• NYS Writers Institute

Poetry Friday: Judy Grahn

"How to approach Me? First thing, humility;

secondly, service to whatever is alive."

-- Judy Grahn


by Judy Grahn

Black ocean, night sky a garment of flowers,

performing their dances in axial turns.

On earth, mass migration is the new normal,

rippling the robe of life, everyone on the run,

running, twisting from the great devour.

Leaving tent cities, boats capsized, animal eyes

of wonder at increase of trauma,

not knowing exactly how now to be wise.

On earth elite humans hide in their towers,

ordinary folks take a strange faith in guns,

as chemicals, petroleum, metal, fuel turmoil,

smaller-eyed beings fall silent of tongue.

Me, I am Ma, their eons My hours,

scope of My life full of minor turns.

I prevent suffering by making things formal,

more or less steady, more or less fun.

I prevent suffering by balancing, showers

with sunlight, laws of My nature to shelter the land.

Take only as much as you need, think of “ours”

and give back whenever you can.

Once in a while a disruption of powers—

usually collision of meteor runs—

this time, and to their own conscious horror,

this time the grandiose near-tiniest of ones

speeded up, unwrapped My robe of all flowers,

shut down their precious connections to being,

with inflated sense of importance and power,

they, who are tinier to Me, than microbes to them.

For three of My days they’ve been planters and plowers,

given the bounty to burst at their seams.

I wish them a solace in midst of their sorrows,

connections to whole-ness, the hearts of all beings.

No one is ever that far from My bower,

even if all I can offer is calm.

A bit of compassion this current cross-over,

No one is ever that far from My arms.

Me, I am Ma, the cup and the ladle;

fruits of all looms and turns of the sun.

Me, I am Ma, both snatcher and cradle.

My robe is eternal, never will be done.

How to approach Me? First thing, humility;

secondly, service to whatever is alive.

Unconditional love requires permeability;

surrender the ego, have faith. I’ll arrive.

-- In “Crossing” from Hanging On Our Own Bones (Red Hen Press)

Poet, activist, and scholar, Judy Grahn, PhD, is the author of five poetry collections, including Hanging On Our Own Bones (Arktoi Books, 2017), two drama and poetry collections, seven works of non-fiction, including A Simple Revolution (Aunt Lute, 2012), and Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds, (Beacon Press, 1983), one novel, Mundane’s World (Crossing Press, 1988), an edited collection on Gertrude Stein, a compilation of poetry, essays and a play, The Judy Grahn Reader (Aunt Lute, 2016), an antiracist poem with notes, Descent to the Roses of a Family.

Most recently she has published morality tales of an ancient goddess, Eruptions of Inanna: Justice, Gender, and Erotic Power, (Nightboat Books/Sinister Wisdom, 2021) and a collection of stories and essays, Touching Creatures, Touching Spirit: Living in a Sentient World (Red Hen Press, 2021).

For much of her career, Judy Grahn has served as a political force. Her writing energized the feminist, and lesbian-feminist movements in the U.S. and abroad and later the gay movement in the 1980s and 90s.

She has received more than 20 awards, including two Lambda Literary Awards and two American Book Awards. Commonality Institute supports her work and sponsors an artist/scholar residency in New Orleans. In 1999, Judy Grahn received her Ph.D. in Integral Studies with a concentration in Women’s Spirituality from the California Institute of Integral Studies where she is currently an Associated Distinguished Professor.

Our q&a with Judy Grahn was conducted by Moriah Hampton, PhD, an instructor in the University at Albany's Program in Writing and Critical Inquiry (WCI)

Congratulations on the publication of Touching Creatures Touching Spirit: Li