not identified. It was a sort of well-wish, and it's been there for 17 years. Now that she and I no longer have anything to say to one another (not well wishes or ill wishes, only silence), it's time for the postcard to come down. But the poem is spectacular, and I'm sharing it with you -- tacking it up here for the world, as it were.

(Alix Dobkin, photo by Carol Newhouse)


The woman in your life will do what she must do
To comfort you and calm you down and let you rest now
The woman in your life, she can rest so easily
She knows everything you do because the woman in your life is you

The woman in your life knows simply what is true
She knows the simple way to touch, to make you whole now
The woman in your life, she can touch so easily
She knows everything you do because the woman in your life is you

And who knows more about your story, about your struggle in the world
And who cares more to bless your weary shoulders

Than the woman in your life, she's trying to come through
A woman's voice with messages of woman's feelings
The woman in your life, she can feel so easily
She knows everything you do because the woman in your life is you

And who is sure to give you courage and who will surely make you strong
And who will bear all the joy that's coming to you

If not the woman in your life, she's someone to pursue
She's patient and she's waiting and she'll take you home now
The woman in your life, she can wait so easily
She knows everything you do because the woman in your life is you
The woman in your life, the woman in your life
The woman in your life is you

by Alix Dobkin on Lavender Jane Loves Women

(Louise Glück, by Sigrid Estrada)


The darkness lifts, imagine, in your lifetime.
There you are - cased in clean bark you drift
through weaving rushes, fields flooded with cotton.
You are free. The river films with lilies,
shrubs appear, shoots thicken into palm. And now
all fear gives way: the light
looks after you, you feel the waves' goodwill
as arms widen over the water; Love

the key is turned. Extend yourself -
it is the Nile, the sun is shining,
everywhere you turn is luck.

(by Louise Glück, from The House on Marshland)


Liza Cowan said...

Nice poem, that second one. I guess you eventually found the author.

Of course I'm thrilled to see the lyrics to "The Woman In Your Life" here. One small correction. "a woman's voice with messages OF women feelings"

I actually had to look up Alix's commentary on the song in her songbook to check my memory. She wrote it for my birthday, the first year we were together, which means just four or five months after we met. It was 1972. For some reason, as yet unidentified or understood, I cried the whole night after she sang it to me. I'm not a crier. I never cry. But I couldn't stop. I mean, it was really weird. I had no idea why I was crying but there I was, sobbing for hours.

Anyway, after a few weeks I could hear it without tearing up (still didn't know why) and when, shortly after that, she began performing for women's audiences she sang it, and it went on to have it's own life, and now, after all these years, I had to look it up to remember the circumstances.

But your right, Maggie, it was a watershed. I guess in more ways than one.

Maggie Jochild said...

Yeah, I found the author thanks to the tubez. For a decade, though, I assumed it was a Mary Oliver.

I'll correct the lyric, so future readers of the comments, don't be confused -- the incorrect version is no longer there.

How lucky am I/us all, to have the WOMAN for whom the song was written comment on the song? THANK YOU, Liza. For all the inspiration you've apparently offered over the decades.

Liza Cowan said...

Well, shucks, Maggie. Thanks for recognizing it. It means a lot to me that you've got my back.(is that the expression? It looks strange, somehow)