A short poem, addressed to the Taliban, from Lima Niazi, a 15-year-old Afghan girl. Today is the International Day of the Girl. Read about Lima and other girl poets in Afghanistan in Pulitzer Center grantee Eliza Griswold and Seamus Murphy’s project on Afghanistan, women and poetry and leave your own landai in the comments.
Lima Niazi. Image by Seamus Murphy. Afghanistan, 2012.
ANDY PLUMB KNEW he was different when, at age 9, he plucked his mother’s clothes out of the laundry basket and put them on. It felt good, but he didn’t know why.
On Christmas Eve the year he was 16, his mother discovered his secret. But it wasn’t until he was studying English at Sonoma State University in the ’70s that the longtime Greenbrae resident embraced being transgendered. He calls himself Selena Rose when he dresses in drag.
Recently, Plumb published “Bootleg Poems,” a slim volume of his poetry and photographs that explore his feelings and the reactions of others to his world. “I don’t think anyone honestly understands transgenders unless they’re transgender themselves,” he says.
Plumb, 60, is an avid contra dancer and works as a writing consultant.
Q: What inspired you to write a book of poetry?
A: I’ve been writing poetry for about 20 years and thought about doing it years ago but never quite had it together. Then I started meeting people and I got a whole bunch of good responses from people who aren’t transgendered.
Q: Was it hard coming out to your parents?
A: My mother and I, we really didn’t talk for about six months. My dad didn’t know what to do. But my mother did want to know what was going on so she’d gotten some books from the library on human sexuality and she was underlining stuff and left themout for me to see. She had to go through the period of trauma and grief and denial: “Who is this kid of mine?” Now, she’s my biggest fan when it comes to my writing.
Q: In one poem, you seem to enjoy challenging people who want to box you into a gender; is that how you really feel, or do you seek understanding?
A: There was definitely a big anger stage and a lot of resentment that I had been given this gift — I call it a gift on some levels — and yet not knowing what to do with it and people not understanding it. But I do like having fun testing people’s ideas on gender, challenging them. I find it amazing how much energy goes into identifying someone as male or female.
Q: What’s it like to be transgender in Marin?
A: I feel like a novelty item. I don’t really go out a lot in Marin. But it’s OK to do pretty much what you want, up to a point. If I were to go to restaurants and clubs in full drag, it would be different. … It does amaze me how many men in Marin, and I have no numbers, who cross-dress at different levels, whether it’s just wearing pantyhose every once in a while to actually going out to the city in drag and how much they’re pretty much in the closet. That’s one of my biggest things; I wish more cross-dressers would be more out there.
Pick-up lines for feminists
by Lesley Kartali
making the move
at the bar
the pro-choice rally
or the conference
on women’s rights
in the 21st century
is no easy task
young and old.
how do you
subtly ask for digits
while still making it
that you are fine
and are certainly
not buying into the idea
that women are worthless
without a significant other?
just remember to smile.
(depending on if you
feel like it)
and try some
of these lines
on for size:
if i could rearrange
i would put u and i
and then we could
work on trying
to think outside
of this male dominated
your paradigm or mine?
you’re so sweet
you put hersheys
out of business.
you can bring down
bastard big businesses.
somebody better call
because he/she/gender neutral being
are missing an
*if atheist this line may not work
did it hurt?
when you fell
from the top
of the hierarchy
as a woman?
with consent of course.
you are so
i must be dreaming.
where have you been
all my life?
your feet must be tired.
because you have been
running through my
mind and struggling
against the repressive
that we have been
if the personal is political
then our getting together
has the potential
to subvert the patriarchy.
what’s your sign?
if these lines fail
it’s probably just
said pick-up line
with the idea
that you are a
just keep telling yourself.
if they haven’t
tells them yet.
they are not
Today @312Barstool (bigot) tweeted @staceyannchin (me)
“You’re a dirty carpet munching cunt that belongs in my kitchen, washing my dishes and cock. Write a poem about that….”
So I took his advice and wrote the poem.
you are a rotting dick/an ass wipe
an open sore existing
among the worst tumors that plague humanity
you are an apology someone should have made
today you remain
a very good reason abortions should be legal
to every woman who finds herself
carrying the figurative fetus of your fetid misogyny
get the fuck out of my womb
you hater of your own origin
you forget you came from some woman’s cunt
the pussy you so deride
provided path for you
to get here spewing such sick soliloquy
makes a good argument for capital punishment
only I hold myself
accountable to a more compassionate code of ethics
so I refrain from advocating
for the archaic quartering of you
I will also resist the urge
to imagine you shackled in sequestered servitude
kneeling at the altar of some woman’s holy cunt
washing her feet with your mouth
I would not wish her the degradation
of your tongue on her flesh
your feet on her floors
you are the thing I will spend my entire life
trying to protect my daughter
from/the slime of your ignorance
the sweat of your hate
coward that you are
hiding behind the intangible shroud of the virtual
your keystrokes are the only ones with any power
unimportant little man
you splatter the male identity
with the putridity you exude
rotting apple/gonorrheal wound
refusing to heal/you would have us conclude
that most people with penises are like you
but for the stellar examples of men in my life
I would think you the norm
your actions would inform the love I cradle
for the small boys in my circle
how to be better than the monster you are
far and away
fairytales and fiction pervade what they know of vaginas
valuing virginity over the virtue of being fair
bravado over advocating for equality
you make me wish I had a son
to personally prove your antithesis possible
you frighten me
with your ability to keep breathing
your inclination to replicate
to keep pressing the boot of your discrimination
upon the necks of generation after generation
the only thing that prevents me from raising arms
and going guerilla after you with guns
is our collective dedication
to the eradication of your kind
across all the borders of feminism
and spaces held wire against the throat of equality
women resist heart and body
cunts and collarbones
kitchens and bedrooms
we rebuke all you offer as fact
the act of tweeting something does not make true
you are only a narrow opinion
one hundred forty characters/your cavalry
is not nearly as committed as mine
you and your cronies were contrived
to keep the best parts of us broken
these poems you and your drones continue to encourage
these litanies I continue to compose
will stand as evidence your crumbling tyranny
time will hold your actions
as it was with every disease before you
the strongest/most admirable parts of being human
will keep adapting/over and over
history has already shown us
what doesn’t kill us/will make our resistance stronger
the uphill task of surviving you as pandemic
can only make our species more immune
There are days
When there is no way
Not even a chance
That I’d dare for even a second
Glance at the reflection of my body in the mirror
And she knows why
Like I know why
When she feels like she’s about to lose control
She knows how much control is worth
Knows what a woman can lose
When her power to move
Is taken away
By a grip so thick with hate
It could clip the wings of god
Leave the next eight generations of your blood shaking
And tonight something inside me is breaking
My heart beating so deep beneath the sheets of her pain
I could give every tear she’s crying
A year—-a name
And a face i’d forever erase from her mind if I could
Just like she would
But how much closer to free would any of us be
If even a few of us forgot
What too many women in this world cannot
And I’m thinking
What the hell would you tell your daughter
Your someday daughter
When you’d have to hold her beautiful face
To the beat up face of this place
That hasn’t learned the meaning of
What would you tell your daughter
Of the womb raped empty
The eyes swollen shut
The gut too frightened to hold food
The thousands upon thousands of bodies used and abused
It was seven minutes of the worst kind of Hell
And she stopped believing in heaven
Distrust became her law
Fear her Bible
The only chance of survival
Don’t trust any of them
Bolt the doors to your home
Iron gate your windows
Walking to your car alone
Get the keys in the lock
Please please please please open
Like already you can feel
That five fingered noose around your neck
Two hundred pounds of hatred
Digging graves into the sacred soil of your flesh
Please please please please open
Already you’re choking for your breath
Listening for the broken record of the defense
Answer the question
Answer the question
Answer the question miss
Why am I on trial for this
Would you talk to your daughter,
Your sister, your mother like this?
I am generations of daughters, sisters, mothers
Our bodies battlefields
Beneath the weapons of your brother’s hands
Do you know they’ve found land mines
In broken women’s souls
Black holes in the parts of their hearts
That once sang symphonies of creation
Bright as the light on infinity’s halo
I remember the way love
Used to glow like glitter on my skin
Before he made his way in
Now every touch feels like a sin
That could crucify medusa kali oshun mary
Bury me in a blue blanket
So their God doesn’t know I’m a girl
Cut off my curls
I want peace when I’m dead
Her friend knocks at the door
It’s been three weeks
Don’t you think it’s time you got out of bed?
The ceiling fan still feels like his breath
I think I need just a couple more days of rest
Bruises on her knees from praying to forget
She’s heard stories of Vietnam vets
Who can still feel the tingling of their amputated limbs
She’s wondering how many women are walking around this world
Feeling the tingling of their amputated wings
Remembering what it was to fly to sing
Tonight she’s not wondering
What she would tell her daughter
She knows what she would tell her daughter
She’d ask her
What Gods do you believe in?
I’ll build you a temple of mirrors so you can see them
Pick the brightest star you’ve ever wished on
I’ll show you the light in you
That made that wish come true
Tonight she’s not asking
You what you would tell your daughter
She’s life deep in the hell—-the slaughter
Has already died a thousand deaths with every unsteady breath
A thousand graves in every pore of her flesh
And she knows the war’s not over
Knows there’s bleeding to come
Knows she’s far from the only woman or girl
Trusting this world no more than the hands
Trust rusted barbed wire
She was whole before that night
Believed in heaven before that night
And she’s not the only one
She knows she won’t be the only one
She’s not asking what you’re gonna tell your daughter
She asking what you’re gonna teach
The Madness Vase
The nutritionist said I should eat root vegetables.
Said if I could get down thirteen turnips a day
I would be grounded, rooted.
Said my head would not keep flying away
to where the darkness lives.
The psychic told me my heart carries too much weight.
Said for twenty dollars she’d tell me what to do.
I handed her the twenty. She said, “Stop worrying, darling.
You will find a good man soon.”
The first psycho therapist told me to spend
three hours each day sitting in a dark closet
with my eyes closed and ears plugged.
I tried it once but couldn’t stop thinking
about how gay it was to be sitting in the closet.
The yogi told me to stretch everything but the truth.
Said to focus on the out breath. Said everyone finds happiness
when they care more about what they give
than what they get.
The pharmacist said, “Lexapro, Lamicatl, Lithium, Xanax.”
The doctor said an anti-psychotic might help me
forget what the trauma said.
The trauma said, “Don’t write these poems.
Nobody wants to hear you cry
about the grief inside your bones.”
But my bones said, “Tyler Clementi jumped
from the George Washington Bridge
into the Hudson River convinced
he was entirely alone.”
My bones said, “Write the poems.”