Tag Archive: poetry

Lit tea light candles against a dark background

Lit tea light candles against a dark background

I got some bad news yesterday.
It’s sort of the way of the internet that sometimes we miss things, or find things, totally by chance.
I found out, totally by chance – because a fellow kinky queer author had posted a screen-shot of someone else’s twitter post to instagram, of all things – that another fellow kinky queer author has died.
Corey Alexander – a writer that you may know as blogger TGStoneButch or under the pen name Xan West – was found dead in their apartment, apparently due to complications related to diabetes.
There’s been a go-fund-me to cover their funeral expenses (information here) which I think has been fully funded and, as such, has been paused (rather than taken down – possibly because there may be further, unexpected expenses to cover. Not sure).
For folks who want to make in-memorium donations, there’s a list in the works and I’ll update this post once it becomes available.
In the interim, and while the above go-fund-me is paused, I’ve been told that donations to trans lifeline, in Corey’s name, would be welcome.
Donating to a disability justice org of your choice would also be a way to honour their memory, as would just… offering some cash to help another disabled or chronically ill trans person cover their medical expenses (hit up #TransCrowdFund and/or #DisabilityCrowdFund on twitter to help someone out directly).
If you are a fan of their work and have questions about their author-estate, there is an FAQ here. Needless to say, there are other things taking priority right now, so please be considerate and be patient.
Shira Glassman has opened a virtual room in-which to sit shivah (link goes to information, not to the zoom-room itself).
There will be a virtual Minchah and Kaddish for them (link goes to information) this Friday, August 21, at 4:30pm EDT, to-which all are welcome.
So, y’know, I know what I’m doing this Friday, as it turns out.
There is a virtual guest-book where you can post brief messages and memories of Corey (and if you are like me and “only” knew them online, that still counts).
This is what I wrote.

I didn’t know Corey particularly well, but we’d been aware of each other for years. Shop talk on twitter and comments on each other’s blog posts, that kind of thing. Their writing on the vulnerability of dominance and the violent desires of sadism, as well as their work to challenge the fantasy image of dominants, tops, and sadists as inscrutable, consistently confident, and without needs or fears, has both helped me find words to put around my own experiences, and pushed me in terms of my own writing. I’m so sorry they’ve died. They remain an inspiration and I’ll miss their thoughtful presence in my life.

It was a short message, and I guess I want to elaborate a little bit.
I would feel very presumptuous calling Corey my friend. We didn’t know each other like that. But friendly acquaintance, peer and colleague? Yes. For years. I was part of the blog hop they did to promote their book, Show Yourself To Me. Their writing has influenced and informed my own.
Like I said, they gave me language and a way of talking about how embodying and existing within my own insatiable, violent desire is a vulnerable position to occupy. They helped me notice the ways that, oh, gosh, how do I name this… “dom-normativity”? Subcultural social expectations of Dominant Behaviour? …how That Stuff maps onto heteronormativity and expectations around what it means to be (conventionally) masculine which, in turn, helped me dig further into what it means for me, as a Femme, to cultivate and nurture my (sense of consensual) entitlement as a Domme and the reasons why my dominance-as-practice sometimes fails to resonate with, or mirror, the ways dominance is conventionally portrayed (in, say, BDSM porn or in people’s workshop-presenter bios)[1].
Weirdly – or maybe not so weirdly, synergy being what it is – their writing about being Butch (like the writing of other leather butches, as it turns out) has given me ways to articulate elements and aspects of my own Femme identity, leather and otherwise, about being “all mouth” and yet having my teeth clamped shut, about the ways that feminine appetite is coded as monstrous and how that affects me (and expectations directed at me) as a dominant, sadistic woman who is both emphatically queer and somewhat “conventional” in the outward presentation of my (Middle-Aged, Nice White Lady) femininity[2].
I’m sorry they’ve died. Far too young. They were kind and thoughtful in my interactions with them. I liked their brain and what they had to say. I think what they had to say was important.
What can we do but continue to explore this stuff, continue to name it and bring it to the foreground? What can we do but pick up their Work and carry it on?

For Corey Alexander[3]
Cicadas howling
their brief lives
in summer heat
A visceral response
to a death not theirs
but mine
to mourn
It would be presumptuous
to call you friend
or back from the dead
demand my old colleague
come to my candle
be present
in the recounting of the stories
you wrote
But you’re in every word

See you at their memorial,
Ms Syren.
[1] I guarantee you there are going to be more posts on that one, as it is a long and on-going trip.
[2] My day-to-day dress, on those occasions when I leave the house, looks more and more like Gothabilly Lite or Office Witch, than the leopard print and mini skirts of what I think of as “Classic Femme” or the lingerie-as-outerwear and oil-slick lipstick of my early 20s.
[3] This is a chunk of a drafted glosa (on Liza Rankow’s “Femme Poem 1”) I wrote, yesterday, in the wake of learning of their death.

Poem – Shiver

My skin is
hungry flutter in
my chest
aching for touch
smooth my hands over
fingers trace the line
of lip and collarbone craving
hot shower
hot chocolate
burn my tongue on the absence
of a lover’s mouth
lonely body
longing for all that
to make me

Xanthra MacKay

So. I was at the RHO conference in Toronto last week.
And it was awesome in a zillion different way, and I’ll probably do a write-up about some of it in a bit. BUT I came down from my hotel room and greeted my boss and asked him if he’d gotten up to anything the night before, and I misheard what he said. And this led to some clarification, and then I had to go and write this poem.
You May Know Of Her
My boss came into work this morning
to work this mourning
to work through this
a woman on my street
passed away
you may
know of her

you may know of her
(a question)
you may know of her
a woman
I never knew
and then I know
her neighbourhood
her profession
her body
more intimately than I ever earned
I learned
in those few words
you may know of her
so let me know of her
this sister whom I never knew
let me know her now
And I wrote it out and I gave it to him later that day, and the next morning he showed me this. I found this on the same blog.
A poet, a creator, a multidisciplinary artits, an activist, a contemporary of other women – Mirha-Soleil Ross, Vivian Namaste – whom I’ve had the honour of meeting, however briefly. I’m sorry I never got to meet Ms MacKay. She sounds quite a bit more than brilliant.
Ms Syren.

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha. If you’re the kind of femme who reads a lot of “femme theory” books – or if you’re the kind of feminist who reads a lot of social justice essays – you’ve probably heard of this chicky. Well. She happened to be in Ottawa last night (Saturday, July 20th) to do a reading-and-socializing evening at Venus Envy.
Now, in spite of hunting up as much of her writing as I could (she hasn’t profoundly changed how I view the world, for the most part, but she was the first – quite possibly the only – femme who openly ID’d as bisexual in the entirety of Fem(me): Feminists, Lesbians, and Bad Girls and, thus, was the person who gave me the clue that maybe, just maybe, this word could apply to me. And that’s a pretty big deal), I was a little worried about seeing her read/speak live.
I always am.
There’s always a little bit of fear in the back of my mind saying: What if this person who is so awesome on paper winds up being kind of insufferable – or possibly just a bad speaker – in real life?
So far… that hasn’t actually happened. Not much, anyway. But it remains and so I strolled over to VE – in a blue sundress that used to be my grandmother’s, plus flip-flops[1] and glitter mascara – with my lovely wife, hoping that I wasn’t about to regretting dropping $20 on the evening.
Readers, I do not regret dropping $20 on that evening. 🙂
She read excerpts from The Revolution Starts at Home and her forthcoming memoir (which, when it comes out next year, I will most likely be buying). I cried. (I’m a crier, what can I say). And then she read poetry. Yay Poetry! 😀
I finally got to hear “When Kali and Oya Met”, a poem from Consensual Genocide that, because my copy came from an early print-run that contained a major misprint (i.e.: Eleven of the poems were missing and had, instead, been replaced by repeats of poems from earlier in the book), I had yet to hear. It was sweet and sad, and it reminded me of my ex-girlfriend, a little bit, truth be told.
My two take-aways from the show – other than that Leah is a pretty awesome chicky who seems far more interested in being kind (not the same as nice, mind you) than in being right-all-the-time – were:
1) The question of “What kind of ancestor do I want to be?” – This is a question that prompted a poem from Leah, but it’s also something I take into consideration myself.
2) What does “decolonization” mean to me, given that I’m a white chick who doesn’t want to move back to Scotland, and given that the whole thing is probably a lot more nuanced than the “White people, go home” idea that tends to spring to my mind when I first try to think about this? (That, I think, will take up an entire blog post of its own).
After the show, there were nachos and karaoke to be had, but also a chat about the whole concept of creating and seeking out justice-alternatives to the police and the courts. Things that came up:
1) Bridge-building goes in multiple directions and no-one is going to change their behaviour for people who are Opting Out and having nothing to do with them
2) Change takes a long, long time (especially when it involves changing both a corporate culture and the systemic-oppressive culture that underlies it both for the oppressors and the oppress-ees) and, in the mean-time, there are still people who can’t or don’t trust The System and who, therefore, would appreciate some alternative options
3) It is really, really, REALLY difficult to get a system (or a person, for that matter) to change when it has no examples of how it would or could look/act/be if it were different. Thus creating alternative justice options can, itself, be a form of the afore-mentioned bridge-building because they can stand as examples of how to Do This differently while still being[2] effective.
So that was my evening at the Leah Lakshmi show, and (so far) everything that came of it. 🙂
Ms Syren.
[1] My hips and knees still work – hurrah! But, since I’d like to keep it that way, it means that high heels (alas) are for sidewalk-walks of no more than about six minutes.
[2] I know. One’s opinion of how effective it is will have a LOT to do with how invested one is in both (a) cultural narratives about who is and is not a Good Guy, and (b) the already-existing system. But bear with me.

December 17th is Coming Up…


Out of the darkness
they come in
sky-high heels and
thigh-high boots and
sneakers with the toes
kicked out
of shelters they know
too well
they make tracks like
rose petals
lipstick kisses
blisters and blood spatter
clatter of red
shoes clicking
scuffing down lonely
stretches of highway
through labyrinth industrial
parks and darkened streets
They come in
have each others’ backs
as they did in life
sister, brother, wife
they circle with smiles
like knife
gashes eye
lashes like piano wire and
teeth like broken bones
they are coming
our dead sisters,
brothers, wives,
red shoes click-clacking
scuffing on pavement
graves bent open
and silences
red throated
they will name you
red handed
and red clawed
they will claim you
and brand you
If you drown
in their red blood
it will have been
too long in

December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

If you’re in Ottawa this Saturday, go to Parliament Hill at 2pm. Look for the red umbrellas. We’ll see you there.

I wrote this two years ago, in memory of the women who died in the Ecole Polytechnique Massacre in Montreal, today in 1989.

Fourteen Reasons

because they wouldn’t fade
into the background

because they knew the risks
of living
in a man’s world

because they were brave and
risked them anyway

because they wouldn’t
the boys win

because they were smart
and capable
and knew it

because they didn’t want arts degrees
or secretarial certificates
but wanted this

because they went after
what they wanted
and got it

because they were in the wrong place
at the wrong time

because they were exactly where they belonged

because they were
a bunch of feminists
even the ones
who wouldn’t have said as much

because they were just like you
like me

because they were
always ever and only

because they are remembered
and so many others aren’t

at the root of it
they died
because they were

December 6th - Take Action on Violence Against Women!

Sit at my feet
beloved and cherished
the way you smile
up at me
is sunlight
beaming through winter’s chill
your warmth seeping into me
like tea
made just the way I like it
come and rest your head upon my knee
beloved and cherished
come and rest
your head upon my knee

Hey, folks.

Okay.  So, as-you-know-bob, I’m a poet. Tomorrow, August 27th, 2011, there are a bunch of events happening in Ottawa where I will be performing.

As such, I plug them:

1) 2011 Ottawa Dyke March.
Festrell and I will be kicking off the show at 3pm in Dundonald Park with some spoken word. I, for one, will be bringing some old favourites on femme, sex work, and True Love, plus a new piece called “Lineage” (if you want to know, you have to come). FREE!

2) Capital Pride Alternative Stage (Marion Dewar Plaza at City Hall).
I’ll be doing an extremely short (two pieces) set alongside local spoken words artists Festrell, Luna Allison, and Sean Zio. There will be glitter and kinky porn. And that’s just what I’m bringing to the stage. There will also be a multi-troupe burlesque set and performances by DJ CPI, Apocalypstic and The Clicks. What’s not to love? $5 at the Gate.

See you tomorrow (and on Sunday — I’ll be hanging with the leatherdykes – big surprise), and Happy Pride. 😀

Ms Syren

Poem – Give Me Strength

So, as-you-know-bob, I am both a pagan and a poet.  I am also a domme who is still uncertain of her power and abilities.

During offerings today, this came to me.  It’s more a prayer than a poem, but there it is.


Give Me Strength


Let me be strong like the oak

is strong               steadfast

and constant even in my changing

Let me plant both feet

Solid      in this good earth

Sink roots into loam

that welcomes me

Let me bear        in my body

presence enough

to be a landmark to the lost

strong limbs enough to shelter those beneath me

Grant me the strength

to bend and grow and yet still know



Let me be strong like the tide is strong

Wild and surging even in my constancy

let me   follow a rhythm

that is mine alone

let me be home

to multitudes

Let me bear        in my body

power enough

to carry more lives than my own

power to shape

the yielding earth

that cradles me

Give me the strength to move and change and still remain