Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Lesbian Poetry Journal to be Named "Diatribe" : Where Diatribes are More than Allowed

If ever I am the position (lotus or otherwise) of starting my own feminist-lesbian-queer writing journal, I have a name for it ready: Diatribe. I cannot tell you how much I love this name, love this word. I want to go on a diatribe. Oh wait, I am. Diatribe, yes. It gets to the point (hahahaha). Ranting, a thing to avoid? Maybe. But ranting with style: it works. Embrace the rant. The rant is peaceful and powerful and empowering. Non-violent worded political art! I find "Diatribe" very empowering. It makes me feel better. It can be about self-acceptance and validation through art, as well as about the art itself. It feels fierce and righteous, that powerful word. Women have been dis-empowered, their voices muted: Diatribe is the safe place for all those "angry, man-hating lesbians" (the construction created BY men to stigmatize further feminists). In my head, it exists.

I'm inspired and anxious. Biting one of my nails, too. School did this to me. It's the old, familiar pressure to "do something" that often stops me from doing. Anyway, as I am searching to and fro, internet and Poet's Handbook, looking for the right fit for my poems; I am finding that I don't "fit" nicely (productively) in most journals. Big surprise! Not. There just aren't many journals out there who center on the lesbian experience. Whenever I read, "No porn, please," I always feel awkward and resentful. Like, what do you mean by "porn?" What constitutes "porn" and where is the line drawn? Will you misinterpret my writing for porn? For instance, I frequently use the word, "cunt," in my poems. Will my they be overlooked by "fine" journals because of this? Probably by some. Dang. My poetry is out-of-bounds: it's erotic and dark but at the same time it's philosophical and even old fashioned (romantic?). It's a really strange mix because it's me. I guess, like my poetry, I'm just not for most people. Most people don't get "me" so they won't get "it." (I'm kind of an odd-ball, minus the ball.) But a few will, I hope. I only have this (my) voice to work stories to tell.

I came upon a treasure of a poetry book in the bargain basement of a bookshop in Northampton, Massachusetts back in 2002 when I was a student at Hampshire College. Lesbian Poetry: An Anthology (with Elly Bulkin, Persephone Press, 1980). I love this book. I fit in this book (not literally, although some might suggest otherwise after reading a couple lines from one of my highly acclaimed middle school poems: "That girl, she's so skinny/An inch small piece would be her whole meal" or "She could fit on a pin and there'd still be room." Wow - and I didn't even include examples of my non-compliant breaks with traditional, patriarchal grammar and spelling (I love you, bell hooks). I was writing it about myself (me = "that girl" -neg.= symbol for modern girl struggling with impossible images of beauty in the media, yadayadayada). (That was right after I finished the kid's meal, chocolate shake and Hershey's pie from Burger King.)) Back to the book that makes me happy: I feel at home with the writing in the Lesbian Poetry book. Not that this needs to be said, but. Diatribes are allowed.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Living in the Country with a Dying Goldfish : Stumps and Hand Shakes, in My Book

I should have noted that I was not the only one having "an experience" at Ultimate Image two weeks ago; Darah, too was having a special moment of her own: she was having her hair cut in a salon for the first time. She was very serious and well-behaved. Her stylist, Abby, caught her attention when she picked up the blue smock covered with brightly-colored fish. Darah loves fish. Her first phrase (or word) was "Hi, Fishies." We took her to pick out fish for her aquarium when she turned one. Golda was the most traditional fish in the trio. She was orange and petite. She was just randomly scooped up by the net. I selected Schindler; he was unlike the rest and very active in the tank. Schindler was large and a shimmering gold color. And then there was poor Frou Frou, whose time in our tank ended too soon. Frou Frou got caught in the filter and did not survive her injuries. I placed her in a plastic Gerber baby food container, a small but fitting casket for a friendly little orange and white fish. That left us with Golda and Schindler for a while, it wasn't until we brought Snaily into their lives that Golda and Schindler started behaving oddly.

In my story of their lives, Schindler was the bully of the bunch. He followed Golda around, and seemed to bully her. But that all changed around the time that Schindler turned black. I think he and Golda were having identity crises. Golda's tail disappeared. I was convinced Schindler nipped away at it until it was just a stump. (Did I mention I feel creeped out by "stumps," especially the word, "stump?") I read that tails grow back, but Golda's tail never grew back. It stayed stumpy, while the rest if her grew and grew and grew. Now she's at least triple the size she used to be. We thought she might be pregnant, but that didn't materialize. She just grew up, I guess. After that, Schindler started acting sickly - shrinking and lying still at the bottom of the tank for long periods of time throughout the day. He doesn't seem to be capable of eating. Maybe he's blind. I haven't seen him actually eat pieces of food in months, but he's still alive. I think he eats off of the aquarium floor, because it is easier for him. Something has gone amiss: what it is, we don't know. Snaily lasted almost a year. Now we have three new neon fishies, Zig, Zag, and Zippy, and a new zebra snail (who does have a name that starts with a z, but it escapes me...I know it's not Zit, Zit would be the little creature that was born on my lip a few days ago).

With her fish smock on, Darah was a perfect little client. She sat still the whole time, and when she was done she ran over to me to show me her hair. She hardly noticed that she was running over a whole head of my hair on the floor. She stood in front of the mirror. When Sandy asked her what she thought of my hair, she ignored the question and very lovingly and excitedly admired her adorable reflection. I guess she has some of those Mason genes - we're notorious for staring at ourselves in the mirror. I was shocked to find out that not everyone does this. I thought it was part of the human condition, but, no, apparently it's a genetic thing that affects one in every two Masons. After I was done with my appointment, I knelt beside Darah and asked her what she though. "How does Mummy's hair look?" She said, "It wooks boo-tifooh." I couldn't have dreamed up a better response. Then, after all was said and done, we went to the Macomb Public Library. There were two kids in the children's library room, and they seemed very interested in my appearance. I was happy about it, because I felt it would challenge their stereotypical idea of what a mother should look like. If they asked their parents about it later on, that is a wonderful thing, in my book, because it creates an opportunity for discussion and learning. Gees, I should get paid for this stuff.

Actually, I haven't had many responses, negative or positive, to my head. People do seem to notice and do a second take, but generally no one seems to care. Yesterday, I ran into the store to buy a couple loaves of bread. A dirty-lookin' farmer in his eighties was standing beside me as I waited to check out. The coverall suit that was covering his overalls had practically fallen off. He walked with a limp. He has a scruffy, gray beard. He said, "Hey, looks like ya nearly shaved all yer hair off?" I looked right at him, with my glasses over my eyes and my giant sunglasses sitting on my head, and tried to respond. "Yeah, I did just about shave it off." Although we were standing two feet from one another he shouted back at me, "Ain't a thing wrong with that. Not a thing. I was shavin' a fellar's hair this morning, and ya know what I told him? If I go a fourth of an inch closer, I'll give ya a clean shave." Well, I'll be darned (derned)!

Funny thing is, I have run into this man and his son quite a number of times at the grocery store. The man always starts a conversation with me about something I am doing or wearing while his son stares at me. I suspect his son may not be capable of living on his own. It's a bit foggy, but I recall him introducing his son to me once while I was standing in front of the oranges.  Maybe he was trying to set us up on a date? His son stuck out his hand, which was covered in dirt or dust or newspaper ink,  for me to hold or shake. I did. He (the son) enjoyed it. Immensely. Then the son repeated the gesture a couple more times. I was awkward and did not know how to handle the situation. I let him hold my hand again, and then I smiled and went (hustled?) to find Sandy in another aisle. It's hard to know what to make of those situations. And harder to know how to handle them. If he was a four year old boy, I would have no problem shaking his hand a few times. But a man in his forties who may or may not have the brain of a four year old boy - that's surely more complicated. Anyway, the old farmer had some wise words for us all: ain't a thing wrong with that.

My hair is growing rapidly. I like it better like it is now than I did when it was first shaved, but I wouldn't have known that had I not done it. Maybe I'll like it even more when the next inch or two grow in. It's fun to watch something grow. It's fun to feel something grow, too. I love the low-maintenance aspect of this whole thing. Shower, and that's it. No drying. No pulling out hair. No brushing. No nothing. Just a good shake under the towel and it's finished. If I go out in the rain, I don't have to deal with frizzy, wet hair. I never have to worry about my hair at all. If a bird poops on it while I'm walking into a restaurant, no problemo. I walk into the bathroom and rise it off and, voila, it's fixed. It simplifies life. And with two little ones at home, simple is the answer. Maybe it's the answer regardless of who's at home. Now, my leg hair is another story. A more shameful, difficult one. I shave those two...for swimming class. What a cop-out! It completely contradicts what I am trying to do with my head. So why is it scarier to have hairy (and I'm talkin' really hairy) legs than to have a shaved head? Maybe when I'm forty I'll go all the way.