Going Santa Fe

by janeeatonhamilton

In the 90s, I wrote a long poem called Going Santa Fe.  This was a term referring to a straight woman who had become lesbian.  I entered it into a contest; it won first prize at the League of Canadian Poets Chapbook Contest judged by bill bissett (who later became my “gay son”) and was published by them as a chapbook, cover artwork by Claire Kujundzic.

Although Canada won our battle for same-sex marriage rights over ten years ago (I was a litigant in our case and we won June 2003), the US is still mired in discussions about what is still in your country, unbelievably, a contentious topic.  So I thought reprinting the poem here might be of assistance to people grappling with how to understand it:

Going Santa Fe

“The Lesbian is one of the least known members of our culture.  Less is known about her–and less accurately–than about the Newfoundland dog.”

-Sidney Abbott and Barbara Love, Sappho Was a Right-on Woman, 1972

“During the 1920s and 1930s…a woman who had switched her sexual preference was said to have ‘gone Santa Fe.’”

-Jeffrey Hogrefe, O’Keeffe, 1992

1)

When I started loving women

I thought I was falling through a roof

a tumble through shingle and beam and plaster

back into innocence

The truth is, I was nine.  The first

girl I fell for wore a yellow dress

simple as sunshine–

I didn’t need innocence at all

I never, ever had a crush

on one of my gym teachers

You want to know

my history with men?

The first boy was called Teddy

I liked him because my

best chum told me to

I took my cues where I found them

I mimicked my friends

Do:  hair, nails.  Feel: giggly

 

For me, dating men was

a lot like bowling

a pleasant diversion

I felt nothing in particular

I was blank as a bowling ball

racketing the gutter

The truth is

I was raised by heterosexual parents

a man, a woman

The truth is I

didn’t have a rocky

childhood

The truth is, heterosexuals

are some of my

best friends

2)

Cancer

When the moon, Uranus, and Pluto

do their planetary thing

you want girls who come

like frothy milkshakes

Gay Pride weekend you will be

showing cleavage in a black jumpsuit

and tossing girls in the air

like pancakes.”

Girlfriends magazine May/June ‘95

3)

Generally, I say, the sex is better

It’s the sex straight women

are always quoted as

saying they want

4)

“It’s just like heterosexual sex, only we don’t have to fake the orgasm.”

-Suzanne Westenhoefer, Girls Next Door, Into the Heart of Lesbian America, Lindsey van Gelder and Pamela Robin Brandt, Simon and Schuster, 1996, page 102

5)

lez be friends

6)

I was sometimes the crowbar

married women used to extricate themselves

from their husbands

For instance

there was a business meeting

at a university in the east

I took a married woman back to my room

where she drank sherry from my belly button

In the morning she thought she was leaving me

but the door she opened was into the closet

7)

Do you realize

lesbians in the closet

are hiding from

you?

8)

 

Heterosexual Questionnaire

What do you think caused your heterosexuality?

Most child molesters are heterosexuals.  Do you consider it safe to expose your children to heterosexuals?  To heterosexual teachers, in particular?

Is it possible that your heterosexuality steams from a neurotic fear of people of the same sex?  Perhaps you just need a positive gay experience.

Family Values, Two Moms and Their Sons, by Phyllis Burke, Random House, 1993, page 83 (Queer Nation)

9)

Every straight friend my lover and I

confided in found it necessary

to tell at least three trusted friends

who found it news enough that they

told at least two trusted friends

who vowed to keep it

absolutely private

10)

One of my married lovers said

But couldn’t you

teach a man to touch you

the way a woman does?

Pretend that I could.

Then what?

11)

No one asks my friend Grace

when she sleeps with men

whether she hates women

12)

When I left my first lover

I was as bruised

as if I was straight–

that heartbroken

13)

“…lesbians have not, as a rule, turned to women because of a terrible experience with a man.  ‘If that’s all it took,’ goes one of stand-up comic Suzanne Westenhoefer’s classic lines, ‘there wouldn’t be any straight women left in America.’”

Girls Next Door, page 90

14)

My wife’s in Toronto with her Lesbian Lover,

he said.

Not immune to the power

of the phrase Lesbian Lover

I could feel myself

beginning to swell, to grow

to one hundred feet, a giantess

able to squash happy family heterosexuals

with a single footstep

15)

When I first touched

my lover

I believed I was giving

birth to myself

that sweet occasion

that celebration

Soon, I called her beloved

honey, angel, sweetheart

She was a woman

her back arching

just so

She walked Spanish banks

a serene silhouette

Our past her, the ocean

tossed and heaved her flanks

16)

I love her I love her

17)

“At one point we were facing each other.  Nic suddenly leaned over and started kissing me.  My first reaction?  It was Nicole, but it felt strange.  I thought, I don’t feel disgusted or upset, but can I really let myself enjoy this?  Am I going to be uptight?  Am I going to break away now?  And then I thought, No, I’m not going to do that.  I’m going to let my feelings lead me…see how it goes…

Nicole pulled back and looked into my eyes.  I said. “I don’t know how to do this.  I don’t know how…”

I was in a state of shock.  But the shock wasn’t strong enough to make me stop…”

-Faye D. Resnick. Nicole Brown Simpson:  The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted, 1994

18)

“The pressure to test out heterosexuality is intense, [but] ‘how will you know until you’ve tried both?’ is advice that’s rarely given to straight kids.”

Girls Next Door, page 84

19)

When you meet gay and lesbian people:  Hints for the Heterosexual

 

do not run screaming from the room

if you must back away, do so slowly

do not assume they are attracted to you

do not assume they are not attracted to you

do not expect them to be as excited about meeting

a heterosexual as you may be about meeting a gay person

do not immediately start talking about your partner

to make it clear you are straight

-postcard, Dan Kaufman graphics

20)

Q:  What do lesbians do on the second date?

A:  Rent a U-Haul

-common lesbian joke

21)

Well, as long as you’re discreet

 

            What you do in the

            privacy of your bedroom

            is none of my business

            (I guess)

 

but isn’t it

I don’t know

sort of

boring?  sort of…

gross?

 

            Really, I’d be a lesbian too

            if it weren’t for Bob

 

Did you read the lesbian poem cycle

in my book?

I mean, Susie and I didn’t do anything

but I was in love with her

 

            What do you mean

            you’re not attracted to me?

22)

“Not even a good ironing can make me straight.”

-from an Elizabeth Gorelik photograph

23)

Tell us something about lesbians

We have short fingernails

24)

Why do heterosexuals

have a life

while homosexuals

only get a

lifestyle?

25)

I am a woman

I dream of tenderness in a cool morning bed

26)

Listen

Can I ask you something?

Will you open the book again

re-write the song?  Or travel

down the road you live on

slowly, inviting us along?

27)

“Hate is not a family value.”

-message on a bumper sticker

28)

make lists:

Lesbians Who Anthropomorphize Their Pets

 

Lesbian Coiffures

 

Lesbians I Love

 

Famous Lesbians

29)

Chastity Bono

Melissa Etheridge

Candace Gingrich

Janis Ian

kd lang

Ellen DeGeneres

Elspeth Cameron?

30)

Books by the side of a lesbian bed:

Shelter, by Jayne Anne Phillips

She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb

Anna Kerenina, by Leo Tolstoy

The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

i live in music, by ntozake shange

Stones by the River, by Ursula Hegi

31)

But what do lesbians do?

32)

In a Toronto bookstore, my friend Janis and I

thumbed through the Rubyfruit catalogue of sex toys

and she said, They’re what?  I thought

they were candles.

33)

The truth is the sex involves

the usual suspects

34)

But which one of you is the man?

The truth is that is lesbian couples

both partners are women

That’s why they call us lesbians

35)

With this ring, I thee wed

(Finally)

36)

I can’t even think straight

–message on a tee shirt

37)

Is that a lesbian

or a garment bag?

38)

Aries

Aries lesbians whoopee

at night with such force that

car alarms go off

Summer solstice brings

a girl habit you might

not be able to kick.”

Girlfriends magazine, May/June 1995

39)

What if I fell in love with a

woman from Nashville

and Immigration wouldn’t

allow me into the US?

40)

Gayby Boom

41)

Auntie Joy’s adopting Sarah and Meghann, I said.

They’re going to be your real cousins.

What were they before? asked our niece.

Fakes?

 

42)

“My mother came out of the closet and all I got was this crummy tee shirt.”

43)

At the IVF clinic

in Vancouver, lesbians

wanting insemination

were turned away

This was called

nondiscriminatory

44)

Our favorite coffee shop

refuses to carry the local

gay newspaper because

it’s a family place

45)

“Last year we reported that Sharon Bottoms had finally gained legal custody of her young son, Tyler.  But sadly, Bottoms’ fight wasn’t over.  On April 21 a divided Virginia Court of Appeals ruled 4-3 in favor of awarding custody to Bottoms’ mother, Kay.  The majority opinion argued that Tyler could be condemned by society if raised by lesbian mothers.”

Curve magazine, August 1995

46)

“I couldn’t help but think that she’s fifty-four years old and had been dating that woman for twelve years–isn’t that sick?” a man who killed an Oregon lesbian couple in 1995 indignantly explained to the San Francisco Examiner.  “That’s someone’s grandma, for God’s sake…Lesbo grandmas, what a thing, huh?”

Girls Next Door, page, 14

47)

Once someone called me up

anonymously

and in the harsh voice

of an obscene caller said

Do you know you’re living

with a lesbian?

48)

Imagine love being shameful

Can you?

Imagine loving your boyfriend

and hiding it, so that you

can’t wear your wedding ring out

of the house, so that you can’t

tell the other teachers

at work, so that you have to deflect

questions about why you

aren’t married

Say

I haven’t met the right guy

Say, Yet

 

Spurn your boyfriend out loud

a few times each week:

Chris?  Oh, we’re just friends

When he goes to kiss you

on the corner, pull away

glance around furtively

deny him

for instance to your mother and father

so that, at Christmas, you go home

alone

Peel potatoes and stare

at the turkey baster, say

I’m dating someone, but he’s…

think fast, say

...already married

If somebody finds out imagine how

you could lose

your job

your housing

your life

49)

When it came time to

rent a house

my first girlfriend dressed

in sensible shoes

and a heavy iron cross

We told the landlord

she was a man

The truth is she and I

never held hands

in the town in which

we lived for five years

because what if someone

took offense and we

were two women

in a house

in the country

at night

50)

Pretend your husband

is a woman

Does anything change for you

now that you’re lesbian?

Pretend

just for the moment

that someone figures it out

say for argument’s sake

your baker, your dentist, your mother

your massage therapist

Would anything happen?

Choose just one person

say What is the worst thing I could

tell you about myself?

 

You have cancer.

Worse.

You killed someone.

Worse.

51)

Excuse me, sir, were you aware

this is the woman’s washroom?

 

Anne?  That’s a funny name

for a man

When my gal and I signed up

for dance classes, the clerk said,

Your partner’s name?

and I said, Joy

and she said, Joey?

and I said, Joy

and she said, Joe?

and I said, Joy

and she said, John?

and I said, Joy

and she frowned and wrote Jeff down

shaking her head

At class several women

refused to dance with us
52)

Imagine love being dangerous

Outside the community centre

near my home

some teenage

boys

pelted a woman

with snowballs and stones

She looked the type

Dyke, they hissed

At a Bread Garden on Denman Street

Joy and I stared at each other

stupid with love

until a man growled, Goddamned lezzies

Which one’s on top?

The truth is that we scuttled away

when he wasn’t looking

trying to fade into the storefronts

across the street

Watching our backs

yearning for the soft

insides of closets

53)

In Iran, a group of lesbians and gay men

who admitted they loved

people of their same gender

were given a choice:

stoning, or a plunge from a cliff

All ten chose to die

in flight

54)

abomination

a sin against God

sodomite

pervert

invert

 

woman with immature sexuality

(all she needs is one good…)

55)

“We don’t want [the Lesbian Camp Sisterspirit] here for the simple reason of…  It’s a known fact that all your violent crime comes from homosexuals.”

-Jones County deputy sheriff Myron Holified, Mobile Register, Mississippi, Feb. 27/94

The women

found a dead puppy

dressed in menstrual pads

spilled over their mailbox

56)

In Oregon, they narrowly averted

a plebiscite against us.  In Colorado, they

passed a law against us.  In Ontario, they voted

against our equality

57)

“In its 1989 ‘Gay in America’ report, the San Francisco Examiner calculated the cost to a hypothetical employee of its own who was in a legally unrecognized gay relationship, and compared the costs facing a legally married straight employee.  Both staffers were fifty years old, and both earned $40,000 a year.  In total, the report found that partners of gay Examiner employees who had worked for ten years would receive $55, 890 less in benefits than straight employees’ legally married spouses, and, if they outlived their gay partners by ten years, would lose $8000 in pension payments.”

Girls Next Door

58)

Sometimes I long to

feel exotic and

dangerous, but

what always strikes me

is that I am as

ordinary as pie

that bland

As a lesbian

I brush my teeth

twice a day

As a lesbian

I clean my kitchen floor

once a week

As a lesbian

I pay my VISA bill

once a month

boring as soap

59)

My mother made me a lesbian

If I give her the wool

will she make me one too?

60)

Differences between you and me:

You are five foot six

I am five foot three

You have green eyes

I have blue eyes

You are thirty-four

I am forty-one

You live on Gladstone

I live on Arbutus

I don’t get a kinked neck

kissing my partner

61)

You committed a homosexual act.

 

I did not.

Elton John is a homosexual act.

62)

 

Tell me something about lesbians

We are famous for potlucks

Tell me something real

I am trying to tell you

she and I are the same thing

I am trying

to tell you I am a woman

she is a woman

the same thing

as you, just

two people uniting

netting love from the

marine heavens

We comfort each other

when the sky churns like a cauldron

grey foam

Wouldn’t you wish this pleasure

on anyone?

63)

The truth is I grew the

tub of nodding sunflowers

And the bowl of chicken

on the harvest table?  I cooked

it.  And the quilt you lie on?  I sewed it

And the book in your hands?  I wrote it

And the baby’s cheek?  I kissed it