These are the words of Elana Dykewomon. Yes, "Dykewomon." She led the way in being the change she wanted to see.
But, before I talk about the poems, I want to go back to that in-your-face name that Elana gave herself. She wrote, “… I changed my name, hoping to keep myself honest. I changed my name so I would be in a constant state of self-examination about my motives in writing, so I would have to write as a member of the community in which I placed my heart and cunt, as a participant with a particular talent.”
She wrote that in 1991. Nearly twenty-five years later, I would say that she has indeed kept herself honest. And prolific. Elana has authored two novels, Riverfinger Woman (1974) and Beyond the Pale (1997 and reprinted in 2009); a collection of short stories, Moon Creed Road; and four collections of poetry, They Will Know Me By My Teeth, Fragments from Lesbos, Nothing Will Be As Sweet As The Taste, and What Can I Ask?
On to the poems…
In “Unravel Then,” Elana writes how her father taught her the names of the constellations when she was a child—names derived from Greek mythology. She wonders about renaming them to represent Pete Seeger with his guitar, or Barbara Jordan lecturing Congress… or the Seven Lesbian Poets (you’ll have to read the poem to see the roster!). Her father’s response?
"... you’ve suffered for a long time. Stop
suffering. Accept this sky. We’ve
tamed the night, haven’t we? You should know
from your mythology
when you pick at a thread
Elana returns to this business about threads in “A lesbian’s prerogative:”
"It’s a lesbian’s prerogative to run her hand down the seam
across the seam of need
and stick her finger in
where the stitch is loose
a lesbian prerogative
to pull at the thread, rip it apart
demand the womyn
"A Law of Physics"
Saturday, March 25,1911
One body falling alone is its own weight
Two bodies falling alone are their own but
if they hold hands
their weight is multiplied.
Here’s a for instance:
Two girls are on a ledge.
The building is burning.
There are nets below.
The girls are young and for the purpose
of this example
thin and frightened.
It is eight stories to the ground.
The net can hold 90, 120, 150 pounds
times the distance but
they become 11,000 pounds on impact.
The net breaks.
No one knows the price
how much they loved each other
and expected, by jumping,
neither to live nor die
from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
What Can I Ask: New and Selected Poems 1975-2014 by Elana Dykewomon is published by Sapphic Classics from A Midsummer Night's Press and Sinister Wisdom.