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About this Poem 

"Pat Parker was one of the first black lesbian poets whose poetry I discovered while attending Barnard College. I was a young, closeted, black lesbian and her poems were empowering and life-altering. Parker spoke directly to me when she discussed the beauty of loving another woman: ‘my lover is a woman / & when i hold her / feel her warmth / i feel good / feel safe. ’ Her poems of gay pride, political activism and her open, unapologetic love of women gave me courage to come out to my own family. A beloved only child, the first in my family to attend college, raised by my southern grandmother and mother in Harlem, I naively expected their support when I came out to them in college. I was heartbroken when my Grandma Pearl responded in disgust  ‘I can’t believe my grandbaby is a damn bulldagger!’ Parker’s brutally honest stanzas mirrored my own experience in the black family:  ‘i never think of / my family’s voices / never hear my sisters say / bulldaggers, queers, funny / come see us, but don’t / bring your friend.’ Discovering Parker’s bold, unflinching voice helped prepare me for many uphill battles as an out queer black woman, not just in society, but at times, in my own family and community."
JP Howard

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My Lover Is a Woman

I.

my lover is a woman
& when i hold her
feel her warmth
     i feel good
     feel safe

then—i never think of
my family’s voices
never hear my sisters say
bulldaggers, queers, funny
     come see us, but don’t
     bring your friends
          it’s ok with us,
          but don’t tell mama
          it’d break her heart
never feel my father
turn in his grave
never hear my mother cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?

 

II.

my lover’s hair is blonde
& when it rubs across my face
it feels soft
     feels like a thousand fingers
     touch my skin & hold me
          and i feel good

then—i never think of the little boy
who spat & called me nigger
never think of the policemen
who kicked my body & said crawl
never think of Black bodies
hanging in trees or filled
with bullet holes
never hear my sisters say
white folks hair stinks
don’t trust any of them
never feel my father
turn in his grave
never hear my mother talk
of her backache after scrubbing floors
never hear her cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?

 

III. 

my lover's eyes are blue
& when she looks at me
i float in a warm lake
     feel my muscles go weak with want
          feel good
          feel safe

then—i never think of the blue
eyes that have glared at me
moved three stools away from me
in a bar
never hear my sisters rage
of syphilitic Black men as
guinea pigs
     rage of sterilized children
          watch them just stop in an
          intersection to scare the old
          white bitch

never feel my father turn
in his grave
never remember my mother
teaching me the yes sirs & ma'ams
to keep me alive
never hear my mother cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?

 

IV.

& when we go to a gay bar
& my people shun me because i crossed
the line
& her people look to see what's
wrong with her
     what defect
     drove her to me

& when we walk the streets
of this city
     forget and touch
     or hold hands
          & the people
          stare, glare, frown, & taunt
               at those queers

i remember
     every word taught me
     every word said to me
     every deed done to me
          & then i hate
i look at my lover
& for an instant
     doubt

then—i hold her hand tighter
     & i can hear my mother cry.
     Lord, what kind of child is this?

"My Lover Is a Woman" by Pat Parker © Anastasia Dunham-Parker-Brady, used with permission.

"My Lover Is a Woman" by Pat Parker © Anastasia Dunham-Parker-Brady, used with permission.

Pat Parker

Pat Parker was the author of Movement in Black (Diana Press, 1978) and actively involved in the civil rights, women's rights, and gay rights movements on the West Coast.