Two Poems

Daughter of Bilitis

I’ve come to the local library to find
Barbara Gittings
Just behind the next shelf
up the stairs to an Alexandria
in shimmer
Looking for her out-of-prints
Climbing the Ladder to the highest
rearranging the alphabet
around her before those configurations

spoke of her equations
She must be somewhere
rearranging—closing the gap
on the medical shelves
spindling strong spines
and hand painting proud titles

I open the trophy case
to polish her
and read the other names
she gave hers to
Independence Hall, remind us
mural the wall at 21st and Locust
Clang the bells at Kennett Square
There she goes, to reach up
another of the endless shelves

Radclyffe Hall

If I could I’d reach through
decades like paper walls
to confirm your handshake
was strong. Is it true?
Did a “masculine soul
heave” in your “female
bosom?” Did you feel
the opposite of what you
seemed? Settle a bet for me
were you ever just a roommate?

Today, you’d be a playboy.
The L Word couldn’t contain you.
Left a continent of tearful girls
behind you, and helped yourself
to a Boston marriage or two
didn’t you? They put your words
on trial, burned your Well at the stake.
But you were untroubled, I think.
Braver than Brits nigh a hundred
years newer. Braver than I
could have been. I’d give you
a shake and a smile, sir. I hope
this poem will suffice.

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