When Julie R. Enszer wrote to me of her about her planned collection of Jewish lesbian poetry to be called, "Milk and Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry," I had an immediate reaction-- as I seem to do. I could not accept the title of the proposed anthology--a sugared reference to the state of Israel--which is anything but milk and honey these days--and I had been reading Rosa's letters from prison as well as an early biography of her where there are photographs of her, standing in large meetings on European terraces surrounded by the serious men of the Left and there she is, the only woman, wearing her 19th century looking hat, short and persistent. My homage to her fierce courage, to her refusal to accept the structures of war dependent nationalisms:
"Words to the Woman in the Hat"
Rosa, 10 steps and you reach the wall,
Orchids blossom in the strength of your desire
To see beyond the final No
Of a state enamored with a war.
Perfumes overcome exclusions,
Hints of life become huge things,
The flutter of a wing, the bellow of a bull,
Sunlight given to you only on the slant
Kisses your body into being.
I come to you, Jewish woman to Jewish woman,
Hair and hip, mouths in love with thought,
To touch your body with my own
Before the rifle thrust that ends your dreaming
Of the end of nations.
I come from a land of walls.
Come, mount me,
We have skies of work to do.
How Jewish are we? How queer we we?
My breast and belly, my thighs and mouth, my open hand wide
against your pleasure
Will take on histories, will buck against the soldiers at the borders.
Not milk and honey, that would be a phony sweetness in such
times as these
Not milk and honey, Rosa, this you knew--rather, a fierce want
that breaks the normal, the national,
How Jewish are we? How queer are we? Enough to refuse.
From "Milk and Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry," edited by Julie R. Enszer ( Spain: A Mid Summer Night's Press, 2011). Other included poets: Ellen Bass, Marilyn Hacker, Elana Dylewomon, Leslea Newman, Achy Obejas, Melanie Kaye-Kantowitz, Julie herself and 20 more women speaking their mind. A very small book, that fits in the palm of your hand..