Saturday, May 16, 2009


Venus of Hohle Fels statue (Venus of Hohle Fels; photo by H. Jensen, University of Tübingen)

The finds at Hohle Fels Cave in Germany keep arriving. The latest, announced this week, is the small figure of a woman deliberately shaped without her head. Exquisitely carved from mammoth ivory, the figure has exaggerated breasts, buttocks, and genitals typical of so-called prehistoric "Venus" statues. She is dated as being approximately 35,000 years old, and many are now saying this is the oldest verified figurative art ever found. She's at least 10,000 years older than the comparable "Venus of Willendorf" and perhaps 20,000 years older than the cave paintings at Lascaux. It is presumed that she was created by Homo sapiens sapiens, although there were Neanderthals still alive and in the area at that time.

Venus of Willendorf statue (Venus of Willendorf figure, in limestone, carved 20,000 to 25,000 years ago)

The Venus of Willendorf and other similar figures may have heads but do not show clear faces. This newly-discovered statue has a ring where the head would be, indicating it was possibly worn as a pendant. One article stated she should be interpreted as a fertility symbol. From my reading of anthropology, it seems fairly clear this carving is an object of reverence, of worship, with fertility being only one aspect of what was revered about her. She is quintessentially woman: Fleshy, powerful, and gorgeous.

An art history professor I had in college told us that most of the cave paintings in Europe are believed to have been created by women. He said even if you assume humans were much smaller than they are now, the "signatures" of handprints found in association with the scenes of animals are likely female. Recent interpretation of the Lascaux scenes, for example, indicate the point of the paintings was not to depict "a successful hunt". The spirituality goes much deeper than that, probably something like a metaphysical examination of the natural world and our place in it.

Likewise, hunting was not the main source of nutrition or necessarily even of protein for prehistoric peoples. Gathering, as opposed to hunting, was far more crucial to a band's survival, with nuts and roots offering richer, more reliable, and far less dangerous means of obtaining essential amino acids. Hunting has been emphasized and glorified because the anthropologists studying and interpreting artifacts have tended to be male, and hunting is seen as a male activity (an inaccurate Western view, but that's the stereotype).

My second year of college, I took an introduction to anthro course from a prof named Roy Miller because someone had said he really knew his stuff. He was not impressive, at first glance, with an unfortunate mustache, bad posture, and a squeaky voice. When we arrived the first day of class, he had covered the chalkboards on two sides of the room with details of a field study of baboons. He began going through these observations in a pedantic manner, and I found myself quickly bored. I started doodling in my notebook. My attention returned when he faced us and said the obvious conclusion to be reached about this primate's social structure, as proposed by the eminent scholar Robin Fox (not a cartoon name, but a real scholar whose work I had already found offensive), was that females were expendable and subservient to the power structure of the group. Dr. Miller went on to say should we not then draw a conclusion about the role women should be playing in human society, that biologically we are not meant to assume real leadership?

I remember clearly the reactions of two other students in the class. One was a jock, a blond fratboy who sat up straight and snickered loudly. He clearly thought he was bound to get an easy A in this course. The other student was a woman in her 30s (I thought of her as "old" then, g*d help me), with unfashionable clothes and hair, who immediately argued that extrapolating human trends from baboons was bad science.

Dr. Miller challenged her to back up her statement with examples. She looked around at the rest of us, despaired of our slack-jawed state, and took him on. It was 1974, and feminism did not yet have any kind of foothold on that campus -- nor would Polly (that was her name) likely have called herself a feminist. But she smelled a rat and she wasn't going to take crap off any man. Later, Polly and I became friends. She was divorced, after having put her husband through college, and now was raising two small children alone while trying to get her own degree. She was a toughie.

I was still terribly shy at that point, but within a few minutes, I raised my hand and began arguing as well. A few other women joined me and Polly. No men on our side, and the jock backing up Dr. Miller didn't have anything intelligent to say, just jeers. I made a silent decision to go drop this class soon as I could, find another professor who wasn't such a swine. In the meantime, slowly over the next hour, we women were able to punch holes in the conclusions offered by Dr. Miller by going back to the data on the board and coming up with another possible interpretation of each step. Dr. Miller began grinning. Finally he held up his hands, cutting off Polly about to stand up and yell at him, and said "You're absolutely right. The deductions drawn by Robin Fox were erroneous in every regard, based on his male-centered view of how he imagined things must be. His sexism completely distorted his reality. The fact is, the females in this band are in charge of every important decision, they are the life's blood of the troop. Kudos to you for not buying his bias."

The jock looked like he was going to pass out. (He did, in fact, drop the class before we met again.) Polly pounded on her desk in jubilation, and when the bell rang soon thereafter, and she and I stayed behind to talk to Dr. Miller. By the end of that semester, I had switched my major from journalism to anthropology.

Thus, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The fact is, there's a preponderance of evidence to suggest that the first humans to develop agriculture, to build dwellings, to use fire, to domesticate animals, were probably women -- at the very least, women and men working together. Interestingly, a high percentage of the earliest hominid remains are also female. And if human biology of that earlier time can be compared to ours of today (not at all guaranteed, but if...), then more many of the elders in a band would have been women. Elders carried the accumulated knowledge, wisdom, and culture of a nomadic tribe.

Something to think about. Thanks, Dr. Miller, for encouraging me to do just that.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Friday, May 15, 2009


Life In Hell cartoon by Matt Groening
Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

Beginning 2020

They got through Christmas and Boxing Day, mostly coasting on habit and letting the children's holiday glee fill voids whenever possible. Ginny sat with Sima twice when she tried to call Susan in Boston, only getting the machine. Anton and Jemima arrived, and Myra was glad Gillam had the next week off because he looked more tired than ever.

Every morning when she woke up, she had a sensation of impending doom, as if the fire alarm had just sounded or someone had screamed. It took her several seconds, sometimes almost a minute, before she remembered that Chris was dead, forever dead. This felt different than losing her mother or Gil. This was worse, and easier – the easier part was because of how Chris had done it, had helped them all get ready. Myra didn't want it to be easier, it felt disloyal to Chris, but she wasn't sure how she could have born it otherwise.

They decided on the afternoon of Sunday, January 5th, for Chris's memorial service. Gillam insisted it be that weekend, while people were still off work, instead of waiting another week so it wouldn't be two days after his birthday. They had his party on Friday after lighting candles and eating together, a quiet gathering. He wore the scarf Chris had given him tied loosely around his neck.

For the memorial service, they had posted notices online and sent e-mails, made calls, rented the Quaker Meeting house. Frances found a caterer who could handle the menu they assembled. Ginny framed her life-size portrait of Chris building doors to place at the front of the room. She and Gillam assembled a photo display of Chris's life, and created a montage of several shots to be printed and handed out.

Tina came with her children, riding in Ricky's truck. A few cousins also drove in, and Myra was moved to see Bernie attend. The structure of the service was left to LeRoy and Mary Angeline, with Sima's input.

The family ate lunch together beforehand at Myra and Ginny's house. Gillam walked over wearing his grandfather's suit. Little David had on a new black suit as well with pegged legs and shiny dress shoes in which he kept doing pirouettes. Leah had on a new lavender dress, sprigged with lace, and matching velvet ribbons tying her long hair into braids. Mimi wore navy silk pants and a Chinese-collared jacket with muted gold thread. Charlie had on David's hand-me-downs but didn't seem to care because it was a dark green suede jacket with pleated black slacks that made him feel very Big Kid.

“Where's Jane?” asked Myra, persuading Charlie out of his jacket and into a bib before sitting down to eat.

“Battling with Lucia about attire” said Gillam. “She doesn't want to wear a dress, which is fine, but all of her good pants and shirts are stained, turns out, and we don't have time to go buy something new.”

Ginny set aside the pitcher she was using to brew tea and said to Myra “Do we have anything dressy that will fit her among her clothes here?”

“Maybe that red velvet tunic” ventured Myra. “But all her pants are jeans or corduroys, and battered at that.” Lucia was hard on her garments, harder than even Charlie. Maybe because almost everything she gets has come from an older sibling thought Myra.

Ginny was halfway up the stairs when Myra called out “Never mind, Gin, they're coming through the gate.” Lucia walked in with eyes swollen from crying but her face was aglow. She had on Charlie's grey flannel dress suit from the year before, one of his new white shirts too big on her but covered by vest and jacket. She had on his last-year dress shoes as well. Around her neck was the bear claw necklace.

Ginny bent over to exclaimed “You look stunning, Lucia!”

Lucia didn't quite meet her eyes as she replied “Will you polish my shoes, Bubbe?”

“Of course” said Ginny. “Climb into your chair and I'll do it as the table gets set.”

Jane grinned wryly at Gillam. She whispered “She's wearing a pair of his superhero briefs, too. He won't care about the suit, since he's got David's, but the underwear he'll squawk about.”

At the service, Myra was not numb like she had been for Chris's burial. She cried often, usually with a child hanging onto her hand or in her lap. When it was her turn to share, she told the story of first meeting Chris, how Chris had crossed the room at a friend's gathering to seemingly pick a fight with her. She then read a page from Chris's journal: The day she'd received her diagnosis of cancer. It was brief and sardonic, but she broke down before the end and Carly took the book from her to finish reading the last two lines.

They stayed at the Meeting House until 8:00, singing, telling stories, eating from the buffet, and eventually starting to drum. Allie played one of Chris's drums, big tears splashing down onto the worn leather top. They left only because the custodian came to clean up. Annie, Nika, and Chris's family returned with them to Myra and Ginny's house. Gillam and Jane left soon, because the next day was a return to school. Tina and her children were staying overnight in the guest room, and Ricky had been offered Margie's guest room but said he wanted to crash on the couch. They were driving back to Colville very early in the morning, so everyone went to bed by 10:00.

As she closed their bedroom door, Ginny said to Myra “Is Sima okay on her own?”

“I asked. She said she was better than she's been all week. Some sort of relief about re-entering her community here, I think” said Myra.

“The grandchildren were more somber today than at the funeral” said Ginny. “The mourning clothes, you think?”

“Maybe. Plus they've been with all of us as we let go, so they have some role models now” said Myra.

“Margie said Jane and Gillam are still arguing about whether or not they should have come to the cabin and seen Chris as she was dying” said Ginny, rehanging her black silk shirt. “I heard Jane say something to him like he needed to let his mothers fend for themselves, his primary responsibility was to his own children.”

“What does that mean?” said Myra, stilled.

“Maybe you can find out” said Ginny. “He'll tell you if you ask him outright.”

“Hell” Myra muttered to herself.

The next morning, she and Ginny got up to make breakfast for Chris's family before they left. Myra went back to bed for a couple of hours after they left. When she returned to the kitchen, Sima and Ginny were at the table, looking as if they hadn't moved an inch, although Myra could tell Ginny must have because a pile of herbs and still-damp kale from the garden was on the counter.

Myra made a smoothie and sat down with them. Sima refreshed her cup of tea and said "I think it's time we talked about my place here."

Myra spooned out a chunk of banana that hadn't blended well. "Okay. What do you want? You just ask."

Sima's sorrow was more visible this morning. "I remember Chris telling me stories about some Native people -- god forgive me, I can't remember who -- where if a married man died, one of his brothers would take in his widow as a second wife." She looked directly at Myra and said gently "You don't have to do that with me. You don't owe it to Chris, or to me."

Ginny reached across the table and took one of Sima's hands in her own.

"I want you here, and not because you're Chris's widow" said Ginny. "I've missed you terribly. You and I were friends before Myra ever took notice of me. I -- I couldn't believe you just left me like you did. I mean, I would have tried to understand, Sima, I did try and I'll do whatever -- "

Sima interrupted. "I know, Ginny. I always felt like I had an identity with you that wasn't mostly built around my relationship with Chris."

Into the silence that followed, Myra said slowly "But not me? I treated you like an appendage?"

"Not as cold as that" tempered Sima. "But you, and Allie, you were Chris's first. There were the three of you, and then I got added on, then Ginny. Then the kids. And then Edwina."

"That's how families grow" said Myra in a wounded, hollow voice.

"Don't take this as an accusation, Myra, because it's not. It's just -- the only place where I was someone's first choice, consistently, was with Chris. And...not even always with her." Sima looked at Myra challengingly, then at Ginny. "You've been jealous of Chris, but Ginny, you never had any doubt that you were Myra's heart's desire."

Ginny met Myra's eyes, then looked back at Sima. "Actually, I have had those doubts, Sima. About Allie, and about Chris, on a regular basis. Plus one or another of her exes, from time to time. Although not – not since my big secret got revealed, I guess you could put it." She paused, and added “I was helped a lot by conversations with Chris, actually."

Myra cleared her throat, then asked "So -- you wanted to be somebody's first choice, without any doubts? Is that what Susan represented to you?"

Sima nodded. "Part of it. Yes." She wasn't meeting Myra's eyes now.

Myra was struggling with conflicting emotions. Finally she said "I'm so sorry, Sima, that I failed to express how much you mean to me just for who you are. I'm so sorry I let you down."

Sima did look at Myra, then. Myra went on "I -- I just don't want you to leave us again, Sima. I need you, I honestly do. And my children need you, and my grandchildren need you. But I don't want you to do without love, either. So if you want us to help you mend your bridge to Susan -- if you need to move back to -- " Myra couldn't finish the sentence.

Sima began crying and got up to her arms around Myra from behind. "No, that's not what I'm saying. I don't have any solid clue about what to do with Susan, how I feel about her. I want to be with you all here, I do. I just can't believe -- how can it be that I only figured this out after Chris is dead? It's so unfair. I was so unfair to her, but it's unfair to me now, too." She was sobbing heavily. Ginny went to her and pulled her into her arms.

Myra leaned her head forward onto her own hands and wept, too. After a couple of minutes, she lifted her face and said "See, this is when we need Chris. She'd make some appalling joke and we'd all start feeling better." They laughed.

Sima pulled her chair next to Myra and sat down with her arm over Myra's shoulders. Ginny sat down on the other side of Sima.

Myra said "When Ginny and I were -- when I was determined to break up with Ginny, and nobody could even get me to talk about it, I think it was Chris who turned me around."

"I didn't know that" said Ginny in shock. "I assumed it was Allie. And your mother."

"No, it was the one person who I never expected to be your defender" said Myra wryly.

"I didn't know it either" said Sima. "I wish I had."

"Here's what she told me." Myra repeated, as best she could, the conversation she and Chris had that day. Sima began crying again before she was done.

"So, seems pretty clear to me that what she'd expect of us is not to see all this as mistakes. Not to hang onto it as tragedy. I'm not sure how to do that, but I'm gonna try" said Myra.

Ginny giggled unexpectedly. When they looked at her questioningly, she said "I guess I'm channeling Chris, but I just thought of a Life in Hell cartoon, from decades ago. It was a single frame, a full view of a room where one of the little rabbits had apparently turned over an ink well, and then freaked completely, because every single piece of furniture, lamps, paintings, windows, even the wall was either broken or had inky handprints on it, or both. It was a disaster zone. And there was a shadow of a grown-up rabbit standing in the doorway, with the little rabbit looking up at the grown-up. All he says is 'Mistakes were made.'"

They all lost it, laughing hysterically. Sima would repeat "Mistakes were made" and they'd surge into laughter again. Finally Myra had to use her inhaler, and Ginny got up to make more tea for them.

"So" said Myra, "You'll stay here? For now, at the very least?"

"Yes" said Sima, "But only if I can have sex with you sometimes."

The look on Myra's face sent Sima back into hysterics, and Ginny had to lean on the counter, she was laughing so hard. When she could talk again, she walked over to Sima and gave her a high five, saying "I have waited for decades for someone to pull that one on her."

Myra, giggling nervously, sucked at the last of her smoothie.

Sima said "I know you'll be talking this over with Allie. Tell her to come to me with any questions, okay?"

"You got it" said Myra. "In fact -- I won't talk stuff over with Ginny, either, that has to do about you without trying to discuss it with you first. Like a responsible collective member would. No couples privilege here."

Sima's face lit up. "I would really like that. So -- could I redecorate that front area and claim it as my own?"

"Go for it" said Myra.

"Are you thinking about repainting?" asked Ginny. Sima said “No. I like the colors Chris chose. But I want to hang some photos of her, and move the bed.”

“If you want to redecorate or put your things in the rest of the house, please do" said Myra. "Only restrictions are, don't take down Ginny's art anywhere without talking to us about it, and our work spaces are off limits to change."

"As if" said Sima. "Maybe I can think about ideas, and we can talk it over at dinner in a few days?"

Myra nodded, looking out the window at Margie coming through the side gate. Ginny got back up to pour a cup of tea for Margie.

"She hasn't eaten breakfast yet, either" said Myra.

"I'll make her some eg -- how do you know?" asked Ginny.
"The way she walks. I can always tell when she's hungry" said Myra.

Chris's big gifts to the grandchildren had been carried back to Jane and Gillam's house, except for Lucia's kiln and tile-making table. Ginny said Lucia needed complete adult supervision to work with clay safely, pointing out she was still a baby. Myra said under her breath “As long as that theremin is out of here, that's all I care about.”

On Wednesday, Leah got special permission to come over alone after dinner to work on a belated birthday card for her father. She lugged her printing press and type behind her in the little red wagon, dragging it (with muddy tracks) into the house and onto the elevator after Myra. Allie was there, having her art session with Ginny, and Edwina was at Myra's second computer. Myra spread a dropcloth around her desk, cleared its surface and covered it with a plastic tablecloth over it. She set up Leah's little hand-crank press there and borrowed a stool from the breakfast bar for Leah to sit on.

"Do you know what you want to say?" she asked Leah, settling back into her own chair.

"I wrote him a poem" said Leah proudly, fishing a scrap of paper from her pants.

"Okay, then. Put on your Science Class apron, to protect against spills" said Myra, handing it over. She began reciting "Before we use any power tools, let's take a moment to talk about shop safety."

With a wide grin, Leah joined her in the chant Myra loved to repeat when firing up the food processor or her computer: "Be sure to read, understand, and follow all the safety rules that come with your power tools. Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury. And remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these — safety glasses."

Myra could hear giggles coming from Ginny's studio. Edwina said wryly "If I didn't know better, I'd say you have a crush on that man."

It was close to bedtime before Leah had struck a print that satisfied her and decorated it with crayons. They made an envelope together, Leah having moved into Myra's lap.

“Grandma, could I spend the night here? Please? I know I have to go to Montessori tomorrow, but I'll make my own cereal and get dressed by myself, I can do that.”

Myra hesitated. “You'd have to sleep in the guest room or on a daybed, without a brother or sister nearby.”

“On your daybed, here?” Leah looked thrilled.

“Yes, I could make it up with sheets and a quilt for you. Actually, Keller and Franklin would probably both join you.” Myra could hear Ginny in the doorway at her back. She turned around to meet Ginny's eye. Ginny said “I'll call Gillam. You need to start getting some of that ink off her hands and face.”

Ginny made the bed for Leah and laid out school clothes for her as she washed and put on pajamas. Myra brought her a cup of steamed milk, and Allie sat with Edwina to tell Leah a story before the four of them tucked her in. After Allie and Edwina left, Myra returned to her desk, with only the brass banker lamp on. Leah was not yet asleep, stroking Keller tucked into her side.

“Are you going to write?” asked Leah.

“Yep. But no talking, it's sleepy-time for you.”

Myra heard the rumble of a canvas roll in Ginny's studio. This will be the first painting she's done since Chris died she thought. She opened the creek girl manuscript and re-read her outline. I have to change the whole damned thing. But this did not dismay her, and she decided to not wait until the first draft was finished. She'd start the revision now. It was a new year.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, May 14, 2009


Nebula NGC 2818 in Pyxis (Planetary nebula designated NGC 2818, which lies in the southern constellation of Pyxis. Click on image to enlarge.)

I'm adding another weekly event to my blog. Every Thursday, I'll 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. Because we can always use a reminder about how much bigger and more beautiful the universe is.

O WORLD, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour!
~~from "God's World" by Edna St. Vincent Millay


Tuesday, May 12, 2009


(Final panel from Earthquake Strip #8 "The Last Lesson" by Chinese graphic artist Coco Wang. Click on image to enlarge)

Today is the one-year anniversary of the terrible Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan, China. At least 69,000 people lost their lives, and perhaps as many as 11 million were left homeless. Of the fatalities, 19,000 were schoolchildren. "The central government estimates that over 7,000 inadequately engineered schoolrooms collapsed in the earthquake. Chinese citizens have since invented a catch phrase: tofu-dregs schoolhouses, to mock both the quality and the quantity of these inferior constructions that killed so many school children."

I'm lighting a candle to mark this yartzeit. The most moving and human coverage of the tragedy that I read in the aftermath came from graphic artist Coco Wang, whose 12 earthquake strips in June 2008 brought the grief and loss to us on a comprehensible level. Click on the link to go read the strips for yourselves.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]



Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there. As usual, those from little gator lead the pack.


Monday, May 11, 2009


(Cheryl Clarke. Jersey City, New Jersey; photo by Robert Giard)

Cheryl Clarke is a Black lesbian-feminist poet and essayist whose work has done worlds to assert the voice of Black lesbians both in feminism and in Black arts/politics. Her poetry tends toward story-telling and blends sexuality with cultural and political analysis. Her essays and prose have repeatedly, persistently cleared paths or built on the trail-blazing of others.

Born in 1947 in Washington, DC, she began her education there (receiving a B.A. from Howard University) but completed her accession to academia at Rutgers with her M.A., M.S.W., and Ph.D. She read her poetry through the 1970s in New York, and her first book of poetry was published in 1983. From 1981 through 1990, she was an editor for Conditions, the ground-breaking and extremely important feminist magazine of writings by women with an emphasis on writing by lesbians.

Clarke continues to read her poetry and speak at venues throughout the U.S. She is also esteemed as an educator. Since 1992, Cheryl Clarke has been the Director of the Office of Diverse Community Affairs and LGBT Concerns and has specific responsibility for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning student life at Rutgers University, New Brunswick campus. She is currently on the graduate faculty of the Department of Women and Gender Studies.

In 1996, Cheryl Clarke had a cameo role (as "June Walker", a play on the names of June Jordan and Alice Walker) in Watermelon Woman, the groundbreaking feature film by filmmaker Cheryl Dunye about a young black lesbian working a day job in a video store while trying to make a film about a Black actress from the 1930s known for playing the stereotypical "mammy" roles relegated to Black actresses during the time period. Watermelon Woman was the first feature film by a black lesbian and was made on a budget of $300,000, financed by a $31,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a fundraiser, and donations from friends of Dunye. It won the Teddy Award for Best feature film at the Berlin International Film Festival, and eventually drew direct criticism from Representative Peter Hoekstra, then chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, for the NEA's funding of projects that "a majority of Americans would find offensive".


"Women are not taken seriously as arbiters of history, nor are poets." -- from essay "Knowing the Danger and Going There Anyway"

"Heterosexuality is a die-hard custom through which male-supremacist institutions insure their own perpetuity and control over us. Women are kept, maintained and contained through terror, violence, and the spray of semen...[Lesbianism is] an ideological, political and philosophical means of liberation of all women from heterosexual tyranny... For a woman to be a lesbian in a male-supremacist, capitalist, misogynist, racist, homophobic, imperialist culture, such as that of North America, is an act of resistance." -- from "Lesbianism, An Act of Resistance," in This Bridge Called My Back: Writing by Radical Women of Color

"The woman who takes a woman lover lives dangerously in patriarchy."

"poets are among the first witches
so suffer none to live"

-- from "Wearing My Cap Backwards"

"Lesbians and lesbian community have made it possible for me to call myself a poet. While I am privileged to write openly as a lesbian and to have my work appreciated and to sleep with a woman, I am still reminded that this ain't no place to love a woman." -- from "Living The Texts Out: Lesbians and the uses of Black women's traditions" in Theorizing Black Feminisms: The Visionary Pragmatism of Black Women

"A dyke wants commitment,
romance without abatement,
and unrelenting virtue--
all before the first show of flesh."

from Experimental Love

"Long before I published, I was reading my poetry and witnessing the transformative power of orality. Orality helps me mediate the silence of the blank page and the relentless din of memory. The poem's power is not only the poet's working of her craft but how that working connects with people's experience of the poet saying out loud what has been distorted, suppressed, forbidden." -- from "Living The Texts Out: Lesbians and the uses of Black women's traditions" in Theorizing Black Feminisms: The Visionary Pragmatism of Black Women

to work to the end of day
to talk to the end of talk
to run to the end of dark
to have at the end of it all: sex

the wish for forever
for more often
for more.

the promises
the absurdity
the histrionics
the loss of pride
the bargaining
the sadness after.

in wakefulness wanting
in wakefulness waiting.

(from "living as a lesbian at 35" in Living As A Lesbian)

Living as a lesbian underground, fin de ciecle

here under this pile of 20th century,
my ass is sore from
taking in air at the surface of this mask.
so close i have worn it since the defoliation
of 14th street. a highblown and wasted blues.
the same vamp after sorry vamp.
and burning indochine flesh.

(from Living As A Lesbian)


Corridors of Nostalgia: Poetry by Cheryl Clarke, Suspect Thoughts Press, 2007, ISBN-10: 0978902300
The Days of Good Looks: Prose and Poetry of Cheryl Clarke, 1980-2005, Carroll and Graf, 2005, ISBN: 9780786716753
After Mecca: Black Arts Movement Influences on Black Women Poets, Rutgers University Press, 2005, ISBN: 9780813534060
Experimental Love: Poetry, Firebrand Books, 1993, ISBN: 9781563410352
Humid Pitch, Firebrand Books, 1989, ISBN: 9780932379665
Living As A Lesbian: Poetry, Firebrand Books, 1986, ISBN: 9780932379122
Narratives: Poems In The Tradition Of Black Women, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983, ISBN: 0913175005

Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, edited by Barbara Smith, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983, ISBN: 0913175021
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women Of Color, edited by Cherrie L. Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldua, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1984, ISBN: 091317503X
The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader, edited by Joan Nestle, Alyson Books, 1992, ISBN: 1555831907
Feminist Studies
The Black Scholar
Belles Lettres
Gay Community News
The Advocate
Blue Stones And Salt Hay: An Anthology Of New Jersey Poets
Gay And Lesbian Poetry In Our Time
Bridges: A Journal For Jewish Feminists And Their Friends
Inversions: Writing By Dykes, Queers, and Lesbians
Radical America
A Formal Feeling Comes
Dangerous Liaisons: Blacks and Gays Fighting Oppression
African-American Review
Theorizing Black Feminisms: The Visionary Pragmatism of Black Women
Black Like Us: A Century of Black Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Fiction
Long Shot Magazine: The Politics Issue
Bloom: A Journal of Writing by Lesbian and Gay Writers.
I Do, I Don’t: Queers on Marriage

Cheryl Clarke page at

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]