Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Night at Dante's

After a day of wind and rain squalls, La Professora and I made our way to Dante's pub-cafe, a gathering place for an eccentric mix of devotees. On this night I was to be part of the Melbourne book launch for a collection of photographs--by Del LaGrace Volcano-- and text--by Ulrika Dahl-- about an international community of women who define as femme. I want to share with you my contribution to this moving and at times powerful event.

March 14, 2009

Thank you Liz and Ulrika for inviting me to be part of this evening.

My words tonight, this expression of my fem power, grew out of the courage of the young fem-butch, trans people, lesbian-feminist people, peace and gender queer activists, Palestinian and Israeli, with whom I spoke in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem two years ago. Out of the courage of Rauda Marcos, one of the founders of ASWAT, the Palestinian Lesbian Organization, who fights for the lives of all her peoples on so many fronts. Out of the words of Sonya of Australian Women for Palestine who lead me to the poetry and life of Mahmoud Darwish, the revered Palestinian poet who died at age 67 on August 11, 2008 in exile and who lived his life labeled "a present-absent alien" by the Israeli government. I will carry his words on this femme body for the rest of my life.

From my journal, June 22, 2007

Our friends in Haifa made us see with their eyes and so we saw through landscapes to deeper histories. When we first travelled the roads between Tel Aviv and Haifa, our eyes fell off the scrub hills, but Hannah asked us to look again. "See those prickly pear cactuses"--and she slowed the car down so we could focus our gaze--"Every time you see a cluster of them, you are looking at the ruins of a Palestinian home. The farmers used the plant to form natural corrals for their grazing animals and also ate the fruit born at the tip of the rounded leaf." We started to look deeper, longer, and soon we could see the tracings of another people, not a long gone people,but a recently displaced people. Stone foundations started to appear, buried in the surviving scrub. May you all have friends who make you look again. But when you see, there is no return to blankness, to cruel triumphalism.

The Poet: "Ah, the country where we see only what is not seen; our secret/We travel like other people but we return to nowhere...We have a country of words. Speak speak so I can put my road on the stone of a stone. We have a country of words. Speak speak so we may know the end of this travel.

Dear Poet, how did I find you, through dusty roads of unknown histories, you whose words live on so many tongues and yet I was so ignorant of the love you poured into your differently metered lines, of your swirling solid notes of exile, of the white mare that runs down into the valleys no longer safe, that drinks from your fathers' wells, now empty of their sense of self. I came as a stranger, a Jewish femme stranger into your cadences of loss and exultation, into your Andalusian sunsets and endless stony roads that lead to children carrying fathers on their backs, to endless journeys past familiar olive trees but with no rest allowed, no fruit given.

The Poet: " (to the killers) If you'd contemplate the victim's face/and thought, you would have remembered your mother in the gas chamber/ you would have liberated yourself from the rifle's wisdom/and changed your mind; this isn't how identity is reclaimed."

I stood in front of the gray looming wall that divided life from life, that marked the loss of history for one people and the loss of a soul for another. That impenetrable wall, with its razor wire far above us, froze my queer fem body. And that is why I am here tonight. For many years, I have written, mapped, tracked the power of my fem desire, the strength of my thighs to grip the wanted body and shake it loose of its hard places, to offer my fullness of desire and flesh as a way through, as a break in the wall, as a yearning that refuses solid borders and policed boundaries. I have reveled in the thrust of penetration, the opening in the wall; I have been a port of entry, a simple thing, a taking in, an offered warmth, a way in, a break in the wall. In other writings I have charted how desire for a certain kind of touch can push a woman off the map. And on that bare sandy road in East Jerusalem facing the wall's brutal solidity, I had the inkling of a fem politic, something beyond my earlier years' celebration of the fem-butch courage that walked the hate-filled streets of Joseph McCarthy's America. How does a fem face history, how does my body, always the speaker of my desires, confront the atrophies of national compassion that so mark our world. A port of entry, a simple thing, a taking in, an opening in the wall. Over ruins so huge they threaten to block out all hope, your words find me. I have tasted your heat, seen the olive trees in exile, decorative in the gardens of the usurpers. What a strange two the world would think us, a 50s fem from the Bronx, the dying poet who lives in every Palestinian heart--but the only way I can live in a world now where such a wall exists is to take your words into my mouth.

The Poet: "I am my language. I am what the words said: Be my body. Be the crossroads between my body and the eternal desert...there is no land to carry me above the earth so my speech carries me.

This is my language, collars of stars around the necks of lovers, my steps are of wind and sand/ my world is my body and what my hands possess/I am the traveller and the path.

The poem is what lies between a between. It is able to illuminate the night with the breasts of a young woman/it is able to illuminate, with an apple, two bodies/it is able to restore/ with the cry of a gardenia, A Homeland.

In Jerusalem and I mean within the ancient walls, I walk from one epoch to another without a memory to guide me...I was walking down a slope and thinking to myself: how do the narrators disagree over what light said about a stone? Is it from a dimly lit stone that wars flare up?... I think to myself, alone the prophet Mohamed spoke classical Arabic--'And then what? Then what?' a woman soldier shouted: Is that you again? Didn't I kill you?' I said: you killed me...and I forgot, like you, to die."

At the end of the two hour talk at the University of Tel Aviv, a group of fem women came up to talk with me about the difficulties they faced, the judgements from all sides that accompanied their lives. As they spoke and I comforted I saw their beauty. That night we spent in the Jerusalem home of one of the founders of Women in Black in Israel, the following day we stood vigil in the heart of the city--Gila took us through the streets, crossing over into East Jerusalem, traveling along the wall surrounding Bethlehem, stopping at the checkpoint controlling Palestinian entry and departures from their own land, and finally into the hectic histories of the old city. A long hard day. In the evening another communal sharing of food. Many of the young people who had been present at the Queer sexuality talk had made their way to Gila's house. Feeling a little tired, I sat in a chair in the backyard, taking in the scents of the warm night air, the sounds of Jerusalem, and one by one the students and their friends came to sit around me. They wanted stories of the body, these young queer peace makers, wanted tales of how we survived the bigotries of another time, how we found each other and tried to imagine another world. We leaned into each other and again I saw the beauty of the unarmed human body, their hopes for another kind of future held in their bare arms. "Come back to us," one of the young femme women said, "when the occupation is over."

Selected Books by Mahmoud Darwish

Why Did You Leave the Horses Alone? Trans. by Jeffrey Sacks, 2006.

Unfortunately, It Was Paradise. Trans. by Munir Akash and Carolyn Forche, 2003.

Memory for Forgetfulness. August, Beirut, 1982. Trans. Ibrahim Muhawi, 1995.

The Butterfly's Burden. Trans. by Fady Joudah, 2007.


sticky and delicious said...

Such a beautiful post, Joan, and a joy to read.

I wish that I were in Melbourne for the launch! I attended in Sydney but would've loved to hear you talk.

I met you once, at an event in Sydney, many years ago. I remember listening to you was so powerful.

I am a Femme who feels broken and cut off from her community. I long for it and don't know how to access it again. You make me yearn.

Butch Boo said...

Lovely jubbly!
Great fan of yours.



宜蘭民宿 said...








酒店上班請找艾葳 said...

艾葳酒店經紀是合法的公司、我們是不會跟水水簽任何的合約 ( 請放心 ),我們是不會強押水水辛苦工作的薪水,我們絕對不會對任何人公開水水的資料、工作環境高雅時尚,無業績壓力,無脫秀無喝酒壓力,高層次會員制客源,工作輕鬆。

milf said...

1。那混合物是更缓慢的 ... 但是 Lexus 的即将到来混合版本 ' 将是比气体气体更快的唯一的版本如好地有多马力。不要自夸速度,但是我被吸引轮流开送行为 90,是警察给我一次休息。
... 只是通过在城市乘公交车往返我储蓄过来 $ 5000/yr 与我的以前的汽车,吉普车切诺基相比。超过 5 年,会是 $ 更不用说会进一步增强我的储蓄的最近的比率远足的 20K。这样除非你是在你的父母的地产上吸的一个浪费的儿子,你的声明是一束公牛。

milf said...

3. 45 (90 r/t)
45mpg 天是 2 我的车上> 8 加>>比。那每天是 6 >仑的一笔>蓄, 120 月, 1440 每年者 5040 (根 3.5 元/) ... 加上它发表 1/10th CO2。多愚蠢是它不要骑一个,去算进今天和年龄。
4.缺少了解 ... 是真的,实际上我个人这样那样喜欢它我可能享受所有鼓励;税,合伙用车,免费停车米, prius 业主之间的秘密的信号,等等;这样自私地说那我真地在那里在享受在所有气体汽车业主上的所有权那没有一个想法多少我这辆汽车有的嬉戏。我 junked 我的 SL,郊区对我的 Prius ... 你应该也。

Scottie said...

好康關鍵字:沛納海 隆鼻 玻尿酸 塑膠棧板 老酒 旅館 外籍新娘 雷射溶脂 整形 網頁優化 格子王 熱水器 玻尿酸 公仔

新聞關鍵字:江詩丹頓 隆乳 網頁優化 棧板 老酒收購 格子 外籍新娘 包皮 整形外科 白蟻 跳蚤 SEO 格子 果凍矽膠 公仔製作 公仔模型