This is Judy's powerful award winning classic nine-part poem, praised by Alice Walker, Linda Hogan, Adrienne Rich, Cherrie Moraga, Vince Santos, Amitai F. Avi-ram, Maximillion, Ani DiFranco and many others.
June Jordan wrote to Judy about the poem: "Dear Great American Poet, I wish you could see how your words save life. In the classroom, how the students' eyes light up as they understand what you are saying."
Some people think this poem pre-cogged the film Crash by 32 years.
Mothers, fathers, clasp the children, tie them to your breast and beam like flashlights, hold the children praise them with buckets of raspberries, shiny as jelly, give them you. Show them they are green-worthy as grass in rain, lofty as kite-flying by the Bay, sharp as sunrise after an ice-storm. Grasp them, study their eyes, talk to them like kittens. Tell them they have the sturdy grace of deer, communal peace of stones, generosity of the sea, able, able, capable and ready. Tell them they can learn to be happy no matter what else is true. Mothers fathers grip the children with bearpaws of glee, press them to your hearts, sing high into their precious ears, drip strawberry down through their lives, tell the sons they are ships and shores, tell the daughters they are mountains and towns that will thrive a hundred years, say the world is sending them a ticket, they just need to find the train that’s theirs.
Oh winds of change, gather the wounded boys and girls of all rages into your giant arms, blow brotherly breath between their fierce sad eyes, unclench their wish for motherly porridge, pour fatherly tears of crooning through their bliss-hungry lips and tell them this one truth: When we find or make that motherplace our vessels heal, contain no leaks and all around us love pours in, red cells pulse burning away bleakness, red cells flash as curious pretty fishes spelling the words “this is my darling life, and this is enough”
(from “women are tired of the ways men bleed”
Serpentina Press, 2006)
VII. Vera, from my childhood
Solemnly swearing, to swear as an oath to you who have somehow gotten to be a pale old woman; swearing, as if an oath could be wrapped around your shoulders like a new coat; For your 28 dollars a week and the bastard boss you never let yourself hate; and the work, all the work you did at home where you never got paid; For your mouth that got thinner and thinner until it disappeared as if you had choked on it, watching the hard liquor break your fine husband down into a dead joke. For the strange mole, like a third eye right in the middle of your forehead; for your religion which insisted that people are beautiful golden birds and must be preserved; for your persistent nerve and plain white talk-- the common woman is as common as good bread as common as when you couldnt go on but did. For all the world we didnt know we held in common all along the common is as common as the best of bread and will rise and will become strong--I swear it to you I swear it to you on my own head I swear it to you on my common woman’s head
from “The Common Woman Poems”, in love belongs to those who do the feeling Red Hen Press, 2008)
The most blonde woman in the world
The most blonde woman in the world one day threw off her skin her hair, threw off her hair, declaring ‘Whosoever chooses to love me chooses to love a bald woman with bleeding pores.’ Those who came then as her lovers were small hard-bodied spiders with dark eyes and an excellent knowledge of weaving. They spun her blood into long strands, and altogether wove millions of red webs, webs red in the afternoon sun. ‘Now,’ she said, ‘Now I am expertly loved, and now I am beautiful.’
(from She Who, in love belongs to those who do the feeling
Red Hen Press, 2008)
Just what is “sane” anyhow?Written from the perspective of the child of a schizophrenic parent, this nine-part poem will seem autobiographical, but look again. You may find something very familiar, looking back at you from the cusp of sanity/insanity.
one from Mental
That she could be on the street in the rainy season, that my mother could so easily be one of the butterflies curled into a misery cocoon under the bright plastic, color of a painted suburban swimming pool, vivid blue shroud heaped over the sleeping body on the sidewalk stained grey with water, stained with ice
that this could be her dear distressed face struggling to the surface of one more day among the million dollar apartments
butterflies die out when their habitat is destroyed
but it’s all in the head, it’s mental, isn’t really real, isn’t happening not on our streets, not in this civilized and monumental era no, it isn’t really happening that our streets are crawling with bugs, with cocoons with someone (showing signs of malnutrition in his knobby elbows
I mean is that what it is?) leaning, bending down shouting as though to voices talking to him from under a car or maybe the license plate is broadcasting maybe it’s the government propaganda “news” about the war?
no, it’s all in our heads, it’s mental
he isn’t really bending and listening to voices he isn’t really walking around in a state of malnutrition on our streets saluting the parking meters listening to fenders among the million dollar apartments
from Mental, Serpentina Press, 2007
Women are tired of the ways men bleed Though war and domestic violence are heavy subjects, it is also true that upon hearing the chanted section on blood, an entire long pew full of thirteen year old girls stood up and cheered spontaneously.Grahn insists there is a road to the other side of the dilemma of destructive blood rituals. Women’s Spirituality foremother Elinor Gadon wrote, “I can hear your voice through and through, yourwarm-hearted, generous nature, so wise and benevolent. No judging naming god.Thank you dear one for your prescience.”