Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Little Visit

During all the hard times of my life, the Lesbian Herstory Archives demanded that I pay attention to its needs in a myriad of small ways. Through bouts of illness, the filing was there, the mail pick ups with Deb, the greeting of visitors--always the need for touch, hand to paper, a thin thing but a life line, and in a way, the archives is doing that again. I am afraid I have let too much time go by to for the project that has gripped me for the last two years: creating the pastiche, as I see it now, the portrait of a city and a community and one apartment. You know this project as "13A: The Story of an Apartment, a Community and an Idea: LHA from 1974-1990." I am now deep in touching papers once again, all made possible by Rachel who works with LHA back in Brooklyn. She is my paid research assistant and has managed to provide me the correspondence of the first 20 years of LHA's existence. Last week I sent out the call for memories on my Face book page and the stories, two or three sentences at times, call to others--the early archives reforming itself forty years later, the researchers, the traveling musicians, the women who need a New York bed for the night or for a few spoke to me. As I said to Chocolate Waters, a poet whose work came to the archives so many years ago, this is not about nostalgia but about resistance and communal generosity.

This is my first writing about my project now, a beginning of sharing with you the progress of this work, some discoveries, and thoughts and feelings I cannot predict, but I can share with you a very personal gift the correspondence has already given me. Two thousand pieces of printed letters,in  an old fashioned way, in pencil, in pen, on envelopes, on home made stationary with all our symbiotics--paired axes, intertwined women's bodies, double women gender signs, in inks of all colors. Then this, its reference number, 1980--12--098. The year, 1980, the month December, the first part typed.

                               Dear Joan,
                               I'm desperately trying to finish this rewrite by the new year. I
                              just retyped this page and I'm sending it to you because I thought
                             of you when I did it, and how often we seem to be at crossed swords
                             which are not real, because we both are survivors. I wish we did
                             not only communicate when there's a function or a problem, but I
                             guess that's a  piece of the lives we live.
                                The last time I saw you you said you'd send me some of your writing
                             but you never did. Is that because of too-busy or is there something else?
                                 Anyway, it was nice and unexpected to find you coming up in this
                            obsessive undertaking I'm doing here, kind of like a little visit. That's 
                            from my heart, Joan. May this new year be a healthy fruitful one for
                            you and for Deb, and for all those you love.

                           [In pencil] In the hand of Afrekete, 
                               2:30 AM

I have no memory of ever seeing this letter, perhaps it was enclosed in the monthly LHA mail and so it never reached me but yesterday it did, reached me to the depths of my heart. I said to my two younger friends, Maddy and Sam, visiting today with tears rolling down my face, never turn away from the offer of comradeship, no matter how unworthy you may feel, I let my aching body rest in the hands of Afrekete, I let the sword drop, something I should have done a long time ago--dear Audre, from my heart, let us be in each other's presences now, a little visit, dear fierce gentle woman poet warrior.

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