the moon is a lesbian … Poetry by Maddie Fay

Lesbian, poetry
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Maddie Fay is a poet based in Atlanta. She writes a lot about friends, recovery, illness, dirt, and the ocean. Her first chapbook ‘Cockroach’ is out now! Check her out on Facebook

the moon is a lesbian

the moon is a lesbian,
which i know because she has
kissed every inch of my body
more often than any lover
i’ve ever known.

i have watched the way
she kisses the ocean
and guides her gently home,
have seen her face reflected with love
in the ever-changing sparkling surface of the sea,
and i don’t know any other word
to describe a love like that.

the day we smoked a joint in the woods
and then walked eight miles in the rain
to gas station coffee,
we passed two other gas stations on the way,
but you were holding my hand and
i didn’t want it to stop.
you said
“you’re beautiful”
and i said
~~~~
because you were the most remarkable
person i had ever seen,
leaned up against the hood of a stranger’s car,
smoking a cigarette like a lesbian james dean.

you’d call yourself
“lesbian” sixteen times before breakfast
until it stopped sounding like venom
and started to sound like a prayer,
because how could i ever look at
love like this and feel anything
but holy?
my new church was the woods
by the river,
and i learned to worship
at the altar of your body.
you took me in your arms and you said,
“baby,
you’re beautiful,”
and i told you i loved you
because beautiful had never
meant anything to me
except that i had something
people could take.
i heard “beautiful” from your lips and it sounded
like a blessing.

the moon is a lesbian because
she knows how to love without taking,
i have scarcely loved a man
who has learned how to love without taking,
that is not to say that no man
can love without taking,
but it is a skill that is learned
through a grief
that i have shared with every
queer woman i have ever met.

when you kissed me in the attic,
it was not the first time
i had been kissed,
but it was the first time that a touch
felt like a gift and not a punishment,
and it was the first time i understood
why people write love songs.
i wanted to write you a love song,
but after a lifetime afraid of my own voice,
all i could sing you were hymns.
not because i had made you an idol,
but because your hands on my body
made me feel clean for the first time.

the moon is a lesbian because
the night i stumbled out of
the apartment of the man
who only loved me when
he thought he could keep me,
blood on my lips and nowhere to go,
the moon kissed my fingertips
and she said,
“baby,
what took you so long?
welcome home.”

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Sometimes I Look for the Love of My Life When I Pee … Illustrations by Odara Rumbol

Inspirational, motivational illustrations that make it just a little bit easier to be a woman.

British Habesha Girl: Poetry by Zelly Lisanework

Intersectionality, Lesbian, poetry
assorted-color textiles

Our featured poet this month is British Ethiopian writer, performer and human rights advocate Zelly Lisanework. She is a co-founder of Ethiopian LGBTQ+ Human Rights organisation, House of Guramayle. Her creative practice and advocacy work is about centring and amplifying intersectionality within marginalised communities. Through the lens of nature, mental health, social justice, feminism and identity, her work explores the injustices in our world whilst also celebrating the beauty to be found. She draws upon her own experiences, navigating the spaces as an intersectional feminist and queer black woman in the diaspora.

The poem that she is sharing is called ‘British Habesha Girl’. She says, “I wrote it to validate, celebrate and redefine the different parts of my British and Ethiopian heritage.”

BRITISH HABESHA GIRL

I don’t cook Injera meals

But I eat them pretty well

I speak and understand Amharic

But I don’t read or write Fidel.

I don’t go to Bete Christian

For my church has no walls

I don’t rise at dawn to greet the sun

Yet I love to hear the prayer calls.

Addis Ababa planted roots in me

Southwold nurtured me safely

I am a Habesha Girl

I am a British Girl

Existing with my duality

Liberated in my sexuality

Defined by no one.

Habesha – a term used to describe people of Ethiopian and/or Eritrean decent.

Injera – a rounded, sour flatbread that is spongy in texture and filled with air holes. It is the staple food in Ethiopian cuisine.

Amharic – one of 88 languages spoken in Ethiopia

Fidel – is the Amharic alphabet

Bete Christian – is Church; the phrase literally translates as Christian House from Amharic.


What inspires you?

People and places, I am interested in stories and lived experiences and the relationship we have with places. I find I am inspired most in non-binary exchanges with others and being able to explore ideas freely and creatively in places that I love, such as historical towns/cities, the countryside and by the seaside.

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How does your Ethiopian upbringing influence your work?

I have a complicated relationship with my Ethiopian upbringing, having been born to Ethiopian parents biologically and being adopted as a toddler to be raised as dual heritage by Ethiopian and English parents. My Ethiopian upbringing lasted 11 years from birth until I moved to the UK. I used to struggle finding ways to allow my upbringing to co-exist with different parts of myself, which in turn impacted the level of influence on my work. I have redefined what it means to me to be Ethiopian, I have written about Ethiopia from a slightly Romanized point of view to preserve the pride and nostalgia I have as a person who hasn’t visited their country of birth since 2016. I have also written about Ethiopia whilst being nuanced and critical about the culture and its influence on my own upbringing.

How does your sexuality influence your work?

My sexuality influences my work very much in the same way other parts of my identity, such as my dual heritage does; it is one of many elements. My Queer Lesbian identity is so intrinsically linked to many parts of myself, which is explored in my work. I write about Queerness through the lens of feminism and intersectionality, and the relationship my sexuality has with mental wellbeing and my Ethiopian upbringing. My work is also a celebration of Queerness, of love and desire as well as a validation of adversities faced.

Why do you write?

I write as I have a strong desire to express as well as to question and explore. Writing is one of my strongest ways of self-expression. Words usually stumble out of me when I speak on the spot, but when I can explore thoughts and ideas in non-binary and non-linear ways through words, I feel most free. It is also very therapeutic, as when my brain is full of thoughts that rattle around, they can go to live on the page once I have written them down.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?

I don’t think this was the first poem I ever wrote, but the earliest recollection I have is of a poem I wrote when I was 11 years old at school. We were exploring the poems of First World War poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon and the English teacher wanted us imagine and write our own wartime poems in a collage format, and so I wrote a poem in the style of a diary entry which was inspired by Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’. The first poem I wrote that led to me pursing writing was during my final year of university when I was struggling with life, the poem is called ‘Opposites Attract’ and is about Love and Hate personified as they sit side by side watching the day change from morning to night and sharing their reflections.

How do you find your way into a poem?

Many different ways! I always have my phone nearby as ideas spark when I’m out and about or I wake from sleep; sometimes it’s words and phrases and other times it’s ideas for a poem or a poem itself that I’ll work on editing. When I’m commissioned to write and working to deadlines then I usually start with an idea and list things that come to mind before I begin work on a structure.


Check out Zelly Lisanework’s website.

Find out more about the advocacy work of the House of Guramayle.

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Pride, Love and the Power of Self-Acceptance

By Louise Clare Dalton: “Yes, for almost twenty-four years I was ashamed, I denied myself queer love and the joy of living my truth, but I’m here now. How great is that? I’M HERE! And I’m so proud of my journey.”

2020: Locking Down My mental Health

By Josie Quinn: “Addiction is sneaky like that; it reminds you of the brief rush you felt, not the days and weeks of regret and shame after, and definitely not the years of help and work it took to get to a stage where it finally felt under control.”

What They Told You … Spoken Word Poetry by Louise Clare Dalton

Bi-sexuality, Louise Clare Dalton, poetry

For me, the journey towards self-acceptance and accepting my sexuality was a long and complicated one. I use writing to help me unpack all of that. I want to continue to tell bi stories in the future, and talk about pride too!

This month’s featured poet is Louise Clare Dalton. A finalist in the Roundhouse Poetry Slam 19, her spoken word poetry is deeply rooted in introspection, often exploring uncomfortable topics in order to confront herself and the world. At the centre of her work is introspection and understanding how societal pressure affects human behaviour. 

About ‘What They Told You’

My experiences as a teenager shaped the relationship I had with my sexuality for a long time. I wrote this poem to unpack a specific experience, in order to move on and continue the journey towards loving myself completely. Looking at the internalised homophobia I carried from my school years for such a long time was a huge step forward in accepting and celebrating my sexuality. Writing it down takes away its power, and gives the power back to me.

 

What inspires you most as a poet?

I find nature really inspiring – the way everything connects and is constantly moving. I grew up in a rural area and I still draw a lot of inspiration from that!

Why do you write?

Writing has helped me process moments of trauma, pain and heartbreak. It gives me a space to respond to the world and find the light and joy in it too.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?

I started out writing songs when I was about fifteen, but I never shared them – the first one was about a fox! I started writing poetry much later.

Why performance poetry rather than written?

I love the way you can play with the poem each time, pull apart the rhythms, etc. – I just love to mess around with stuff!  Most importantly though, when you perform, you’re in conversation with the audience for those five minutes. That moment when you feel them in it with you – that’s special for me.

Where do you do your best thinking?

In my bedroom! I usually plug in some Arctic Monkeys and dance around like a fool for a bit, then sit down to write. After that I just like to have a bit of quiet and some coffee.

What poets inspire you?

Dizraeli, Tanaka Fuego, Debris Stevenson, Rakaya Fetuga, Kae Tempest, and loads of others. My first inspo was Bob Dylan.

How does being bi impact your work?

For me, the journey towards self-acceptance and accepting my sexuality was a long and complicated one. I use writing to help me unpack all of that. I want to continue to tell bi stories in the future, and talk about pride too!

Check out more of Louise Clare Dalton‘s work.

Read her Women Like Us Blog: At What Point Do I Qualify? My Bi Experience

Find more poetry by incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us

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