Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Lee Lally only published one chapbook of poetry, These Days, but it had a strong impact and I still treasure my copy. In the early 70s she was married to another activist and poet, with whom she had two children, before she came out and became a leader in the DC lesbian community. Her chapbook was published by Diana Press. She later again had a male lover. According to one bio, “Lee's enjoyment of life's pleasures sadly ended, however, when she became the unfortunate victim of medical malpractice while undergoing surgery, and wound up in a coma for six years, before finally passing away on March 3rd, 1986.” Below is one of her most-quoted poems:
You woke from a dream
in the streets
calling you out.
I had to tell you
the noises were not in your dream.
The army of lovers
was saying goodnight
at the foot of the stairs.
It was the revolution.
You were not sleeping
© Lee Lally, from "These Days" by Diana Press, 1971
Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. This week I'm dedicating certain LOLCats to particular readers as indicated.
[For the moms of teenagers]
[For Julie, Sarah Beth, et al]
[For little gator]
[For Kat the preschool teacher]
Monday, April 11, 2011
During the fight against the Briggs Initiative, I had the chance to hear many legendary lesbian poets and writers, among them Chrystos. One bio states “Chrystos (born 7 November 1946) is a Menominee rights activist and poet. Prior to being published, she worked as a home caretaker, and an activist for Turtle Mountain Band of Chipewa, Norma Jean Croy (involved in a firefight with police), and Leonard Peltier. Born in San Francisco, United States, Chrystos is a Lesbian- and Two-Spirit-identified writer who focuses on themes revolving around the violence that adjoins everyday life in many urban areas. She also tries to incorporate an awareness of universal currents in her works, introducing a diverse mixture of characters and ideas. Her first published work, Not Vanishing, concentrates on a Native American woman and the environment she returns to after work, a life shielded from mainstream cultural understanding.” The prose poem below is a sardonic look at the white stupidity which encourages denial regarding the European theft of North America.
We have been conducting an extensive footnoted annotated indexed & complicated study of the caucasian culture hereafter to be referred to as the cauks for ease in translation.
The most important religious ritual, one central to all groups, is the mixing of feces & urine with water. This rite occurs regularly on a daily basis & seems to be a cornerstone of the culture's belief system. The urns for this purpose are commonly porcelain, of various hues, although white is the most frequently used. The very wealthy rulers have receptacles of carved onyx or malachite with gold-plated fixtures. We have been unable to determine what prayers are said during this ritual because of its solitary nature & the fact that the door to the prayer room is always shut.
The main function of the majority of non-city dwellers is the production of an object called a lawn. Numerous tools for the cultivation of this lawn are sold in the marketplaces. It appears also to have a sacred character, as no activity occurs on it & keeping short green & square is a constant activity.
The main diet of the culture is available from pushbutton machines or orange plastic small markets & was found by our researchers to be completely inedible. It is truly amazing what the human animal can subsist on.
Another prominent feature of the cauks is the construction of huge monuments built in clusters in the villages. These are not living quarters but are used about five days of the week for a ritual involving papers which appear to be sacred, given the life or death quality with which they are handled. The papers are passed about, often with consternation & eventually cast away when the spell is complete.
The mechanisms for healing disease appear to our eyes to be woefully complex & at the same time, inadequate. People who are seriously ill are quarantined in jails of pale green or white & often used to feed machines which appear to run on human blood.
Children who are born deformed in any way are usually confined to jails built for the purpose. The elderly are also jailed, there being no value system of respect for them. Those passing through transitions are called "crazy" & also jailed. Animals from distant lands again are jailed. In fact, there is some discussion of an alternative theory of central religious belief -- that the actual spiritual purpose of the culture, is to jail as much as possible. Extensive use of fences is the key argument for this theory.
Our data is as yet incomplete. We hope by 1992 to have a more comprehensive overview, at which time a traveling exhibition of artifacts (including exhumed bodies to illustrate their burial practices) will tour for the education of all. Their attitude toward all non-cauk peoples is extremely hostile & violent. Many of our researchers have been massacred and yet, in the interests of science, we persevere.
© Chrystos, from "Dream On", by Press Gang Publishers, 1991.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
In 1994-ish an Italian-Texas dyke cook named Lisa took a tiny inheritance and started a café in South Austin called Forray’s. Remember Forray’s, y’all? It had maybe half a dozen tables, a long counter, limeade that restored electrolytes, and best eggs ever. I more or less lived there.
On Sunday afternoons there was a wimmin's poetry open mic, and that was where I began reading my work in public. And it’s where I met the magnificent Heather Burmeister, whose verse always reached out and grabbed us by the effin’ throat. Because of that experience, I was emboldened to read at my first AIPF open mic, at the old Electric Lounge, where I had a five minute slot doled out by a cast-iron timekeeper who cut the mic if folks ran over.
It was unbelievably hard to face a crowd of strangers and give voice to my new, untried stuff. I was sweating so much I felt basted. I don’t remember the audience reaction. I fled outside, where Heather found me and started to tell me I’d done okay. I leaned over and puked in the parking lot, lightly spattering her white converse high-tops that she had decorated with markers. She backed up a little but grinned her lop-sided way and told me to keep on trying, it got easier.
She was maybe 21 years old, and already had a lifetime of experience tucked away under her spiky hair. She eventually was taken on by Ntozake Shange for a mentorship, which surprised none of us. She has stayed real, and kind, and smarter than most folks you’ll ever meet. Here are my two favorites of hers from the Forray’s era:
this is the way I sing
this is the way I photograph
and this is the way I keep dead people alive
this is the way I remember what I might forget
and this is the way I report my history
my story my lazy eavesdropping
what I find in my line
I am taking action against fear
I turn on the lights
I open my eyes
I light another cigarette and
sit up all night listening for him
© Heather Burmeister, 1995