(Quenched, photo by Jill Posener)
In her introductory essay to the anthology True to Life Adventure Stories, Judy Grahn wrote the often-quoted:
"I have given a good deal of thought to the origins of folk English, to women and English, to the King's English, and to the phrase, 'murdering the King's English'. Murdering the King's English can be a crime only if you identify with the King."
Grahn's emphasis on reclaiming, valuing, publishing, and emulating the speech of common women, poor women, working women, women who use other than white "standard" English, permanently altered the landscape of American writing, not only feminist writing. Riding the same wave are/were Nora Zeale Hurston, Agnes Smedley, Alice Walker, Tillie Olson, Sharon Isabell, Irene Klepfisz, Dorothy Allison, Cherrie Moraga, Meridel LeSueur, Alta, Pat Parker, and other women who understood that "refusing to identify with the King" was an essential step in broadcasting the thoughts and lives of women in a patriarchy.
The first book published by Grahn was Edward the Dyke and Other Poems, a title which is itself ironic and rebellious. The main work within in, "The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke" is not actually a poem. Written in 1964, it is a staggeringly early and taunting rejection of what, fourteen years later, Adrienne Rich would name as "compulsory heterosexuality".
In 1985, Grahn published Highest Apple: Sappho and the Lesbian Poetic Tradition. According to Martha Nell Smith in her article on Lesbian Poetry:
'Dedicating her study "To All Lovers" (not exclusively lesbian lovers), Grahn clearly states her objective: "The story I am telling is of the re-emergence of the public Lesbian voice."
'Claiming that poetry is especially important to women, Grahn makes the even more controversial claim that it is a vital "tool for survival" for lesbians and says that "more than one Lesbian has been kept from floundering on the rocks of alienation from her own culture, her own center, by having access, at least, to Lesbian poetry."
'Immediately she remarks the indisputable fact that "We owe a great deal to poetry; two of our most important names, for instance: Lesbian and Sapphic," effectively arguing the case for a study focused on lesbian poetry.'
'Of Grahn's "A Woman Is Talking To Death," [Elly] Bulkin wrote:
"That's a fact," Grahn keeps observing as she builds image after image of women ignored, derided, abused. The central 'fact' of the poem is finally the poet's own lesbianism. In a society that perceives lesbians as committing 'indecent acts' and that leers at women who kiss each other, who call each other 'lovers,' who admit to "wanting" another woman, Grahn forces a rethinking of both language and the assumptions behind it.
'Remarking that the "rhetorical drive" of Grahn's poetry draws on biblical and protesting oral traditions, Bulkin concludes that "this oral quality" underscores the "sense that the poem should be heard with others, not read by oneself." This is not a poetry for private pleasure only but a poetry of motivation meant to act as a force to change the world.'
Bulkin goes on to state in her 1978 essay ''Kissing/Against the Light': A Look at Lesbian Poetry":
'Uncovering a poetic tradition representative of lesbians of color and poor and working-class lesbians of all races involves, as Barbara Noda has written, reexamining "the words 'lesbian,' 'historical,' and even 'poet.'" A beginning problem is definitional, as Paula Gunn Allen makes clear in her exploration of her own American Indian culture:
It is not known if those
who warred and hunted on the plains
chanted and hexed in the hills
divined and healed in the mountains
gazed and walked beneath the seas
It is never known
if any woman was a lesbian'
(It is worth noting here that Paula Gunn Allen and Judy Grahn were partners for many years.)
From my own experience, I recall having a copy of Edward the Dyke by 1975. That summer, there was no lesbian and gay pride event within several hours' drive of the small North Texas city where I lived with my lover and our five-year-old daughter. However, we heard that on Saturday, gay men and perhaps some lesbians would be gathering at Queen's Point, a beach on nearby Lake Dallas notorious as a locale for cruising and clandestine same-sex partying.
It was still very dangerous to go to known gay places in public, especially in daylight. You could be arrested simply for being there. My lover was a schoolteacher already under custody fears from her fundamentalist parents. Nevertheless, we resolved to go. We were that hungry for community.
We decided to take things one step further: We would contribute to the day's festivities. We memorized "The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke", assigning the characters to my lover (narrator), Dr. Knox (our gay friend Billie Bledsoe), and Edward the Dyke (me). We performed this on the beach, before a crowd of drag queens, college fags, and cruisers from Dallas looking for pick-ups. We were the only women there.
I can recall clearly my voice waxing lyrical on the lines "Oh Bach, oh Brahms, oh Buxtehude", and Billie shouting at me "Admit you have a smegmatic personality". I can also recall that we got not a single laugh. It went completely over their heads, a crushing failure to connect.
Yet when we later reprised it for an entirely straight, mostly married crowd of women from NOW, we killed. After that, I put all my energy in women's and lesbian community efforts, not gay or queer. I wanted to begin with a common language.
After the fold is the text of "The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke". Below is a bibliography of Judy Grahn's work. Also immediately below is the first paragraph of an extraordinary essay by Judy Grahn (now Ph.D.) at her website Metaformia, entitled Are Wars Metaformic?. This is intended to whet your appetite and send you to the link so you can keep reading the ongoing work of this major leader/thinker/writer.
"Mass warfare is not sustainable, is not noble, and is not between warriors. Civilian deaths far outnumber those of soldiers; terrified and furious soldiers go mad in war and murder civilians, and many ex-soldiers never recover from the traumas—physical, psychological, and social—of modern warfare. War is addictive and attractive because it appears to be about meaning, but it is actually about sensation and loyalty, grotesquely out of balance emotions of the people who endure it, and grotesquely out of balance power urges of the men who decree it to happen. Yet, the bloodshed of war is glorified above all other bloodshed."
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF JUDY GRAHN
—Edward The Dyke and Other Poems. Oakland, CA: The Women’s Press Collective, 1971.
—A Woman is Talking to Death. Oakland, CA: The Women’s Press Collective, 1974.
—She Who: a graphic book of poems with 54 images of women. Oakland, CA: Diana Press, 1977.
—The Works of a Common Woman. Oakland, CA: The Women’s Press Collective, 1978.
—The Queen of Wands. Ithaca, NY: The Crossing Press, 1982.
—Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984.
—Highest Apple: Sappho and the Lesbian Poetic Tradition. Spinsters Ink, 1985.
—The Queen of Swords. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987.
—Really Reading Gertrude Stein: A Selected Anthology with Essays by Judy Grahn. Ithaca, NY: Crossing Press, 1990.
-Mundane's World, A Novel, Ithaca, NY: The Crossing Press, 1988
—Blood, Bread and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.
THE PSYCHOANALYSIS OF EDWARD THE DYKE
© by Judy Grahn (published in Edward the Dyke and Other Poems, 1971, Women's Press Collective)
Behind the brown door which bore the gilt letters of Dr. Merlin Knox's name, Edward the Dyke was lying on the doctor's couch which was so luxurious and long that her feet did not even hang over the edge.
"Dr. Knox," Edward began, "my problem this week is chiefly concerning restrooms."
"Aahh," the good doctor sighed. Gravely he drew a quick sketch of a restroom in his notebook.
"Naturally I can't go into men's restrooms without feeling like an interloper, but on the other hand every time I try to use the ladies room I get into trouble."
"Umm," said Dr. Knox, drawing a quick sketch of a door marked 'Ladies'.
"Four days ago I went into the powder room of a department store and three middle-aged housewives came in and thought I was a man. As soon as I explained to them that I was really only a harmless dyke, the trouble began..."
"You compulsively attacked them."
"Oh heavens no, indeed not. One of them turned on the water faucet and tried to drown me with wet paper towels, but the other two began screaming something about how well did I know Gertrude Stein and what sort of underwear did I have on, and they took my new cuff links and socks for souvenirs. They had my head in the trash can and were cutting pieces off my shirttail when luckily a policeman heard my calls for help and rushed in. He was able to divert their attention by shooting at me, thus giving me a chance to escape through the window."
Carefully Dr. Knox noted in his notebook: 'Apparent suicide attempt after accosting girls in restroom.' "My child," he murmured in feathery tones, "have no fear. You must trust us. We will cure you of this deadly affliction, and before you know it you'll be all fluffy and wonderful with dear babies and a bridge club of your very own." He drew a quick sketch of a bridge club. "Now let me see. I believe we estimated that after only four years of intensive therapy and two years of anti-intensive therapy, plus a few minor physical changes and you'll be exactly the little girl we've always wanted you to be." Rapidly Dr. Knox thumbed through an index on his desk. "Yes yes. This year the normal cup size is 56 inches. And waist 12 and 1/2. Nothing a few well-placed hormones can't accomplish in these advanced times. How tall did you tell me you were?"
"Six feet, four inches," replied Edward.
"Oh, tsk tsk." Dr. Knox did some figuring. "Yes, I'm afraid that will definitely entail extracting approximately 8 inches from each leg, including the knee-cap...standing a lot doesn't bother you, does it my dear?"
"Uh," said Edward, who couldn't decide.
"I assure you the surgeon I have in mind for you is remarkably successful." He leaned far back in his chair. "Now tell me, briefly, what the word 'homosexuality means to you, in your own words."
"Love flowers pearl, of delighted arms. Warm and water. Melting of vanilla wafer in the pants. Pink petal roses trembling overdew on the lips, soft and juicy fruit. No teeth. No nasty spit. Lips chewing oysters without grimy sand or whiskers. Pastry. Gingerbread. Warm, sweet bread. Cinnamon toast poetry. Justice equality higher wages. Independent angel song. It means I can do what I want."
"Now my dear," Dr. Knox said, "Your disease has gotten completely out of control. We scientists know of course that it's a highly pleasurable experience to take someone's penis or vagina into your mouth - it's pleasurable and enjoyable. Everyone knows that. But after you've taken a thousand pleasurable penises or vaginas into your mouth and had a thousand people take your pleasurable penis or vagina into their mouth, what have you accomplished? What have you got to show for it? Do you have a wife or children or a husband or a home or a trip to Europe? Do you have a bridge club to show for it? No! You have only a thousand pleasurable experiences to show for it. Do you see how you're missing the meaning of life? How sordid and depraved are these clandestine sexual escapades in parks and restrooms? I ask you."
"But sir but sir," said Edward, "I'm a woman. I don't have sexual escapades in parks or restrooms. I don't have a thousand lovers - I have one lover."
"Yes yes." Dr. Knox flicked the ashes from his cigar, onto the floor. "Stick to the subject, my dear."
"We were in college then," Edward said. "She came to me out of the silky midnight mist, her slips rustling like cow thieves, her hair blowing in the wind like Gabriel. Lying in my arms harps played soft in dry firelight, Oh Bach. Oh Brahms. Oh Buxtehude. How sweetly we got along how well we got the woods pregnant with canaries and parakeets, barefoot in the grass alas pigeons, but it only lasted ten years and she was gone, poof! like a puff of wheat."
"You see the folly of these brief, physical embraces. But tell me the results of our experiment we arranged for your last session."
"Oh yes. My real date. Well I bought a dress and a wig and a girdle and a squeezy bodice. I did unspeakable things to my armpits with a razor. I had my hair done and my face done and my nails done. My roast done. My bellybutton done."
"And then you felt truly feminine."
"I felt truly immobilized. I could no longer run, walk bend stoop move my arms or spread my feet apart."
"Well, everything went pretty well during dinner, except my date was only 5'3" and oh yes. One of my eyelashes fell into the soup - that wasn't too bad. I hardly noticed it going down. But then my other eyelash fell on my escort's sleeve and he spent five minutes trying to kill it."
Edward sighed. "But the worst part came when we stood up to go. I rocked back on my heels as I pushed my chair back under the table and my shoes - you see they were three inchers, raising me to 6'7", and with all my weight on those teeny little heels..."
"I drove the spikes all the way into the thick carpet and could no longer move. Oh, everyone was nice about it. My escort offered to get the check and to call in the morning to see how I had made out and the manager found a little saw and all. But, Dr. Knox, you must understand that my underwear was terribly binding and the room was hot..."
"So I fainted. I didn't mean to, I just did. That's how I got my ankles broken."
Dr. Knox cleared his throat. "It's obvious to me, young lady, that you have failed to control your P.E."
"My God," said Edward, glancing quickly at her crotch, "I took a bath just before I came."
"This oral eroticism of yours is definitely rooted in Penis Envy, which showed when you deliberately castrated your date by publicly embarrassing him."
Edward moaned. "But strawberries. But lemon cream pie."
"Narcissism," Dr. Knox droned, "Masochism, Sadism. Admit you want to kill your mother."
"Marshmallow bluebird," Edward groaned, eyes softly rolling. "Looking at the stars. April in May."
"Admit you want to possess your father. Mother substitute. Breast suckle."
"Graham cracker subway," Edward writhed, slobbering. "Pussy willow summer."
"Admit you have a smegmatic personality," Dr. Knox intoned.
Edward rolled to the floor. "I am vile! I am vile!"
Dr. Knox flipped a switch at his elbow and immediately a picture of a beautiful woman appeared on a screen over Edward's head. The doctor pressed another switch and electric shocks jolted through her spine. Edward screamed. He pressed another switch, stopping the flow of electricity. Another switch and a photo of a gigantic erect male organ flashed into view, coated in powdered sugar. Dr. Knox handed Edward a lollipop.
She sat up. "I'm saved," she said, tonguing the lollipop.
"Your time is up," Dr. Knox said. "Your check please. Come back next week."
"Yes sir yes sir,” Edward said as she went out the brown door. In his notebook, Dr. Knox made a quick sketch of his bank.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
(Quenched, photo by Jill Posener)
When a culture has as bedrock a belief system which renders whites more valuable than non-whites, men more valuable than non-men (women, gays, lesbians, trans), and upper class people more valuable than those of the lower classes, every single institution in that culture is going to refect these values and, if that institution has been empowered with enforcement, such enforcement will inevitably be racist, sexist and classist. This is the case in America.
Until this reality is altered, one truth which will follow is that any advance in technology employed by our institutions in this country will add to the burden of unequal enforcement against our less valued citizens. Technology is not going to be the means by which we alter oppression. It will, instead, be used to exacerbate oppression. Giving up the myth, the faith that we can "science" our way to equality, is an important milestone when joining the reality-based community.
We need to keep this in mind when reading a recent article in the Washington Post about the nonconcensual use of DNA of innocent family members to locate criminals, From DNA of Family, a Tool to Make Arrests. This article leads with sensational details from the BTK Killer case, patently intended to dissuade our recognition of injustice when we learn that the killer was tracked down via a DNA database which contained the DNA of his daughter obtained, without her knowledge or consent, from a routine Pap smear given five years earlier at a university medical clinic in Kansas. This blatant theft of her most private and unique information as an individual -- her DNA -- is portrayed as justified because of the result.
The article does acknowledge that "the technique is arousing fierce objections from privacy advocates, who maintain that it turns family members into genetic informants without their knowledge or consent. They complain that it takes material collected for one purpose and uses it for another." The FBI, "which maintains the world's largest forensic DNA database with almost 6 million profiles" is quoted as claiming "it has so far refrained from adopting the technique because of concerns about constitutional challenges." (No kidding.)
"Nonetheless, California, which maintains the world's third-largest criminal DNA database with more than 1 million samples, will soon become the first state to adopt a protocol to allow for familial searches. Last week, Colorado performed a test run of familial search software on its criminal database. In Massachusetts, officials say they plan to develop a policy to allow familial searches."
The article continues on through several sections covering examples (statistically very rare) of instances where trolling through DNA databases has solved crimes, occasionally admitting to the objections against this practice. It is not until the very end, if you're kept reading that long, that the real damage is revealed: The endemic racism built into the criminal justice system would make DNA storage and "trolling" into an unprecedented tool of racial profiling:
'Familial searching of offender databases would be of no use "if close relatives didn't commit crimes," said Frederick Bieber, a medical geneticist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
'For reasons we don't understand, there is often a familial clustering in crime," he said. "This could relate to organized crime families, to street gangs, or it could be dysfunctional family units." He pointed to a 1999 Department of Justice study that found 46 percent of prison inmates had at least one close relative who had been incarcerated. [My note: Or could it be racial profiling on the part of the police?]
'Behind that statistic is another troubling set of numbers, highlighting an issue at the heart of the debate over familial searching: racial justice. The national database, which is made up mostly of state contributions, has a disproportionate number of DNA profiles from non-whites.
'Stanford University law professor Henry T. Greely estimates that at least 40 percent of the FBI database is African American, though they make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population. That is because in an average year, more than 40 percent of people convicted of felonies in the United States are African American, he said.
'If the national database were used for familial searching, he said, and assuming that on average each person whose profile in the database has five first-degree relatives, authorities would be "putting under surveillance" roughly a third of the African American population, compared with about 7.5 percent of the European American population, he said.
'I don't think anybody's going to be falsely convicted," he said. "It's the time, hassle and indignity of being interviewed by the police. How much is that worth? How much does that cost a person? I don't know, but it's not zero.'
A THIRD of the United States African American population versus 7.5 percent of the European American population. This is naked racism.
And the law professor's Pollyanna quote of "I don't think anybody's going to be falsely convicted" is given the lie every single day in this country. People are being incarcerated and put to death in horrific numbers for crimes they turned out not to have committed, and they are disproportionately people of color. One study by Ohio State University estimates the number of people in the United States wrongfully convicted each year of serious crimes at 10,000.
Another study, reported by the New York Times, found that "black men made up a disproportionate number of exonerated rape defendants" (65%, although the incidence of black men raping white women is in reality quite low). This study also found "Death row inmates represent a quarter of 1 percent of the prison population but 22 percent of the exonerated." In Florida, "75 percent of the death-penalty cases brought before the appeals court were overturned."
But the already institutionalized racism of our criminal justice system reveals that in 2006, 42% of death row inmates were black and 13% were identified as Hispanic when there was a known ethnicity. This skew exists because crimes committed by people of color are investigated, tried and punished with a different vigor than crimes committed by white people, according to our basic cultural values which are built on racism. There is no rational reason to believe DNA technology would interrupt this trend; rather, from the admission above, it will exacerbate injustice.
At this point, it is helpful to point out that the first organized police departments in this country (as opposed to idiosyncratic constables and community watches of the colonial era) were created in the early to mid 1800s primarily for control of slaves in the South. The principles and practices of this early policing was adopted by the North for urban control of working class populations, while in the West, vigilantism was the main form of community policing until recently. Objectivity and racial equality in policing does not exist and has never existed in America. Let's begin with that realization and follow the path which then emerges, away from increased invasion of privacy in the name of "crime prevention" and toward societal responsibility for the actual preventable causes of crime and human misery.
Hat tip to Jesse Wendel of Group News Blog, who sent me this article along with the comment Res ipsa loquitur.
Recommended reading: The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove: An Analysis of the U. S. Police, written by: Lynn Cooper, Elliott Currie, Jon Frappier, Tony Platt, Betty Ryan, Richard Schauffler, Joy Scruggs, and Larry Trujillo, with Contributions by: Bill Bigelow, Michael Klare, Nancy Stein, and Millie Thayer. Edited by Tony Platt and Paul Takagi (2nd printing, 1982).
Friday, May 2, 2008
(Cartoon by XKCD)
I'm going to reprint here in its entirety a great comment and introduction to another essay posted currently at Utne Reader online. The comment, by Steve Thorngate, is titled "The Perils of Gender Guy". The essay is referenced in his comment but I cannot send you directly to it because it's by subscription only. Hence, I'll let you read someone else's take on it.
"If you spend much time in office meetings or college classrooms, you’ve likely run into Gender Guy. He’s an alpha male and a liberal, and he likes to talk about gender issues—in the workplace, in society, in the book you’re reading, wherever. He pontificates and patronizes; he interrupts and shouts down. He makes the rest of the room endure his pissing matches with men less enlightened, or with those who share his general opinions but oblige his desire to quibble over details, loudly and at length.
"Gender Guy’s assumed expertise might come from overly simplified connections he makes between gender and race, or class, or sexual identity, or religion. It might be based on the fact that, as an intelligent and well-spoken man, he’s by definition an expert on everything. Or perhaps he thinks he understands gender because the word—unlike, say, “women”—suggests a subject that deals not with one gender’s concrete realities so much as, more abstractly, with the relationship between two.
"This last point in particular interests historian Alice Kessler-Harris. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Kessler-Harris considers the consequences for her own discipline when, starting in the early 1990s, gender history began to take over the ground previously held by women’s history (subscription required). She allows that “gender is a tempting and powerful framework”:
"Far more inclusive than the category of women, [gender] raises questions not so much about what women did or did not do, but about how the organization or relationships between men and women established priorities and motivates social and political action. While the history of women can be accused of lacking objectivity—of having a feminist purpose—that of gender suggests a more distanced stance… The idea of “gender” frees young scholars (male and female) to seek out the ways that historical change is related to the shape and deployment of male/female relations.
"And yet, something is lost:
"Gender obscures as much as it reveals… [I suspect] that in seeing the experiences of men and women as relational, we overlook the particular ways in which women—immigrants, African-Americans, Asians, Chicanas—engaged their worlds… We lose the power of the individual to shed a different light—sometimes a liminal light—on historical processes.
"In short, Kessler-Harris worries that abstracting “women” into “gender” can have the effect of silencing the voices of actual women—a danger not limited to the rarefied world of historians. The tension between analyzing gender relations and highlighting female voices is an old one, and it’s as broadly relevant as ever. While Gender Guy’s opinions may be impeccably feminist, how helpful is this if the abstraction “gender” gives him cover to go on and on, preventing the women in the room from getting a word in?"
(more after the fold)
The replacement of women's studies and women's issues with "gender" studies did not occur in a vacuum. It began during the Reagan years, and has accelerated during the Bush years. These two decades are marked by a reframing of public discourse using extremely conservative language and ideology; the increased conflation of masculinity with leadership and power; the removal of a healthy barrier between religion and government; flagrant disregard for our basic Constitutional principles; dismantling of most gains made by racial minorities and an appeal to covert and overt racist sentiment in the name of nationalism; a horrific widening of the gap between rich and poor, and virtual elimination of America's middle class; increased assaults on the rights of women and disabled people to control their own bodies; an explosion of pornography; unbelievably swift and total destruction of our personal privacy; and the conversion of our culture to one which overwhelmingly supports the making of (and profiting of by the few) from war.
Feminism, as it was defined by women (not necessarily "gender studies" scholars), has stood in opposition to all of these developments. I simply don't think it is coincidence that the effort to unroof and name our identities as women (raised with female conditioning) has been shackled at the same exact time masculinity- and male-conditioned behaviors have raged out of control.
Conservative tactics used to hijack rational conversation and logical thought include ridicule, valuing emotionality over justice, and (especially relevant here) refusing to acknowledge inherent, institutional power imbalances. Hence, we have two generations now who have difficulty understanding that racism cannot "flow both directions", that our society is profoundly class-stratified and absent of class mobility except for the publicized few, or that sexism does NOT disenfranchise and stunt the economic survival of men and women equally.
In some allegedly feminist circles, it's considered bad form to claim the identity woman, to talk about personal female experience such as girlhood, menstruation, pregnancy and mothering, or to hold any individual accountable for anti-woman behavior, because this so-called "essentialism" somehow discounts the reality of those who don't share it. It's a conservative fallacy, the idea that those who do not control the institutions and systems of oppression are still responsible for the feelings of those who are not the primary targets of a particular oppression. This confusion has begun to spread into the realms of thinking about race as well: Not just denial of white privilege, or blinding derangement about the dominance of white identity, but an actual reaction of claiming divisiveness and "hurt feelings" when racism is named by people of color and their allies.
Identity politics are not a final stage of liberation, but understanding the world view (complete with lies) that we were indoctrinated with, despite our most ardents efforts, from the moment of birth and spending the DECADES necessary to unravel the web of misinformation is not a stage we can hopscotch over with credit awarded for good intentions and an outward makeover.
As Adrienne Rich warned us at the beginning of this dim age of backlash:
"Truthfulness anywhere means a heightened complexity. But it is a movement into evolution. Women are only beginning to uncover our own truths; many of us would be grateful for some rest in that struggle, would be glad iust to lie down with the sherds we have painfully unearthed, and be satisfied with those. The politics worth having, the relationships worth having, demand that we delve still deeper."
Thursday, May 1, 2008
All right, fans, here's another segment of my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. This occurs after my last post two days ago. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up. P.S. If you've read Ginny Bates since the beginning, there's a fun little riddle hidden in this section.
August to October 2010
A couple of nights later at dinner with Edwina and Allie, Myra said "We just received the final payout from my lottery winnings. Which means we need to discuss your trust fund, Allie. We can keep putting the same amount in, or up it, if you need -- "
"No way Jose. I mean, I'm blessed for what you did, way back when. Set me up for life. But I've been earning good for a while now, I got that insurance settlement from Mama's death, and if they really do buy the animation rights to Ashante Alabama, it'll be a buttload more. I've got a pension paid for, so does Edwina, and even with buying the apartment building where we live and renovating the ground floor so we can be old ladies there, I still got tons in the bank. I could be giving you money." The pride on her face made Myra's eyes well.
"I wonder how many of us could do what you and I did, with a single hand up" said Myra softly. They looked at each other for a minute.
Edwina said "I know the Feminist Fund is self-sufficient now, and still expanding, but what about you two? Where is that extra money going to come from, if you don't mind me asking?"
Ginny said "Well, the children's education funds were complete before they started college. Plus Daddy's will gave them another chunk. And despite our insisting he leave money to the Fund, he also gave us a separate bequest which we've put into our own savings/investment. We spent like sailors on leave for the summer trip, but even so, I'm making more than enough from my paintings to cover everything, plus."
"You could help Frances start her restaurant" said Allie with a twinkle. They all roared, and Ginny said "If and when that time comes, and if they ask, and if a few other things, I imagine we will. But for now, let Margie worry about that."
"What I would like to do" said Myra "is set up a trust for Sima and Chris, for when they retire. I mean, they know, at least Chris does, that I intend to augment Social Security so they live in comfort as crones. But we could have it waiting on them, and maybe even tell them -- Sima would like to know, although Chris will bite my head off."
"Count me in on that" said Allie swiftly. "Let's meet with Alveisa."
"We're already seeing her for a planning session this week, you could come for the first part of it" said Ginny. They agreed, and the topic changed to book contract arcana.
At the end of August, Margie and Frances arrived one evening for a two-day visit before their final move to Portland. They sat up late talking. Margie had photos of their new flat, midway between Reed and Simpatico in the city's Southeast, next to public transportation and with a shared backyard that was small but secure for Narnia. She and Ginny became engrossed in issues of art restoration, while Frances regaled Myra with the backstabbing drama of professional cooking.
The next morning, Frances and Margie did not appear early for breakfast. Myra made a run to the market, and when she got home, the yogust and fruit salad they'd left in the fridge was gone. She could hear Ginny vacuuming upstairs and she could see Margie and Frances horsing around in the pool. As she started putting grains and beans into their own sealed canisters, Margie got out of the pool and stood on the edge, talking down to Frances. The line of her back registered as angry to Myra. After a minute, Frances got out of the pool, too, and faced Margie with a furious expression, her arms crossed across her chest. Their voices had gotten so loud that Myra could hear them - the sliding door must be open.
Frances yelled "Listen, Ms. Queen of the Known Universe, I never signed up to be one of your loyal subjects. I will damned well do what I think is best."
Margie retorted "Your holy hot-headed automony stops where it encounters our shared territory, moron. If it affects how we get to live our lives together, you fucking well have to listen to me sometimes."
"Oh, yeah?" jeered Frances, taking a step forward so she had to crane her neck a little to glare up into Margie's face. Her little body bristled. "Who's gonna make me, you?"
Myra was appalled for a few long seconds, then bewildered as Margie burst into laughter and held out her arms to Frances. Frances literally jumped into Margie's embrace, wrapping her legs around Margie's waist and hanging onto her neck, as they began kissing with abandon. When Margie's left hand slid into the back of France's bikini bottom, Myra fled the kitchen, almost running into Ginny at the bottom of the stairs with the vacuum cleaner in her arms.
"What's wrong?" said Ginny, looked at Myra's panicked face.
"Margie...she and Frances just had a huge fight" said Myra.
"Well, they're young and in love" began Ginny.
"No, but then -- it was like a switch flicked, they went from almost tackling each other to -- "
Myra's red face finished the sentence for Ginny. "Really" Ginny said.
At that moment, Myra heard their voices coming into the house. She grabbed the vacuum from Ginny and said loudly "I'll do our room, honey" and bolted for the bedroom.
Ginny said hi to Margie and Frances, walking arm in arm around her to go upstairs. Franced stopped for a second and said "Hey, I'll cook dinner tonight. I brought some calamari."
"Super" said Ginny. Margie winked at her and they went on upstairs, Narnia clattering ahead of them. After they were gone, Myra came out of the bedroom and said "You already vacuumed in there."
"I know" said Ginny. "Coward."
Myra put the vacuum away, then said "I need to go for a walk. Outside."
Ginny said "Would you like to stroll down to Broadway and see what's new in my favorite gallery?"
"That would be great" said Myra. "A long walk."
"Let me get on my shoes" said Ginny.
"Hurry" said Myra.
The following day, Myra and Ginny again ate breakfast alone. Myra made gingerbread pancakes with soy as well as regular sausage and left a plate warming in the oven. She and Ginny then sat at one end of the dining table with the box of papers containing their plans for the Rio favela arts school. They needed a final start-up budget and yearly maintenance cost before they could begin fundraising for the money to keep it going year after year. By the time Margie and Frances came downstairs, Allie, Edwina, Chris and Sima had arrived and were eating while discussing school options. Edwina moved over to sit beside Sima so Frances and Margie could have the chairs beside Allie.
At a stopping point in the discussion, Allie turned to Margie and said "You're here until tomorrow midday, right? What else you got on the burner for your time here?"
Margie said "Amy asked if we could have dinner with her and maybe some other friends. I found out Jaime is in town with his current boyfriend, actually bringing him home to meet his mama, and I thought it would be a hoot if they joined us."
Myra thought the expression on Frances's face did not share the "hoot" description of this proposal.
Margie continued "Aside from that, we'll be hanging out here. Or with you, if you have a request."
Ginny slid in smoothly. "Actually, I have a request for an hour or two of your time. There's a stack of packing boxes at the back of the carport. You need to go through your old room and box up what you want to take with you versus what you want to give away to thrift stores. Like, all those clothes you haven't worn since high school. We have room for a handful of boxes in storage, but that's it. I don't know how you're furnishing your new place, but if you want any of the big items in your bedroom, we can ship those to you via a mover."
"Like the map case we had built for you" picked up Myra. "Although if you want to stash your maps themselves here for sakekeeping, I can clear out a drawer or two of my mapcase for them." She said to Ginny "You're right, that mattress is too old to recycle. I'd rather put in a Murphy bed than a futon, but I haven't checked on prices or sizing yet."
Margie gaped at Ginny. "You're clearing out my room?"
"Well, you will hardly be here from now on, you said so yourself. Maybe two or three visits a year, and there's the guest bedroom for you then. And this is a huge house, it's nuts for me and Myra to keep half the rooms shut up without use. We're thinking about offering lodging to a graduate student" said Ginny genially.
"Or becoming Contact Dykes for traveling women to stay here" said Myra. Ginny flicked a glance at her: She didn't like that idea.
Chris was giggling. Margie was mute in disbelief. Myra thought Ginny's version of tough love leaves scabs.
Frances didn't seem to be so fazed. No doubt her old bedroom had been claimed by a younger sibling four years ago. She said "We could look stuff over, get it done this morning, right, Marg?"
Allie, her voice gentle, said "We're planning to be here until lunch, finalizing this school stuff. We could all cook together and hang out this afternoon, if you like."
Margie faced her, no fight left, at least for the moment. "Okay" she said with a tone of pathos.
When she and Frances went back upstairs, dragging cartons behind them, Chris waited until they heard the door shut before she said to Myra "You have no fucking intention of moving someone else in, admit it."
"We're waiting on you and Sima to form a commune with us" said Myra, grinning. Sima snorted.
"What about Gillam's room?" said Edwina.
"Gillam and Carly will visit spend a weekend with us at least every month, if not more often" said Ginny firmly. "Now, I know we're agreed about giving the favela students three meals a day, but what about their family members? It's rough to be the only well-fed person when your family is starving at home." Their meeting resumed.
1 October 2010
Myra and Ginny drove to Olympia in time to light shabbos candles with Carly and Gillam at their apartment. Ginny brought challah and Myra had a brisket, plus there were lots of last-harvest veggies from their garden. The four of them put together dinner. Just as they were sitting down to eat, a knock came at the front door and before one of the boys could rise to answer it, a young white woman with long red hair let herself in.
She stopped in the entry, surprised by the sight of Ginny and Myra. "Oh! I'm sorry, I thought your company was coming later tonight, I didn't mean..." Her voice trailed off.
Gillam went to her and hugged her, then turned to face his mothers and introduced her. "This is Courtney. We're -- dating." Courtney flashed him a happy smile and Ginny kicked Myra under the table. Myra and Ginny shook her hand and insisted she join them, there was plenty. She squeezed in next to Gillam and took only a tiny portion of pot roast but immediately raved about Ginny's salad dressing, scoring points with one mother.
Myra watched Carly closely to read his opinion of Courtney. From what she could see, he liked her and was relaxed around her. It was obvious Gillam's family arrangements were known to her. She was interested in them and laughed often, genuine laughter, not the girl suck-up kind. By dessert, everyone was at ease and the conversation spilled over into the kitchen as they all, including Courtney, made clean-up a swift job.
"Now, if you all have plans, just kick us out" said Myra. "Our motel room and excessive amounts of cable awaits."
Carly said "We've got five, how about some poker?"
Gillam looked at Courtney with raised eyebows, and she said "I'd love to. But for real money, you wimps." She immediately began blushing and turned to Myra, saying "I didn't mean you -- "
"It's fine, we'll see who the wimp is when we total the winnings at the end of the night" grinned Myra.
It was a lovely evening. When Beebo got ready for a nap, he claimed Myra's lap. The competition was cutthroat, and Gillam emerged ahead of the pack by almost two dollars, with sincere congratulations and a sweet kiss offered him by Courtney. She took her leave as soon as the game was over, allowing Gillam his alone time with his mothers. Myra could find nothing wrong with her.
As soon as the door was shut, Ginny said "How long have you been going out?"
"A couple of weeks, is all. But it's...good" said Gillam, suddenly nervous.
"She just lets herself in?" said Myra.
Carly giggled, then said "Everybody does. It's not any kind of sign." Gillam glanced at him gratefully.
"I'm happy for you, honey" said Ginny.
Gillam wasn't looking at Myra. He said "I was going to tell you about her right away, I promise. I asked her to eat dinner with us tomorrow night -- pending your okay, of course."
"Looking forward to it" said Myra, watching Gillam's shoulders relax. They talked a few more minutes, making plans for the next day, before she and Ginny left for the motel.
"All right, let's compare notes" said Myra as she started the engine. "She's urban, I think from California, middle to upper class, and has brothers, I got that much."
"She's Jewish" began Ginny. Myra said "How could you tell?"
"It just showed, Myra, I can't remember what. She's a poli sci major, she colors her hair to get those blonde streaks in it, she's liberal, and she diets a lot but doesn't work out."
"We're awful" said Myra, beginning to laugh. Ginny joined her, saying "Our little boy's worst nightmare."
"I liked her" Myra finally admitted.
"Me too" said Ginny. "But I liked Frances right off the bat, too, and she stole Margie." They laughed again.
They had breakfast early the next morning with Patty and Carly at Patty's new apartment. Gillam had a lab workshop that was keeping him busy until noon. Myra had arranged to pick him up at campus for a private lunch with him, while Ginny spent more time with Patty. They all reconnected at 2:00 to watch the rehearsal of a production of Chicago that Carly was in, playing the tap-dancing lawyer Billy Flynn.
When this ended, close to 6:00, Carly met them in front of the theater with still-red cheeks and wet hair from his quick shower. Myra looped her arm around his neck and said "You look scrumptious in a fedora and pinstripes, you hoofer you."
He giggled in pride and said "Yeah, but we are so stinkin' up the joint, still. The timing is hella hard to get right with those lines."
"The girl playing the prison matron is badly cast" remarked Patty.
"Not enough of a bulldyke, or not sympathetic enough?" asked Myra. "I mean, Queen Latifah's shoes are tough to fill."
"Both" said Patty. They talked about the play as they drove to the restaurant where Courtney had arranged to meet them. At one point, Ginny turned to Gillam and said "Speaking of scrumptious attire, this turtleneck is exactly the color of finest Holland cocoa. Since you're been in charge of your own clothes, your palette of taupes, charcoals, ochres, and the occasional loden does your natural features far more justice than the primary colors we always used to make you wear."
Coming from Ginny, this was extreme praise. Gillam glowed. Ginny continued "What did you two do for lunch?"
"He took me to a chili place that rivals Mike's in Ballard" said Myra, "and he interviewed me for a paper he's writing. I told him about winning the lottery."
"Sorry to have missed it" said Ginny. "The story, I mean, not the chili. Be sure to send me a copy of your paper after you write it, okay?"
They had another congenial meal. Afterward, Patty left for a date with her new enamorata, and Myra split off to ride back to the apartment with Carly. "So we can have a chance for alone time, brief as it is" she said, sliding into his Miata with a little difficulty.
He took her at her word. He immediately confided in her about the problems he was having in a class where the homework was not just onerous but frequently pointless, the instructor was abrasive, and he felt at risk of blowing his GPA. The pressure he placed on himself was intense, and Myra reminded him it was all right to drop the class, he could pick up a different professor next semester or next year. "You'll handle the work if it's fair, we all know that" she said. "And don't worry about the tuition. I'm glad to see you doing fun stuff like the play, that's just as important as cramming in the credits."
They discussed his relief at how much better Patty was doing and the fact that he also liked Courtney. As they pulled up to the complex, Myra said "I have some advice I'd like to get from you. This December will be David's yartzeit, and I'm assuming we'll all want to share it together. Should I propose a holiday trip, would that be easier on you kids and Ginny, or should we stick to home?"
"What kind of trip?" he asked.
"Skiing at Mammoth?" she said, just to make him laugh.
"I thought you were channeling Pat!" he exclaimed. They went in discussing possibilities.
This time, Myra and Ginny said their goodbyes before Courtney, leaving her behind with Gillam. "It's date night" Myra whispered, "let's not suck up all his weekend." They went to bed early because they had the drive to Portland the next morning.
They arrived around noon. Narnia screamed, then pressed against Myra's legs, making cries that sounded disturbingly like moans. "You thought we were gone forever, didn't you, puppy love?" murmured Myra, bending over and kissing Narnia's silky forehead over and over. "Never gonna give you up, no way darlin' doggie."
Lunch was waiting on them, except for two minutees needed to cook the fresh chitarra Frances had shaped, over which she poured a cream sauce thick with roasted garlic, prawns, and broccoli raab. They ate in the kitchen at a small round table that reminded Myra of the one she'd had when she and Ginny first lived together.
The kitchen itself was large and well-outfitted. The bedroom was tiny, made even smaller by Margie's worktable and desk area. A chest of drawers had been crammed into the bathroom, and the living room only had seating for four. But the yard was lush, and the stairs down to it lined with pots of herbs and flowers, which Margie said belonged to the old woman downstairs who owned the property. There was a carport space for the Cerebellum out front, a rarity. Frances didn't own a car, only a motorcycle, and in any event, they both planned to ride buses or bikes to their daily destinations most of the time.
They used the Volvo to drive around Portland on a Margie-narrated tour, her sounding as if she had lived here for years, not a month. That night they went to a music performance by a band which included some of Margie and Frances' new friends, which gave Myra a headache. The conversation afterward was boring in the extreme, consisting of inarticulate fawning on the part of those few young people who knew about Ginny or Myra's celebrity or being ignored by the rest of the crowd who were much more focused on drinking and chasing one another. Ginny used the heavy presence of cigarette smoke to peel Myra away, saying they needed to go back to the hotel and clear out Myra's lungs.
Once alone in the car, Ginny said "I may be kidding myself, but I just don't think we were that shallow at her age."
"Margie's not shallow, nor is Frances" said Myra. "And I always hated parties, which is really all this was. I do agree with you, however, that our get togethers were usually much more purpose-driven."
"Saving the world" said Ginny.
"Plus trying to get into each other's pants" admitted Myra.
On Monday, they met Margie on campus for lunch. She gave them another tour afterward, and once Ginny was spotted in the arts building, professors and students alike began flocking around her. Ginny found this much more to her liking -- the talk could be kept on art, not about her -- and Margie showed a new maturity by keeping herself inserted into the midst of it. Myra found a quiet corner and pulled out her notebook.
For dinner, they met up with Kate Bean and her 12-year-old son Rafe for dinner at a rival restaurant Frances wanted to case. Rafe became restless as soon as he had wolfed down his meatballs, and Margie took him to the sidewalk out front to play hackey-sack while her mothers talked with Kate and Frances stole bites from every dish, borrowing a page of Myra's notebook to crib lists of ingredients.
Tuesday, Myra went on another spree at Powell's while Ginny visited galleries and schmoozed. They reunited to pick up Margie after her last afternoon class and head for Simpatico. Frances gave them a quick show-through the extremely busy kitchen and left them at a table with a set of recommendations about to order. They followed her advice and ate a leisurely, spectacular meal. Frances never had a chance to rejoin them, and after dessert, they walked back to say goodbye to her. Her uniform was damp with sweat. Margie said she'd get home around 2 a.m., because clean-up took so long.
They went back to the apartment so Myra could walk Narnia around the block, a light rain kicking in and leaving droplets on Narnia's thick fur that shown amber in the streetlights. Back in the warm kitchen, Myra rubbed Narnia down with an old towel and sipped at her tea, listening to Ginny and Margie continue to discuss art. Not for the first time, she wished one of her children had turned out to be a writer. Gillam could and did talk books with her all day long, but it wasn't the same as someone actually writing themselves.
On the drive back north the next day, Myra said "We could get another pet, you know."
"You mean besides the geckos?" said Ginny.
Myra didn't really think of the geckos as pets -- certainly not family pets. "I meant like a dog or cat. Something cuddly."
Ginny looked vaguely offended at this characterization of her reptiles. "Maybe an older animal, already beyond the housebreaking and destructo phase. Except, wouldn't that bring up territory issues when Narnia and Beebo come to visit?"
Myra didn't want an older animal, she wanted a baby. She let the topic drop.
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.
FIRST DRAFTS OF THE PARABLES OF JESUS.
by A.J. Packman, found at McSweeney's (more at their website)
At that time a man said unto Jesus, "Jesus! I do not understand the nature of the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them went astray. He left the 99 and looked for the one until he found it. When it was found, he said to the sheep, 'That you went astray is a clear sign that you misunderstand my instructions. You are nothing to me.' And then the shepherd turned the lost sheep into a pillar of salt, because the shepherd is God in this parable, and that's the sort of thing He does when people fail to understand His Word."
"Wait, what?" said the man,
And the man became a pillar of salt.
Jan Clausen called lesbian-feminism of my era "a movement of poets", and she was assuredly right. Here's a partial list of who I and my friends were reading, talking about, quoting, going to see perform, and being shaped by:
Paula Gunn Allen
Ellen Marie Bissert
Rita Mae Brown
Of this list of twenty-eight women poets, I've been lucky enough to hear fourteen read their work, as often as I could. Most are lesbian; few were academics in a traditional sense, eleven are women of color, all were breaking barriers and creating new voice. When our movement is accused of being white and middle class, they are ignoring the poets and the street activists, the heart of who we were.
I have printed here some of the hard-to-find work of several of these sisters already. I intend to keep doing so. I have shelves and shelves of poetry in my cave here. Tonight I'm sharing one poem each from five of them (after the fold), lines that cover the breadth of America and link us to people of the world. When you go to used bookstores, carry a list of these names and buy their volumes if you can find them.
(Herstorical poster available from the Chicago Women's Liberation Union Herstory Project)
i find a sadness the same
as 5 years ago
& again i play the records you bought me
treading them like paths worn thru a forest
Rachmaninoff's Etudes Chopin's Preludes
Brahms' B-Flat Piano Concerto
& breathe the skin
that held me
only to be pushed
away yet again
& again to approach that music
persistent as cycles of blood & breathing
needing silence to be heard
needing you to listen
we traveled to hear the birds
as in a wish
we walked & walked
to hear a bird sing with Brahms' cello
by Ellen Marie Bissert
(© 1972, published in Integrity Gay Episcopal Forum, April 1976; author of The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Dyke and editor of 13th Moon)
BEING A DYKE IN YOUR 40'S IN THE 90'S
Whatever you say
has already been said,
Probably by your friends.
Probably by Macmillan.
Probably by you.
Listen to younger women friends
argue they’re not feminists.
Probably because of you
and your friends.
Try to go straight,
love a man.
Realize how selfish and antisocial
you are because you can’t.
Watch your men friends die
because they could.
Try to raise a family with another woman,
live in society with a child created
by a turkey baster.
Try to eat pussy
through a two-foot-thick dental dam.
Cut out the picture of Cindy Crawford
shaving k.d. lang
in a barber’s chair
on the cover of Vanity Fair and
hang it on your fridge with
a Marilyn Monroe magnet.
by Chocolate Waters
YELLOW WOMAN SPEAK
Shadow become real; follower become leader;
mouse turned sorcerer —
In a red sky, a darker beast lies waiting,
her teeth, once hidden, now unsheathed swords.
Yellow woman, a revolutionary, speaks:
“They have mutilated our genitals, but I will restore them;
I will render our shames and praise them,
Our beauties, our mothers:
Those young Chinese whores on display in barracoons;
the domestics in soiled aprons;
the miners, loggers, railroad workers
holed up in Truckee in winters.
I will create armies of their descendants.
And I will expose the lies and ridicule
the impotence of those who have called us
in order to abuse and exploit us.
And I will destroy them.”
Abrasive teacher, incisive comedienne,
Painted Lady, dark domestic —
Sweep minds’ attics; burnish our senses;
keep house, make love, wreak vengeance.
by Merle Woo
(1941 - living; pioneering Korean-Chinese American lesbian spokesperson, educator, and courageous activist, a popular, respected writer and university lecturer in Asian American, Women, and Lesbian/Gay Studies. An outspoken lesbian, mother, and leader in Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party)
FOR THE STRAIGHT FOLKS WHO DON'T MIND GAYS BUT WISH THEY WEREN'T SO BLATANT
You know, some people got a lot of nerve.
Sometimes I don't believe the things I see and hear.
Have you met the woman who's shocked by two women kissing
and in the same breath, tells you she is pregnant?
BUT gays, shouldn't be so blatant.
Or this straight couple sits next to you in a movie and
you can't hear the dialogue because of the sound effects.
BUT gays shouldn't be so blatant.
And the woman in your office spends an entire lunch hour
talking about her new bikini drawers and how much
her husband likes them.
BUT gays shouldn't be so blatant.
Or the "hip" chick in your class rattling like a mile a minute
while you're trying to get stoned in the john, about the
camping trip she took with her musician boyfriend.
BUT gays shouldn't be so blatant.
You go in a public bathroom and all over the walls there's John loves
Mary, Janice digs Richard, Pepe loves Delores, etc., etc.
BUT gays shouldn't be so blatant.
Or your go to an amusement park and there's a tunnel of love
and pictures of straights painted on the front and grinning
couples are coming in and out.
BUT gays shouldn't be so blatant.
Fact is, blatant heterosexuals are all over the place.
Supermarkets, movies, on your job, in church, in books, on television every day
day and night, every place-even- in gay bars and they want gay
men and woman to go and hide in the closet.
So to you straight folks I say, "Sure, I'll go if you go too"
BUT I'm polite so, after you.
by Pat Parker
(1944 - 1989; black lesbian-feminist poet, grew up in Houston, Texas; was involved in the Black Panther Movement, founded the Black Women's Revolutionary Council in 1980, and contributed to the formation of the Women's Press Collective. The above poem read aloud by her was included on the Olivia Records album Lesbian Concentrate.)
UNDER OUR OWN WINGS
Do not despair, my sister, of a brother’s process.
Laughter connects to self-examination.
Laughter can be an opium poppy spreading
its poison first among ourselves. Our selves
our whole selves fragments chopped liver
in a goldfish bowl.
To remain private with change is to self-destruct.
To go public with change is to begin
to challenge the forces of white supremacy.
Yet good fortune the good fortune of battles is not
simply opening red envelopes containing coins or paper
To believe that change comes about is to keep working.
As someone said, dear sister, as someone said
you are always working, working
hammering away at lies myths distortions
water hyacinths clogging
the canals of Asian America.
Yet we are not property
to be sold disposed auctioned.
What is antique what is held valuable
is not necessarily unbreakable. A sea of faces stare
at our invisibility our supposed assimilation. A man believes
simply that to err is to be human
and we sit and stare among whites yellows
a few friends.
Ears and tongues perceive
the images of history swallowed in antiseptic schoolrooms
on the battles of Vietnam
in the bedrooms porno movie theaters magazines TV screens
Any wonder, dear sister, any wonder
that sisters and brothers must exorcise through ritual form
poems songs stories essays plays
at its own pace
the malaise of white America
To create our own histories culture
restore our bodies to red health
to battle with every warrior beneath our pores.
Though we try because we must
Though we try because we want
to control our own destinies we are mirrored
in the windows of clouds
in the shattered glass
of our race and our sex.
How can we separate our race from our sex our sex from our race?
And we hear again and again we must struggle against racism
at the exclusion of sexism.
And we hear again and again we must struggle against sexism
at the exclusion of racism.
These tactics. These words I must use, this language, this
tiresome but necessary chant. We in the midst of struggle
would love to ski downhill and breathe nothing but fresh air.
And I must ask: how can we stand in isolation how can we blow
away the blasts of destruction bombarding us from every direction
because we are
women because we are
colored because we are
The sagas of long steam ladies.
The sagas of long steam men,
the talkers the orators the dancers
they are here before us we are here among them
brimming with language music air.
We birth ourselves, our privacies exposed
proud, seemingly free and yet devils nag
poke at our very bones
to steal the art that is our lives
the music that is our source
the spring that is our imagination.
To truly create is to struggle.
To truly struggle is to present
our selves our process of living learning
and unlearning the garbage of self-contempt of self-defeat
heaped at our own doorsteps. Sometimes we rein in
the blinders sometimes we see no farther
than our own skins sometimes we prick
ourselves savor the cactus of our own pains.
No despair no struggle no joy is personal.
If you begin I begin.
If you sing I sing.
And our tales are endless our tales begin
as the heads of dragons soaring
from the depths of our bodies.
To imagine and not only dwell within that imagination.
To live in our own skin and not only peel our own layers.
To join hands does not mean we always touch.
In art we open ourselves.
In art we gift ourselves our human joys our struggles.
Nothing falls into our laps, not flower petals in the spring
not even these letters that type words language experience
The silences break
the silences swell
the silences weep
and the skies once mute about our lives
thunder at our insolence our daring our strong yellow legs.
Let us thunder and become the wind.
Let our voices howl and let our voices sing.
Let Gold Mountain move and never stop.
In death our bodies regress to the innocence of bones.
In love we work to live in America under our own wings.
by Nellie Wong
(b. 1934 - living; revolutionary socialist feminist poet and activist, the child of Chinese immigrants; co-founded the Asian American feminist literary and performance group Unbound Feet, among many other creative efforts)
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
In light of the offensive "magic wand" speech today by Dubya (stands for Wastrel), here's an online tool for you to track precisely how Big Oil buys our politicians. Oil Change International has a stated purpose of separating oil and state, and they/we are making progress. They note that "in the 2006 election:
• ALL of the incumbents who took no oil money won. Each and every one of the Congressional incumbents of either party that refrained from accepting campaign contributions from Big Oil in 2006 was successfully re-elected to office.
• Big Oil’s biggest friends lost. Four of the top five Congressional recipients of campaign contributions from Big Oil during the 2006 election cycle lost to cleaner candidates in close Senate races.
• The 110th Congress is the least beholden to the oil industry in a generation. Roughly one quarter of Congress is completely free of oil industry campaign donations, and the majority takes less than $5,000 in each election cycle."
In addition to education and calls for action, they have a marvelous tool for tracking oil money contributions, Follow the Oil Money. You can search by zip code, U.S. Congress, and Presidential Race, and you can see the results in a Relationship View (similar to a cloud format), Politician View, or Company View.
My search for the U.S. Presidential Race today, rendered in Politician View, turned up the following:
GIULIANI, RUDOLPH W. $659,158
ROMNEY, MITT $442,063
MCCAIN, JOHN S $291,685
CLINTON, HILLARY RODHAM $289,950
RICHARDSON, BILL $206,125
OBAMA, BARACK $163,840
THOMPSON, FRED DALTON $161,654
PAUL, RON $92,742
HUCKABEE, MIKE $76,739
BROWNBACK, SAMUEL DALE $43,665
EDWARDS, JOHN $36,350
DODD, CHRISTOPHER J $33,350
THOMPSON, TOMMY G $18,400
BIDEN, JOSEPH R JR $6,600
VILSACK, THOMAS J $2,300
Please note: The genuinely progressive Democrats received far less oil money than the current front-runners.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
(Street art from University City, Missouri -- click on image to enlarge)
RETURN OF THE FREEWAY BLOGGER
Joshua Allen Harris is a New York City artist who creates deflated plastic sculptures which he then attaches to the grates over subway lines. When the subway passes underneath, the object inflate and come to dazzling life. Here's four of his ephemeral confections (brought to my attention by the Wooster Collective)
Subway Sea Monster
Gang of Monsters
(Coastal Burger with chickpea fries and coriander aioli, Coastal Kitchen, Capitol Hill, Seattle)
All right, fans, here's another segment of my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. This occurs after my last post two days ago. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.
July and August 2010
Gillam stuck around in the Netherlands for a few days after Margie and Frances left. He and Myra took a train to Delft and toured the factory. Myra let Gillam pick out dishes as gifts for everyone they knew, plus a set for their own home, to be shipped back. They made a second trip to the FOAM photography museum in Amsterdam, and imitated Margie and Frances' trek by bike to a tulip farm, where again boxes of bulbs were addressed for home.
They kept the bikes and made their way through the redeveloped Docklands so Gillam could photograph all the new architecture. Myra wrote three poems that day, and they talked of creating a book with his photos, her poetry, perhaps a limited edition for friends.
The night Ginny finished her first canvas, Myra wanted to stay in and order room service. Gillam opted to go out, a little evasive in his answers about what he might do. After he left, Myra realized he probably wanted to have a look at the Red Light District. It didn't bother her at all. She was closer to him than she had felt since he was a toddler. She kept the connecting door to his room open until he got back, which was only an hour and a half later: Long enough to grab a bite from a foodstall and stroll down a block or two, but nothing else. Which is what she expected of him.
Ginny slept 14 hours, ate a huge breakfast, and pulled out stretchers for a second canvas. Myra and Gillam looked at each other and consulted the the Moleskine guide. That day, they rode their bikes to a stretch of windmills, with another extended outdoor and indoor photography session. They tried to figure out a way to take a canalboat tour between towns that wouldn't leave Ginny alone too long, but had to give up. Instead, they went out to eat at a traditional Dutch restaurant and Gillam talked for hours about his short practicums as a teacher, how much he loved the classroom and children, his theories of brain development. Watching his passionate face made Myra ache for not having known Ginny at that time of her life.
The next morning, they got up at dawn and put their bikes on trams to reach Zuid-Kennemerland National Park. The day that followed became one of Myra's best memories of her life. The limey dunes smelled extraordinarily good to her. Gillam's photos of sea holly, viper's buglos, grass-of-parnassus, hollowroot and a variety of orchids were exquisite and required they buy a Netherlands plant guide to identify them later. Myra saw bats and a natterjack toad. They found a roadside stand which sold ripe tomatoes, farm cheeses and butter, and dark breads, and they ate at will all day.
On the tram back, they concluded they would simply have to move to Holland, buy a houseboat, and live here for the rest of their lives. Gillam said "I suppose we should see it when winter sets in, first."
"Pish-tosh" said Myra. "It'll be even better then, with skaters on the canals and all those fucking tourists cleared out." They laughed uproariously.
Gillam's flight back was the next day at noon. He insisted that Myra not ride with him in his cab to the airport. "It's hard enough to say goodbye" he said, "Let me do it to both of you at once." He promised to come to Seattle as soon as they got back, and bring Carly with him. Myra cried inconsolably once he was gone. "He's so grown up" she said, "and he may not ever spend the summer with us again! God knows Margie won't."
That afternoon and evening were rough. Ginny vortexed back into Painterland and Myra felt adrift. She went to the restaurant across the street but found she could not bear to sit there alone, even with her notebook. She changed her order to take-out and return to the hotel room to eat, feeding every other bite to Ginny.
She watched television for a while, but it couldn't hold her interest. Finally she pulled out the novel segments she had created in Paris and read through them, making corrections and notes. An hour later, she was hooked. She worked until near dawn, when her aching back brought her back to the present. She pulled Ginny into bed and they slept until the maid woke them up.
When Ginny finished her second canvas a day later, Myra said "Don't start a third. I'm sorry to interrupt your flow, but it's in there, it'll hold. Let's get back home to resume." While Ginny slept, Myra bought a wet carrier, packed their bags, and updated their reservations. She sent e-mails to everyone they knew, and within minutes got a reply from Chris saying she'd pick them up.
They landed in Seattle on the first of August. Their friends came over for Sunday dinner, and after the meal, the stack of crates and packages in Myra's study were slowly opened by them all, distributing items and telling stories. Allie's book tour was over, Chris was not traveling for the council any time soon, and Myra planned to simply see her friends, cook from their garden, and let Ginny paint until her birthday.
Gillam, Carly and Beebo arrived two days later. Gillam said "You sure hotfooted it back to the States, what happened?"
Myra said "Amsterdam without you was Amster-DAMN." He laughed at the feeble joke, mostly because of the sentiment behind it. Ginny was deep into another painting, and that afternoon Myra sat on the deck with the two boys, talking or listening to them in utter peace.
After one pause, Carly said "Those two she did in Holland -- they're way different from the Brazil ones."
"I know" said Gillam. "She's channeling Van Gogh, except of course it looks like her hand on the brush, really, not his."
"Another big show this winter or spring" speculated Carly. "She should try for New York, or Boston."
"Or Toronto. That would give her an international resume" said Gillam. He turned to Myra, "So, your birthday tomorrow, what do you want for your dinner? Let us make it, or go out?"
"You make it, for sure, after the success of last year" said Myra. She was suddenly blindsided with missing David, and she could see it on Gillam's face, too. She needed to not let it go unspoken. She said "For someone who had actually been in France, his accent was unbelievably bad, wasn't it?"
Gillam laughed, with tears standing in his eyes. "About like yours, Mom."
They decided to make huge salads for dinner that evening, because the produce was growing faster than they could eat it. As they were about to sit down, the front door opened and Narnia skidded in, yodeling a hello. Margie and Frances were in her wake.
"You're early!" said Myra happily. "Come join us, there's plenty."
Margie's voice drew Ginny away from her easel. She washed, put on a shirt, and joined them.
There was a plate of cheeses from France and Holland, plus the last of Myra's bread. Ginny's Paul Robeson black tomatoes drew raves, especially from Frances. Myra had sliced zucchinis lengthwise with the mandolin into paper-thin slices, dressed these lightly with cracked pepper and Ginny's mustard vinaigrette, and curled them into spirals, which everybody popped into their mouths with gusto. For afters, Myra had chilled honeydews and Frances pulled out a carton of pecan bars.
As they began dessert, Margie scooted her chair even closer to Frances' and said "Well...we have news. Frances got a job!"
After a chorus of congratulations and questions, Frances said "It's the one I wanted most, at a place that will be very prestigious on my resume, especially right out of school. I'm assistant to the saucier, and if I can deliver, one night a week when he's off I'll fill in."
"What kind of cuisine, Italian like you wanted?" asked Myra.
"Yes, though not regional and not heavy on seafood" said Frances. "I figure I can work there a year, leverage either a promotion to sous chef there or go elsewhere with a more challenging menu, keep taking business courses when I can, and in four years or less, I'll be ready to start my own place."
"What's the name of this restaurant?" asked Gillam.
"Simpatico" said Frances, not meeting Gillam's eyes. Margie looked evasive as well, and it was Ginny who asked "Where is it?"
Margie looked up then, defiant. "Portland."
"Oregon?" said Myra, dismayed. They were too young to be juggling a long-distance relationship. But Ginny's face was severe, distracting her. Margie was meeting Ginny's eyes as she said "The other piece of amazing news is that I applied to Reed College and I got accepted. Not just accepted, but with a full scholarship."
"Reed?" echoed Myra stupidly. "Isn't that where Edwina taught?"
"You're moving to Portland?" said Ginny in a flat tone.
"Yes. We gave notice at our apartment, we have to be out of there by the 15th" said Margie. "We have the next week or so to find a place in Portland and pack our stuff, but after that's done, we could visit here again a few days before school starts."
Myra wanted to spit out the bite of melon in her mouth, she didn't think she could finish chewing it. Into the ghastly silence, Ginny said "Why would they give you a scholarship? What happened to your education fund?"
"An academic scholarship" answered Margie acerbically. "And I'm changing my major, to art restoration -- there's a joint program Reed has with another arts campus there, it's extremely cutting edge -- so I'll have to make up some hours. Plus if I want a Master's, which I'll need to get work in that field, I'll be going two more years after that. I want to save as much as I can toward opening Frances' restaurant, when we're ready for that step. If we wind up launching it in New York or L.A., it'll be extremely capital-intensive. Worse if we go abroad, depends on where I land work."
Suddenly the jaunt to Rome looked like betrayal to Myra. "How long have you known about this?"
"Well, obviously, we had to apply all over the place this spring. But we only got the acceptance letters two days ago. I wanted to tell you in person, and we decided to do it before your birthday" said Margie, bluster now showing through. Carly was watching Margie in disbelief. Gillam had his cheeks resting in his palms, staring down at the table. Myra didn't look at Ginny, not right now.
Happy birthday to me. She only just managed to not say it out loud. Ginny stood up and carried her plate into the kitchen. She walked wordlessly back to her studio.
"Here we go" muttered Margie.
"Don't" said Gillam, looking up. "Just don't."
Myra found something to say. "Congrats on the scholarship..." Her voice sounded weak to her own ears, and she couldn't think of what to add.
"Listen, we're going to drop in on Allie and Edwina, give them a chance to meet Frances and also get some advice from Edwina about Portland neighborhoods" said Margie, standing. "That'll help clear the air here, I imagine. Okay if Narnia stays with you?"
"Of course" said Myra, looking around at Narnia who was also standing expectantly, trying to translate the crosscurrents of human tension. "C'mere, puppy, you can visit with me for a while."
They wasted no time getting out the front door after Frances put their plates in the kitchen and Margie glanced back to the studio but did not call out goodbye to Ginny.
Once they heard the Cerebellum's engine start, Gillam burst out "This fucking sucks. Not a goddamned word to any of us until it's all finalized. You know, I live in the same town as she does, Carly and I both do, maybe we deserve some kind of heads up? Ya think?"
"I wish I could be there to see what Allie says to her" remarked Carly with satisfaction. "She'll make it clear what a jerk she's being."
Myra said "I'm not sure if she's being a jerk. Thoughtless, yes. Ambitious. Cocooned in new love. But she's found a career, they both have..." She ran out of words again, and focused on petting Narnia, who was still bewildered.
Gillam stood and began clearing the rest of the table. "No, Mom, let us get this. You just -- I don't know, do you need to talk with Mama?"
"She's gone back to painting. Which is as good as anything, right now" said Myra.
"Can you write, then?" he asked, running water in the sink.
She laughed bitterly. "Not likely. Maybe I'll...read my e-mail, I bet birthday messages are coming in."
"I need a hard swim after this, you could join me" Gillam said.
"Maybe I will. Thanks, honey." She stood and went to her desk, where Beebo was asleep on his shelf. Narnia curled on the rug beside Myra's chair. Myra thought Me and the pets, we're the only ones who crave stability, I guess.
As if reading her mind, Ginny appeared around the corner, brush in hand, and came to give Myra a long, linseedy-kiss. She looked down into Myra's eyes and said "We've reached one jeep goal. She's 21, she's all right, we have to find another set of instructions. And from the looks of it, Gillam will do even better."
"I'm not counting on anything any more" said Myra.
"Except me. You can count on me. Listen, I'm going to finish this one tonight, no matter what. So I can be with you completely on your birthday. You getting born was the best day in the history of the universe, as far as I'm concerned" said Ginny.
Myra leaned against her. "So, is she being an asshole, or just Margie?"
"The two are not mutually exclusive" said Ginny. "But I'm in no position to tell. I wanted to slap her and Frances both. Mostly for the timing of it all."
Myra could imagine Ginny standing and swinging her arm, smack, smack, across the two oblivious faces at the table. She began giggling. "Listen, Gin, I know it's my B-day tomorrow but we're out of bread and I think I'll bake in the morning, get the boys to do it with me which will make it way fun. You got any requests?"
"Pumpernickel would be lovely. I know you don't like it, but I never get enough" said Ginny.
"Margie likes it, too, I could make extra for her to take with" said Myra.
"Why? She's got Frances to feed her now" said Ginny, her face stony. "When you get sleepy, come lie down on my daybed. I'll get you up when I'm done and we'll go to our bed together, all right?"
"Deal" said Myra. As Ginny returned to her easel, Myra noticed the complete silence from the kitchen. Another earful for Gillam. Sure enough, two minutes later he and Carly appeared, heading for the pool, bland expressions on their faces. Myra said "I'll take it that you're on for the baking."
Gillam turned a little pink, but grinned and said "As long as you leave while it's rising so we can make your cake on our own." They went into the beautiful summer night, stripped to boxers, and dove in.
Myra rummaged around the storage room until she found Narnia's old bed. She pushed it into the cave of her desk keyhole and Narnia circled, then settled down with a triumphant sigh. As Myra pulled out her stack of pages from the summer, she wriggled her toes into the fur of Narnia's belly. She discovered she had enough peace to write, after all.
She registered Margie and Frances coming home, but ignored Margie's appearance at the doorway and Margie left for upstairs without comment. Narnia opted to stay with Myra. Gillam and Carly interrupted her later to say goodnight, and she kissed them distractedly. At midnight her bladder interrupted again, and she put the folder away, turned off all the lights except for Ginny's easel spots, and padded to the daybed.
"Come on, Narnia, I'll let you get up beside me." As they dropped off together, Myra considered the irony that Ginny believed Margie had chosen a Myra-like person as a partner, someone who would nurture her so Margie didn't have to actually learn how to cook more than salads, after all. Myra saw Frances, instead, as a Ginny-like figure, someone whose career would keep her distracted and busy for long stretches of time, with a schedule Margie would have to fit herself into if she wanted to connect with Frances.
Ginny was already humming tunelessly. A couple of hours later, she coaxed Myra to bed, unthinkingly shutting the door in Narnia's face. Margie's bedroom door was closed as well, so Narnia returned to her desk bed. After a while, Beebo joined her.
Ginny woke Myra up at 8:00, singing "Happy birthday" softly and apologizing for not enough sleep. "But those boys are already in the kitchen, and I wanted you to have the option of talking or making out before we have to get up" said Ginny.
Myra grinned. "We can talk later -- maybe with our friends. I choose making out."
At breakfast, Ginny made Myra open her present from her before eating. It was a case of Guarana, obtained from some importer in Seattle. One bottle had been pulled out and was chilled in the back of the fridge. Myra handed two more to Gillam and Carly, saying "Let's share this vice." Margie and Frances turned down the offer. They both looked chastened beneath their earnest attempts at birthday good cheer.
After breakfast, Margie began vacuuming and mopping without being asked. Ginny was saving her canvas for a viewing when everyone else arrived before dinner. Myra and the boys started sponges. Gillam left the house with a shopping list while Carly shooed Myra from the kitchen and started on her cake. She settled on her daybed with her folder of writing and Ginny sat next to her.
"I'm going to let you read this, if you want" said Myra.
Ginny was thrilled. "You're to that stage already?" she marveled.
"Yes and no. It's definitely only a first draft, practically speaking. But this one came out different. It's lean and vivid from the outset, something I've not done. I'm thinking about turning it over to my editor as is. You get to give me your opinion."
They sat in the sunshine, getting warmer from body heat, as Ginny entered new lands. Beebo knocked over Myra's pot of pens and chased them around the desktop for a while, without Myra fussing at him. Eventually, despite the Guarana in her system and the excitement of her book being read, Myra nodded off. Ginny pulled her onto her shoulder and continued.
After 20 minutes, Myra was awakened by raucous laughter from the kitchen. She sat upright and said "Can I come in there?"
"No!" answered a chorus of voices. Frances appeared in the doorway, smiling, and said "I have to ask you both a question, though. I picked up a wonderful recipe for fettucini with chicken livers in Rome, would you like that as part of tonight's menu?"
Ginny's face lit up. Myra pointed to her and said "She would. Gillam and Carly know my carnivorous preferences. Not to put your cooking down, Frances, jeez, I didn't mean that -- I'm hankering to taste your recipes."
"Hang on a minute, then" said Frances. She disappeared and Myra could hear whispering from the kitchen, along with cupboard doors opening and closing. After a minute, Frances and Margie returned, and Frances said "You can come in here, after all, because we need to give you our present early."
Ginny said "I know about this one, can I keep reading?"
"Of course" said Myra, sliding from the daybed. On the kitchen counter was a large box wrapped in Margie-decorated paper. Inside was a gleaming pasta maker from Italy.
"I've always wanted one of these!" exclaimed Myra.
"And along with it, I'm going to teach you how to make dough. Fettucine for tonight, but all the other styles you like as well" said Frances proudly.
"I'm to be sous chef" added Margie. She handed Myra an apron and said "You don't get to open the reefer or prowl through cabinets; you need anything, tell me and I'll get it."
For the next two hours, Frances indoctrinated Myra into the secrets of a new approach to dough. They argued gently over flours, and Myra had to give in because she didn't actually know how to use whole wheat with durum. Eventually racks of drying fettucine (spinach, garlic and plain), plus angel hair and some very lopsided farfelli occupied all the spare counter space. The bread begun earlier had to cool on racks atop the sideboard. Myra's face and hair were daubed with flour, Narnia was underfoot licking up whatever she could from the floor, and everybody was laughed out.
Ginny walked in, carrying Myra's folder under her arm. "You finished?" said Myra.
"Oh, my brilliant brilliant girl, you've outdone yourself!" cried Ginny.
"Hang on" said Gillam. "I want to hear every word of this, but we need to figure out what to do for lunch."
Looking around the kitchen, Myra said "Take-out. From the Coastal Kitchen. Except if I'm about to order something that resembles tonight's menu, steer me in another direction, okay?"
"You are such a sneaky cheater" said Ginny, pulling a menu from the drawer.
"For sure the chickpea fries with coriander aioli" began Myra. "Also the rasta roll-ups with Jamaican aioli."
"Never met a mayonnaise she didn't like" muttered Margie.
"The steamed clams and the scallop crepes" said Ginny.
"Uh -- how about the coconut rockfish with yam mashers instead of the scallops?" said Margie. Myra began giggling, and Gillam goosed her.
"Should I go for my favorite burger?" asked Myra. "Sure" said Carly, "I'll join you. With bacon for me."
"Get a variety of salads, we can share" said Margie. Once the order was phoned in, they sat down at the table with iced tea, Myra still flour-festooned, and Ginny began reviewing Myra's book, Myra close beside her so Ginny could point to passages on particular pages. After twenty minutes, Frances and Margie left, with Narnia, to go pick up their meal.
Ginny concluded with "So, yes, you are quite right, this can go to your editor pronto. Do you have any idea why this one was produced without as much need for rewrite?"
"Maybe the lack of responsibility because we were on vacation?" ventured Myra. "Or maybe it's the subject matter, not completely new to me. Or -- I've simply matured as a writer."
"Then can I read it, too?" asked Gillam. Carly's face was eager as well.
"Yeah. Bedtime reading" said Myra, touched.
"What will you do with your writing time now?" asked Ginny.
"Well, the proceeds for this go to setting up the favela arts school in Rio, and I want to begin planning that, with all of us in on it who want to be" said Myra. "But, I also have had ideas for a couple of Skene stories -- not another book, only stories to flesh out some incidents and personalities in past volumes."
"Those will get snapped up by periodicals instantly, and give your hard-core fans the vapors" said Ginny.
"Believe it or not, while we were on that long train jag, I also had an inkling for another Mirage and Djinni story" said Myra. "Since Allie's got clout now, and they're talking about reissuing some of her kids books anyhow, I bet she could insist the new editions have Mirage and Djinni both be women, instead of having to cave for heterosexual-ish characters like we did to get them published the first time."
"I still say we should never have agreed to that" said Ginny, old anger surfacing.
"They needed to get out there. Girls like I was would read between the lines, and it was critical to Allie's career" said Myra, repeating her familiar side of the argument. They were prevented from continuing by Margie and Frances's return with bags whose aroma was making Narnia trip the light fantastic.
After lunch, everyone got in the pool to play water volleyball. This was where Allie and Edwina found them. Myra and Ginny got out to sit on the deck with their friends. Myra had another Guarana: It was her birthday.
When Chris and Sima arrived half an hour later, Margie and Frances got out of the pool so Margie could introduce Frances to the last of her aunties. Frances began to look overwhelmed. After some catch-up conversation, Chris turned to Frances and said "So, is separating Margie from her family your idea or hers?" Chris was grinning but Frances instinctively knew not to mistake that grin for humor.
Margie gave an evil glance at Allie -- gossiping was going on -- and jumped in to say "It was both of us making the decision."
"But you do the talking for her?" said Chris, turning on Margie. Myra was having trouble not laughing; she had not expected her friends to gang up on Margie, this was a novelty.
"I can talk for myself" said Frances bravely. Chris leaned back and folded her arms. Sima, looking friendlier, asked Frances what made Simpatico such a prestige job and what a chef's career needed to include.
Gillam had been churning out laps, but when Carly caught wind of the conversation on the deck and got out to listen, Gillam did too. Margie was still jumping in whenever Frances paused to think, which was beginning to irritate Frances, Myra could tell.
Sima finally revealed her own bias when she said "So, what you're basically saying is, you'll have to go where the work is best available, you'll have little to no time off and certainly not weekends, and Margie's life, including her family life, will have to accommodate your schedule."
"That's the way it works" said Frances. "I mean, it affects my family life just as much -- "
Edwina stepped in. "But your family life was already curtailed by you living two states away from them. And you being a lesbian, which often separates us from our families. And you are a year ahead of Margie. You're not coming at this from absolutely level terrain."
Margie blew. "What the fuck are you insinuating, that I've been seduced by some bulldyke who just wants to make me her wifey? Why don't you take a look at my mothers, if you want to see people being led around by the nose?"
Myra got her foot onto Ginny's before Ginny could say a word. Let the aunties handle this, her face begged.
"You think Myra didn't get grilled by us when she took up with Ginny?" said Chris. "You think Ginny's family didn't wonder if Myra was a dirty-nailed goyishe golddigger before they found out about the lottery, and even after that?"
"And the thing is, Myra didn't hide her involvement from us, she came to us right away and said 'I'm in love, I want you to include this woman in our lives'" said Sima. "She treated us like we are all in this together, not jerks who had to be handled. Of course, she was a lot older and more mature."
Myra thought Margie's head might explode. Gillam's face was expressionless but Myra could guess at the alleluias rocketing around inside his chest. He'd probably dreamed of this moment all his second-child life.
Allie leaned forward, and Margie's outburst stopped in her throat. Allie's voice was gentle as she said "As soon as you mammas found out about Frances, they invited her to come be with you all, as family. It isn't just that they paid for everything: They opened they heart. And for a month, you didn't tell them you was planning to move away, to change schools, to change the entire direction of you life. Why would you treat them like they didn't deserve to know you future?" She looked right at Frances and said "We don't operate that way. If you was misled, I'll understand it once. But we showing you now, this how we do things."
Holy fuck, it was a staged intervention. Myra thought it was the best birthday present ever.
Ginny had held back as long as she could. She managed to keep her voice soft as she quoted "'The liar may say, I didn't want to cause pain. What she really did not want is to have to deal with the other's pain. The lie is a short-cut through another's personality.'"
Margie burst into tears. Myra could tell instantly it was the weeping of catharsis, not temper. She reached her hand out and put it on Margie's knee. Frances's arms went around Margie's shoulders, and Edwina patted Frances' other shoulder.
"Oh god" Margie blubbered, "I didn't mean it that way. I just -- we need to find our own space, and she's not pushing me to do anything I don't want with all my heart, she's not, how could you think I'd let myself get taken over like that? I'm the one who said we had to keep it under wraps until we knew for sure, Frances didn't want to but I made her promise. So don't blame her, it was my doing."
Nobody looked surprised. Ginny said "I understand you needing to force a break, Margie, I absolutely do. I had to do it myself, we all did. And you two have a right to create your own ethics, your own community and culture. But I don't believe you really feel the need to distance us emotionally, not completely. You'll need support to launch all these changes, anyone would, and you of all people can find a way to ask us for that without letting us get our sticky fingers where you don't want them. Why did you choose this method?"
Chris was still staring at Frances as if she thought she had the problem identified.
Margie wailed "I've never been in love like this! It's -- I don't always know where the ground is under my feet. It's terrifying, Mama. please tell me you know what I mean."
"Oh, sweetheart, I do, I absolutely do. You just have to trust your heart, trust your choices, and trust your family. Oh, my baby" said Ginny. Margie plopped herself into Ginny's lap and wrapped her other arm around Myra, saying "And I totally fucked up your birthday, but I thought waiting until the day after would be even worse!"
"It's not fucked up any more" said Myra. Allie scooted into the spot Margie had left and put her arm around Frances, who looked like she didn't know what to do with herself. Myra heard Ginny whisper into Margie's ear "She's not Jaime, she's a grown-up choosing another grown-up, you really do get to have each other."
Gillam, to his credit, did not look disappointed by this turn of events. Margie cried herself clear, Frances offered another apology, and the four young people went inside to dress and start dinner. Myra and Ginny were told to remain on the deck or in the back part of the house. Gillam brought out a pitcher of lemonade, and Chris pulled him aside to ask, not quite privately, "Tell me once and I'll believe you: Is she after Margie's money to start up her restaurant?"
"No" said Gillam firmly. "She'd find a way to do it without Margie."
Myra saw Chris's shoulders relax. "All right, then." Myra realized in that instant that Chris had probably been worried that Ginny, too, had been a treasure-seeker two decades ago. She probably sought reassurance from Sima and Allie. What a silly idea.
Dinner was giddy and delectable. Afterward, Ginny showed her new canvas. It was mostly a close-up of the Western Wall, a dazzling blend of warm colors with shades of white to grey in the drying, almost fluttering scraps of paper stuffed into every crevice. But on the far right was Margie's profile and torso, part of it, with the ultramarine stripes in her tallit contrasting the melting Alice blue of her headscarf and the near indigo of Margie's tear-filled eyes.
Myra was struck dumb. Allie said "It's how Van Gogh might've painted you, Margie Rose" and that was a good approximation. Except it was much more precise than Van Gogh, and held the light of another continent.
They went back to the deck for a chocolate cake made with baking squares from Puccini's and to look through the album of Gillam's enlarged photos from the trip, sharing stories as they turned each page. When the phone on Myra's desk rang, she walked to answer it and accepted birthday greetings from Patty. Patty then asked to talk with Carly, and Myra waved him in, taking the chance to use the bathroom. Returning to the study, Carly was hanging up and Gillam was with him.
"She okay?" asked Myra.
"Yeah. She's -- got an offer on the house. She thinks the sale will go through" said Carly.
"I didn't know she was selling your house" said Myra. "Where will she live?"
"An apartment near Evergreen" said Carly. "She's been dating someone, another professor, and I think she'd like to live in the same complex."
"That's wonderful news, Carly" said Myra. "Is there some secret to all this?"
"Not really. She doesn't want to jinx things, and..." Carly looked a little troubled.
"Does Pat know?"
"Yeah, Truitt the blabbermouth told her. It doesn't matter, though, Mom doesn't care what Pat thinks any more." Carly's face still looked preoccupied.
"Mom" said Gillam, "She needs some help with the house. Clearing it out, fixing up some stuff. Carly needs to go back soon, and I want to help, too."
"Of course" said Myra. "You have what, two weeks before school starts? You both are a blessing to have around, I'm glad she's got you."
"I don't want to leave tomorrow" said Carly stubbornly. "I'd like at least another day here."
"How's about tomorrow, me and you have some alone time?" said Myra, and he grinned, answering "Another driving lesson, maybe?"
Myra went on, "Now, you don't have to answer this, but -- is she having to sell the house? For financial reasons?"
Carly nodded, his cheeks going a little pink.
"It fucking sucks to be a single mother in this world" said Myra. She crossed to her desk and opened the drawer with her checkbook. As soon as he saw it, Carly said "She'll never take money from you, not ever."
"I know that. But you, my boy, can and will. How much is school costing you this semester?"
"My tuition is already paid" argued Carly.
"Good. Then this should be enough for six months of living expenses" said Myra, writing the check. "You come back to me when you need more. I don't care what story you tell her -- say that you won a lottery, or that David left you something, or that the paramedics course paid you a stipend. Just make sure she knows you don't need a penny from her. It will ease her mind like you cannot imagine, trust me." She handed him the check. His eyes were wet as he took it, saying "For her sake."
"For mine, too. We didn't get to splash out on you all summer like we did for Gillam" said Myra. Carly gave her a long hug and whispered "I'm so glad you got born."
"Same here" said Myra. "I remember when they put you in your mama's arms the first time, the look of crazy joy she had. You were and remain the light of her life."
Margie and Frances left the next day. Myra persuaded them to leave Narnia behind while they trekked around Portland, and likewise when Gillam and Carly left the following day, Beebo remained at the house. "It's not kids, but I can still dote on them" she said to Ginny.
Ginny slid her arms around Myra and said "Who'da thought two dyke feminists would get felled by empty nest syndrome?"
"I know how lucky we are. I have six planets in Leo, is all, sometimes adjustment takes me a while."
"After you meet with your editor tomorrow, we're setting aside several days where you get to write those other stories you mentioned" said Ginny. "Start them, at least."
"Once I get a draft of the Skene story, would you be interested in doing a couple of sketches for it?" said Myra.
"Try and stop me" said Ginny. "Van Gogh does sci-fi."
© 2008 Maggie Jochild