Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Thursday, June 19, 2014
La Professoressa has departed for Adelaide to visit with family, leaving Cello and I to ramble in our memories. I have been answering several letters by women researchers trying to understand what was at stake in the deeply conflicted late 1970s and 1980s over issues of sexual pleasure and danger. I soon learned the pitfalls of looking back from my 74 years at a time when I was passionately engaged, the longings that arose again, the mistakes of memory but not of heart, I still believe. The wheel of historical interest is turning; for years women would write me asking about the bar days of the 50s and 60s, but as we become fewer and fewer, the focus now is on the early days of lesbian-feminism and the politics of our connections and exiles. That is a good thing and I know how rich are the Lesbian Herstory Archives holdings form those years.
As I was writing to one of the researchers, trying to explain my disaffection for Women against Pornography and their tactics at the time, I remembered with a gentle fondness, my younger self''s decision to wear a black slip when I was reading my erotic writings, to put my large woman's body behind the words, an honesty of unavoidable location. Sometimes women walked out of the readings in protest both to my words and to my body, but this was how I lived my politic in Reagan America. Then I remembered that wonderful Saskia Scheffer of the archives had found this photograph of a writing- reading tour I did with Jacqui and Chea, perhaps the only image of the black slip Joan still in existence. How self absorbed this is, and how inconsequential, I think, but how moved I am by this image, all of us, the bad girls, standing before a performance with a New England weather beaten porch fence behind us. Thank you, comrades, for the embrace. I can feel the body under the slip still and the warmth of yours against me.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
|Leo Seemanpillai, "the Tamil asylum seeker who died recently after setting himself alight will be buried in Australia later this week without any of his family being allowed to attend his funeral." (Alexandra Kirk, ABC News, June 14, 2014)|
I did not always know where Sri Lanka was or of its divided history; I first learned of its civil war when I was editing an international collection of lesbian short fiction in 1996 and began exchanging e-mails with Yasmin Tambiah, a Sri Lankan writer who had returned home after her college education in America. We could only reach each other when electricity was available, when bombs were not falling, when Yasmin was not attending the funeral of friends lost in the conflict. She wrote then, "September 1984: Three months since I returned to Sri Lanka with an American college degree. The civil war has spilled beyond the Northern Province. Metal gates to my parents' house still bear the dents of rock-throwing mobs. There are ax marks on the wooden doors. New plaster hides a ceiling charred by a burning tire. Embattled elsewhere I relive the horror of July 1983 through my siblings' eyes. It is difficult to articulate the deep loss within, the negation of familiar fictions, the awareness that exile in one's own country is even less bearable that at a distance. It is a loss compounded by my family's fear."
Yasmin and I now live in the same different country from where we started and once again are working together to articulate the world of the displaced. What first saddens and then encourages the deepest of anger in me at the politics of so- called border protection and its new twist here of using the poorest of near nation islands to build detention camps, and this is a policy supported by Labor as well as the right wing Liberal Abbott government, is the cascading heartlessness that punishes the already punished. Our newspaper that we read here, The Age, portrays the exiles that took this young man's life:
"Persecuted in Sri Lanka, exiled to India and tortured in Indonesia, the final indignity for asylum seeker Leo Seempillai--who self-immolated--is that his family has been denied visas to attend his funeral in Australia." (Konrad Marshall, June 18, 2014)
Monday, June 16, 2014
Thursday, June 12, 2014
I thought words would never leave me, but now silence is a quiet deep inside. I am aware of how many words are pouring out almost every minute on these invisible airways, I am aware that all is an answer to our feared fragility and I am aware of the great privilege of safety that I have, a quiet room on a quiet street with my love asleep and Cello curled up on his chair.
I have turned 74 since last we met. I have been inspired by the young activists of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society, I have heard young Palestinian women and men speak with young Jewish women and men, calling for all the histories of displacement to be mourned, for the Occupation to end, in a room filled with older people who did not want to hear these words but who listened. I have offered my grassroots archival skills to AJDS so for their 40th anniversary, their history is being cared for, these brave people who are the pariahs of the traditional Jewish organizations here because they are dissenters from the unquestioning pro-Israel unified public face.
I have given my first Skype lecture, through the kind direction of Karl-Magnus to a room of lesbians and queer people in Gothenberg, Sweden. Speaking in the late night darkness of our study, La Professoressa curled up in a chair, wearing her Quantas pajamas and our small fireplace burning bright, speaking from our night into a Swedish afternoon and trying so hard to bring my body to them, not wanting to let them go after an hour of being with each other in this strange way, too hard to push the red button of disconnection. Karl recorded the session and it can be found on YouTube.
Yasmin Tambiah and I are in the final stages of editing our guest issue of Sinister Wisdom on Lesbians and Exile. It has been a long time since I have worked putting together collected voices, a long time since working with Naomi Holoch on the Penguin collections of lesbian short fiction and with John Preston on stories by gay men and lesbians of their shared connections but working with Yasmin brought back that special kind of joy when first tentatively you share your thinking and then in a rush of mutual trust and appreciation. The issue will be out in October of this year.
La Professoressa and I are in the final stages of planning our three month trip to New York, London and perhaps Slovenia, leaving in August.
So you see, life pushes me into known directions, caring for the papers of marginalized voices, finding texts, joining others walking in the streets, saying no to the heartless Right and finding my way back to you, always thanking Maddy who works so hard to keep my connection to this technology alive.
I hope you are still there.