So here’s another story from the Queer Poetics class at Mills.
Among the poems I read in the class was “East Oakland,” which is essentially a love poem that occurred at Mills my senior year. Part of it reads:
…I want to twirl you
across the room,
my hand light
on the small
of your back, want
our bodies to catch
the rhythm, words
we held hands
who bravely choose partners.
Then tell me: my second year
of college I took a field trip, busload
of white kids and me. We drove down
96th Avenue, right past the house
I grew up in, its square yard. Home
called ghetto for the first time.
…My tremors travel
through the arc of our walk,
hands swing into rhythm,
your palm cool and dry,
subway to 54th Street,
words never ceasing.
They taunted me weirdo, retard,
monkey, hey lezzie. Taunted you—
you don’t say the words. I spread
my body against yours, try
to imagine East Oakland, 1965….
As I read this poem 24 years after H gave me her poem reading in part, “At first/we held hands/like children/who bravely choose partners,” after hearing her story about the field trip (which also happened at Mills), after wanting to dance awkwardly and joyfully, after spreading my body against hers, most of which happened on-campus; body memory came flooding back–where we stood, the light on her face, the smell of eucalyptus, the feel of air on skin, the blue of sky. Several times as I read, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it through, the layers of emotion so deep, twined, literally taking of breath. What a reminder of the power, longevity, and absolute realness of embodied memory.