1. Canary

    for Michael S. Harper

    Billie Holiday’s burned voice
    had as many shadows as lights,
    a mournful candelabra against a sleek piano,
    the gardenia her signature under that ruined face.

    (Now you’re cooking, drummer to bass,
    magic spoon, magic needle.
    Take all day if you have to
    with your mirror and your bracelet of song.)

    Fact is, the invention of women under siege
    has been to sharpen love in the service of myth.

    If you can’t be free, be a mystery.

    By Rita Dove.

     
  2. poem to my uterus

    you uterus
    you have been patient
    as a sock
    while i have slippered into you
    my dead and living children
    now
    they want to cut you out
    stocking i will not need
    where i am going
    where am i going
    old girl
    without you
    uterus
    my bloody print
    my estrogen kitchen
    my black bag of desire
    where can i go
    barefoot
    without you
    where can you go
    without me


    by Lucille Clifton

     
  3. image: Download

    Paul Devalux, The Village of the Mermaids, (1942. Oil on panel.  The Art Institute of Chicago.)

Paul Delvaux: The Village of the Mermaids

Oil on canvas, 1942

Who is that man in black, walking
away from us into the distance?
The painter, they say, took a long time
finding his vision of the world.

The mermaids, if that is what they are
under their full-length skirts,
sit facing each other
all down the street, more of an alley,
in front of their gray row houses.
They all look the same, like a fair-haired
order of nuns, or like prostitutes
with chaste, identical faces.
How calm they are, with their vacant eyes,
their hands in laps that betray nothing.
Only one has scales on her dusky dress.

It is 1942; it is Europe,
and nothing fits. The one familiar figure
is the man in black approaching the sea,
and he is small and walking away from us.

By Lisel Mueller

    Paul Devalux, The Village of the Mermaids, (1942. Oil on panel. The Art Institute of Chicago.)


    Paul Delvaux: The Village of the Mermaids

    Oil on canvas, 1942

    Who is that man in black, walking
    away from us into the distance?
    The painter, they say, took a long time
    finding his vision of the world.

    The mermaids, if that is what they are
    under their full-length skirts,
    sit facing each other
    all down the street, more of an alley,
    in front of their gray row houses.
    They all look the same, like a fair-haired
    order of nuns, or like prostitutes
    with chaste, identical faces.
    How calm they are, with their vacant eyes,
    their hands in laps that betray nothing.
    Only one has scales on her dusky dress.

    It is 1942; it is Europe,
    and nothing fits. The one familiar figure
    is the man in black approaching the sea,
    and he is small and walking away from us.

    By Lisel Mueller

     
  4. The Way It Is Now

    I’ll tell you
    I’ve lived with some gorgeous women
    and I was so bewitched by those
    beautiful creatures that
    my eyebrows twitched.

    but I’d rather drive to New York
    backwards
    than to live with any of them
    again.

    the next classic stupidity
    will be the history
    of those fellows
    who inherit my female
    legacies.

    in their case
    as in mine
    they will find
    that madness
    is caused by not
    being often enough
    alone.


    By Charles Bukowski

     
  5. Circe’s Power

    I never turned anyone into a pig.
    Some people are pigs;
    I make them Look like pigs.

    I’m sick of your world
    That lets the outside disguise the inside. Your men weren’t bad men;
    Undisciplined life
    Did that to them. As pigs,

    Under the care of
    Me and my ladies,
    they Sweetened right up.

    Then I reversed the spell, showing you my goodness
    As well as my power. I saw
    We could be happy here,
    As men and women are
    When their needs are simple. In the same breath,

    I foresaw your departure,
    Your men with my help braving
    The crying and pounding sea. You think

    A few tears upset me? My friend,
    Every sorceress is
    A pragmatist at heart; nobody sees essence who can’t
    Face limitation. If I wanted only to hold you

    I could hold you prisoner.


    By Louise Glück

     
  6. A History of Lesbianism

    How they came into the world,
    the women-loving-women
    came in three by three
    and four by four
    the women-loving-women
    came in ten by ten
    and ten by ten again
    until there were more
    than you could count

    they took care of each other
    the best they knew how
    and of each other’s children,
    if they had any.

    How they lived in the world,
    the women-loving-women
    learned as much as they were allowed
    and walked and wore their cloths
    the way they liked
    whenever they could. They did whatever
    they knew to be happy or free
    and worked and worked.
    The women-loving-women
    in America were called dykes
    and some liked it
    and some did not.

    they made love to each other
    the best they knew how
    and for the best reasons

    How they went out of the world,
    the women-loving-women
    went out one by one
    having withstood greater and lesser
    trials, and much hatred
    from other people, they went out
    one by one, each having tried
    in her own way to overthrow
    the rule of men over women,
    they tried it one by one,
    and hundred by hundred,
    until each came in her own way
    to the end of her life
    and died.

    The subject of lesbianism
    is very ordinary; it’s the question
    of male domination that makes everybody
    angry.


    By Judy Grahn

     
  7. homage to my hips

    these hips are big hips
    they need space to
    move around in.
    they don’t fit into little
    petty places. these hips
    are free hips.
    they don’t like to be held back.
    these hips have never been enslaved,
    they go where they want to go
    they do what they want to do.
    these hips are mighty hips.
    these hips are magic hips.
    i have known them
    to put a spell on a man and
    spin him like a top!

    By Lucille Clifton