it’s what we do: a homily for my mother

she floated across the kitchen, grabbed our biggest butcher knife, and met the girls father at the door. he was the kind of man who took to abuse of all kinds, and she wasn’t to be messed with. told him , if you touch her again, set foot on my property, I will surely kill you. he smirked, but it didn’t last long, his lips turning at the site of the knife at her side as she asked him, kindly, to leave.

this was the lesson of my mother. this was the thing she could not name. the fight. the stance of staying exactly wherever you belonged.  she taught me this. taught me: to call the hooded sheets by name, sometimes mr., sometimes brother, homophobia dripping from his brow battling blood for some idea that wasn’t as real as love. she taught me to never swallow those thing they would try to force me to eat. she says

the new jim crow fights rainbows. i stand up for what is right and just. i battled the sanctity of marriage. hate spewing out of mouths like vomit and I remember thinking they hadn’t met me yet, they didn’t even know that this woman i loved more than life itself, how her heart is home. they didn’t know that i was

willing to fight for my right to love her. willing to fight for the right to be who I was raised to be. i don’t mind speaking for those who feel they have no voice, don’t mind lending my spirit and time and heart to something that matters. my mother was a warrior who fought for those who could not fight for themselves. “it’s what we do”, she’d say. forty years later I understand. forty years later it’s still what we have to do.

Lauri Conner, who is known as “Conner,” is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Washington, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in education at the University of Washington. She is a Cave Canem fellow, and her poems have appeared in Calx, Seattle Review, Sou'wester and other journals. She has taught at Cornish College of the Arts, Antioch University and Seattle Central Community College. She currently teaches literature and creative writing at Seattle Academy, where she is also the director of diversity and the 11th and 12th grade coordinator. Conner and her wife were one among 19 couples who petitioned the state of Washington for the right of same-sex couples to marry. 

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