Saturday, August 06, 2011

Lasting (Gratitude Poem #9)

Family! I feel like I am on the best possible version of "Alexis Pauline Gumbs" this is your life. This is my life!!!! Gratitude overflowing. We have actually reached and exceeded the goal of my chipin fundraiser. Which means my plane ticket to St. Croix to visit Gloria Joseph and re-baptize myself in the legacy of Audre Lorde is paid for!!!!! Yippeee! AND...I would never deny myself the honor of writing a poem for any of you, so if you want to contribute to food and other expenses of the trip feel free to keep chipping in here:

Maura Bairley was the first boss I had that made me want to grow up and the first adult I trusted to tell the truth everyday and not be broken by it. When I was some sort of vaguely defined work-study assistant at the Barnard-Columbia Rape Crisis and Anti-Violence Support Center (which Maura helped to found and also to shepherd into its own department complete with a robust brilliant staff and, peer advocates, crisis responders, and full-steam peer education programs that empower people of all genders to make moves to end violence...) I marvelled that someone like Maura could exist, and be happy, and be so nice to me on monday mornings!!!!! Working for Maura also meant being surrounded by posters of Audre Lorde, books by genius feminists of color on a regular basis. Osmosis is real.

One way to say it is this:

Maura actively created holistic structures to end and respond to sexual violence on a campus where I survived sexual assault. Maura has actively nurtured structures for queer black feminist transformation in my communities that I benefit from every single day. Maura has built a model for whole, real, resplendent survival just by living the truth of her own life and letting some of us be witnesses. Maura, you have saved my life over and over again just by living yours.

And here is another way to say it


For Maura Bairley

After Audre Lorde’s “Legacy-Hers”

to crack the code of your giving

measured presence daily truth

all at once your unapologetic self

enduring miracle

intro course

on how bright Black women

stay survive

and whole

i showed up

to study you with awe

a stark believer

stumbling half grace

at twice pace

to seek rest in holy war

to learn you by immersion

watch you cherish crossfire path

deep and marked with slender bones

hear you breathe a structure of tears

into undrained heroism

neat next steps

feel you conjure peace in uncalm air

unflinching at terrible

having known something worse

believing in so much better

must be there was some slow and sacred music

you could hear

centered in collusion

clear ancestral chorus

lifting you into the most urgent now

unrushed clarity

making space

to you it was just showing up

to me it was the proof that life was livable

the proof that we would win

what I didn’t know

i needed

to keep




the gift

not being first

and lasting.

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