Judy Grahn

A woman among motorcycles

I remember a time, a night when the sky
was a sheet of crystal, and the air was dry
I became a Woman in the Middle of Motorcycles.

One night, a night of the full moon
rising just as Venus lowered in the West,
I went out walking, miles
into the hills, alone,
not even my dog went with me.
It never occurred to me to carry a gun.
I crossed an abandoned parking lot
whose asphalt had begun to rot,
with grass and thistles already pushing
thinly through,
and the first roar of the motorcycle
only startled me,
then two more, then three,
I wasn’t frightened until they were five
and circling me, their black boots
and jackets armor against the moonlight.
Dense with terror, I turned to see
they were ten, all single men, grinning
and grim and watching me.

I knew instinctively this was not the time to fall.
Begging, showing fear or pain would be my death.
I drew a great first breath
and throwing back my head, I called down the moon,
“Mother Moon,” then
“Mother Venus,” I called,
as the cycles crawled past, circling and waiting,
and roaring and watching me.
And then I said my mother’s name
and hers and hers and hers and hers

Grandmother Mabel I said,
Grandmother Kate I said,
Grandmother Clementine I said,
Grandmother Mary I said,
then I called my aunts to me,
Margaret, who baked bread when grandpa died,
Helen I know nothing of at all,
Agnes spanked me till I cried, Sybil helped build her
own cinderblock house by the shores of Lake Michigan,
Gertrude who wasn’t mechanical drove her
very first car straight up a telephone pole.
Betty worked forty years in a grocery store,
and Blanche wore a high-topped dress,
black stockings, a brilliant smile
in the only photo I have seen,
when she was seventeen, in 1917.

When I had finished with my aunts,
I called the gods and mothers of the gods, Mary,
Anna, Isis, Ishtar, Artemis, Aphrodite, Hectate, Oya, Demeter,
Freya, Kali, Kwan Yin, Pele, Yemanya, Maya, Diana, Hera, Oshun,
and after that some saints, Barbara, Joan, and Brigit;
as my memory ran out I made up some more saints,
canonized them on the spot.
And finally I called my friends including from high school,
then each woman I have ever worked with,
then some heroines, till I had chanted every woman’s name I know.

When I was through I said them all over again,
turning in my own circle with my face up and the moon
shining in, it must have been an hour or more I whirled
and chanted, filling my ears with my womannaming roar.

When I opened my eyes
the angry men were gone;
Venus had set, the moon was down,
I stood in the asphalt field
and not at all alone.

Judy Grahn’s poem, "a woman among motorcycles”, is part of her book-length poem, “The Queen of Swords”, which is included in its entirety in The Judy Grahn Reader, a collection out from Aunt Lute Press. The poem is also in Judy’s Red Hen Press poetry collection, love belongs to those who do the feeling. Judy is one of the founders of lesbian, gay, and queer movements; her first pro-lesbian article was published in 1966 in Sexology Magazine; yes, that is 45 years ago. She is currently writing a memoir about Gay Women’s Liberation, and she teaches women’s spirituality at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, and literature at California institute of Integral Studies. Journal