A poem reflecting on the fem­inist work at WIRE

I’m writing a letter to fem­inism: a love letter,
A letter of longing, a letter of hope,
A letter of rage, a letter of solid­arity.

There are echoes of us all through time,
My fin­gers on these keys are at the same time
Char­lotte Per­kins Gilman in her yellow wall­papered room
And audre lorde and bell hooks and maya angelou
Writing i know why the caged bird sings
And sojourner truth asking ain’t I a woman?
That woman con­nec­tion of sis­ter­hood or moth­er­hood,
Birthing know-how and herblore
the witches on the edge of the forest,
those that walk the paths of mad­ness.
The two-spirit folk and the Khwaja Sara;
Wise women.

We are all con­nected, and each of us has a tale,
Thorns among roses, pain sharp or dulled.
I remember as a teen­ager reading about Frances Farmer
And knowing that I risked her fate, too bold, too loud,
Too proud, not soft enough, insuf­fi­ciently mal­le­able,
Loved other bold, loud, proud girls in their soft bodies,
Stolen kisses under Haley’s Comet’s light.

(And also secretly I am Walt Whitman with his wild yawp
And his lithe male­ness and his fierce cel­eb­ra­tion of man-love;
That too is me, O my cap­tain. There are no longer adequate pro­nouns
For I con­tain mul­ti­tudes)

The per­sonal is the polit­ical but I don’t want to dwell
On emo­tional abuse and how I was forged in neg­lect;
I am more a child of Simone de Beau­voir and Vir­ginia Woolf
Than I was ever a child of my father’s; talk to me about
My resi­li­ence — I am a phoenix rising over and over;
I rebuild myself anew each day as do we all.

Nobody ever said this was simple. That ‘us’ versus ‘them’ rhet­oric
Is such a trap — there are layers on layers and we are all
Mul­ti­far­ious, vivid and ourselves existing within struc­tures
We did not choose. It’s not you; it’s not me; it’s not ‘them’;
In the end, it’s all of us, together along axes of con­nec­tion.
The sim­il­ar­ities must be where we can speak to each other.

We’ve spent half the night kvetching about the hard­ships
Of being female and nav­ig­ating the wilds of this crazy world,
That unless you win the jackpot in the spin­ning wheel of life
And somehow dodge any form of mental or phys­ical ill­ness,
Somehow manage to meet someone who loves you and
Never raises a fist or gas­lights you; somehow avoid the acid–
Throwers who punish girls like you who are too damn free;
Somehow avoid the bul­lets shot by those who would des­troy
The Malalas of the world —

This is a self-conscious letter of inter­sti­tial inter­sec­tion­ality,
An epis­tolary missive that will never be sent —
A rad­ical act of self-care
A gift

 

(Image: Audre Lorde lec­tures at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, 1983. Pho­to­graph: Robert Alex­ander)