Saturday, December 11, 2010


(Judy Grahn, January 1988, Oakland CA, photo by Robert Giard)

Every Saturday evening I post a Judy Grahn poem. Much of her best work is already up here (check Labels to the right for her name) but there is still a wealth more to share. If she'd been a straight white man, they'd have declared her poet laureate a long time ago -- but then she wouldn't be writing the stunning language that she does.

a funeral
plainsong from a younger woman to an older woman

i will be your breath now, to do your singing
breath belongs to those who do the breathing
warm life, as it passes through your fingers
flares up in the very hands you will be leaving

you have left, what is left
for the bond between women is a circle
we are together within it

i am your best, i am your kind
kind of my kind, i am your wish
wish of my wish, i am your breast
breast of my breast, i am your mind
mind of my mind, i am your flesh
i am your kind, i am your wish
kind of my kind, i am your best

now you have left you can be
wherever the fire is when it blows itself out.
now you are a voice in any wind
i am a single wind
now you are any source of a fire
i am a single fire

wherever you go to, i will arrive
whatever i have been, you will come back to
wherever you leave off, i will inherit
whatever i resurrect, you shall have it

you have right, what is right
for the bond between women is returning
we are endlessly within it
and endlessly apart within it.
it is not finished
it will not be finished

i will be your heart now, to do your loving
love belongs to those who do the feeling.

life, as it stands so still among your fingers
beats in my hands, the hands i will, believing
that you have become she, who is not, any longer
somewhere in particular

you are together in your stillness
you have wished us a bonded life

love of my love, i am your breast
arm of my arm, i am your strength
breath of my breath, i am your foot
thigh of my thigh, back of my back
eye of my eye, beat of my beat
kind of my kind, i am your best

when you are dead, i said you had gone to the mountain

the trees do not yet speak of you

© Judy Grahn, from The Work Of A Common Woman


It's A Wonderful Life is on television tonight. Once again, I am not sure I can bear to watch it.

When I was growing up, this movie was one of the holy trinity of must-see holiday family viewing, along with White Christmas and Boys Town. ("He ain't heavy, he's my brudder" still sends me off into tears.) Once I was grown, a fourth was added which moved to the top of the list, Meet Me In St. Louis, with little Margaret O'Brien and Judy Garland in a frosty window-seat trying to forfend inevitable loss.

My little brother Bill was a gifted mimic, and he could do a marvelous Jimmy Stewart. It became our tradition, once we were grown, that he would wake us up Christmas morning by shouting the exultant narration of George Bailey once he has returned from his adventure with Clarence the angel, running home through the town and expressing his gladness at each sight, even that miserable Mr. Potter. It was always a glorious way to start the day.

Christmas now seems to me to be for children, who cannot see the ghosts crowding the room. Judy sang "From now on we all will be together, if the Fates allow." But the Fates moved in on my family, and I'd rather lie low this holiday, quietly remembering them.


Thursday, December 9, 2010


(Stellar Eggs Emerge from Molecular Cloud: Closeup of Evaporating Globules)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite, followed by poetry after the jump.


by Linda Pastan

Strapped down,
victim in an old comic book,
I have been here before,
this place where pain winces
off the walls
like too bright light.
Bear down a doctor says,
foreman to sweating laborer,
but this work, this forcing
of one life from another
is something that I signed for
at a moment when I would have signed anything.
Babies should grow in fields;
common as beets or turnips
they should be picked and held
root end up, soil spilling
from between their toes—
and how much easier it would be later,
returning them to earth.
Bear up ... bear down ... the audience
grows restive, and I'm a new magician
who can't produce the rabbit
from my swollen hat.
She's crowning, someone says,
but there is no one royal here,
just me, quite barefoot,
greeting my barefoot child.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there.


Monday, December 6, 2010


Stage II of Getting Maggie Medical Care:

Short version is, I need some funding to get me to the next stage. I need at least $200 for an initial home doctor visit plus $250 for asthma inhalers this month that will not (yet) be covered by insurance plus possibly an unknown amount for PT. It's a dismal time for fundraising, but I am already behind on essentials. It would help if there's someone who wants to handle the fundraising, too, although final decisions have to remain with me.

Long version: I have three options to receiving care through my county medical insurance plan, all of which require an in-clinic visit to get started -- a visit I am not currently physically able to perform without serious help.

(a) Have EMS take me to and from the clinic for my intake visit. Most direct but also most expensive, at least $500 a trip which there is no agency to pay for, I have exhausted all options. This would cover all the items I need, including getting attendant care signed off by an MD, a prescription for PT so I can become mobile in the future, and pain prescriptions.
(b) Hire a Hoyer lift to transfer me to and from my bed, hire a trained attendant(s) who can maneuver the lift and get me into a manual wheelchair, get me dressed, get me out my door, lay down a temporary ramp and get me into a vehicle with a lift (I have friends who will loan a van with a lift), get me to the clinic, and reverse it all for the way home. My DADS caseworker is concerned about this option because I may not be strong enough to be stable in a wheelchair or to ride safely in the Hoyer lift sling. Cost is several hundred dollars, but the end effect would be the same as for #1.
(c) Hire a visiting home physician who will sign off on attendant care and write scrips for essentials, to be paid for by me. Getting qualified for attendant care will save me at least $200 a month I am paying now to Ruthy, will dramatically improve my quality of life, and will give me someone who can daily assist me with at least strengthening exercises. Plus the asthma prescriptions which I have one left of each essential inhaler but no money to order them right now, and I am today wheezing chronically. This is a stopgap measure, a baby step, but my DADS caseworker recommended it for the time being. She has the information on physicians to use for the home visit, the issue is paying for it -- we have exhausted other options. Eventually I have to get in to the insured clinic but right now, I need scrips and an attendant.

I cannot afford to wait for the situation where I have a paid EMS run to the hospital because my health has deteriorated to that point. I also need to get attendant care in place so the state does not decide I will be safer in a nursing home.

So -- that's the situation. I have PayPal set up here at my website. If you don't use PayPal, email me for how to send $ to me via mail or if you want to use a credit card to pay for something directly.


Sunday, December 5, 2010


(Postcard by Hayden Kay)

From GenerationFIVE:
Our goal of ending child sexual abuse cannot be realized while other systems of oppression are allowed to continue. In fact, systems of oppression and child sexual abuse have an interdependent relationship: a power-over system that benefits some at the expense of others and uses violence, creates the conditions for child sexual abuse (i.e. gender inequality, class exploitation, racism, violence and threat for difference), while in turn the prevalence of child sexual abuse fosters behaviors (obedience to authority, silence, disempowerment, shame) that prevent people from organizing effectively to work for liberation, healing and change systemic forms of violence.

'Radical simply means grasping things at the root.' ~Angela Davis.

Generation FIVE works at the roots of child sexual abuse and holds a vision of liberation, justice and sustainability for all of our futures.

It is estimated that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 18. For each of these children, there is an offender and the affected family and community surrounding them. For each circumstance of abuse, there is also circle of people who can play a part in allowing or preventing abuse.

It is estimated that only 10-20% of CSA gets reported through our public systems. Still, in Public Health terms these numbers are epidemic. This means they are impacting the general population in such high numbers that it is a major pubic health issue. When we look at the number of children and families affected and the number of offenders, we have to start asking different questions. There are not just a few 'bad' people sexually abusing children, the behavior is wide-spread. This is not solely individual mental health issue. We need to ask questions that go beyond the individual to our communities and broader society to find both the causes and solutions to child sexual abuse.

To address child sexual abuse, we need to look at the bigger picture…the social norms in which it is happening. By social norms we mean the beliefs and practices regarding power, sexuality, the ideas about children and ownership, etc. and then the institutions that perpetuate these ideas and practices. We need both an individual and systemic understanding of CSA to be effective in our response and prevention strategies.

Here are some new questions for us to consider:

What do the high numbers of victim/survivors and offenders of CSA tell us about our family and community beliefs and practices? What do we pass on that let's child sexual abuse continue generation to generation?

What is it in our social norms and institutions that creates this many offenders, survivors and bystanders to child sexual abuse?

What are our public systems and institutions missing- so that child sexual abuse rates are not decreasing? What mistakes are we repeating?

We are living in a broader social context that teaches power-over relations, private ownership (parents/family) of children, a dismissal of children's accounts (legal), mixed messages and little education about human sexuality (it is bad, shame based, and it is used to sell us everything from cars to deodorant), and the ongoing mixing of sex and violence. We are not taught to address pain and trauma deeply, but rather mask symptoms or blame the individual for their distress. Child sexual abuse is about having power over another person and using that power sexually. The norms that allow for this behavior are sadly, ever-present in our society.
To this I will add:
  1. Those who abuse children in any fashion were themselves abused as children. It's a learned behavior, not innate to human beings.
  2. Abuse takes many forms: The ownership of children by adults; gender conditioning; racist conditioning; poverty or denial of basic needs for class reasons; teaching children g*d will send them to hell for any reason; neglect; ridicule; as well as what we traditionally call abuse.
  3. To stop abuse we will need to redefine how we raise children and create family on a fundamental level. We cannot allow the Right's definitions to continue to damage further generations.
  4. The numbers mean we are all in close contact with child abuse: Our own families, our friends. and/or children we know are contending with it right now. Overwhelmingly it is done by people who claim to love or actually do love that child and are in close, regular contact with her/him. Strangers are not the problem.
  5. The overwhelming risk of abuse for any child comes from a man or boy close to them. This is NOT because men and boys are inherently abusive -- it is a direct result of male gender conditioning which demands emotional dissociation, demial of healing outlets, and the right/mandate to project upset onto others perceived as lesser status. Masculinity is an incomplete version of inhumanity that fosters abuse: Not maleness, but the rigid, culturally created concept of masculinity. To rehabilitate this concept to the point where it is no longer toxic will mean restoring to it all the humanity which renders it indistinguishable from femininity. Ergo, it has no future in a free and equal world.
  6. People can and do heal from child abuse. All the time, no matter how bad it was.
  7. Breaking silence is always a first step. The corollary to that is bearing witness helps repair the world.