ALL SOULS DAY #writing

What does All Souls Day have to do with writing? People who write sometimes take the opportunity to write about people who have gone before us. Today, I feel compelled to say something about the poet/playwright Ginny Foster. She came to a writing workshop I offered downtown Portland for awhile. I had heard of her, she was well known in the lesbian community for her poetry. But it was my first time to meet her in person.

Ginny looked a bit like a bag lady. She had no regard for dressing to please anyone other than her muse: comfort. She also walked or rode the bus everywhere, and carried a lot of stuff with her. I can’t remember whether she had a rolling cart with her that first time, but often she did.

In my workshop, we wrote, then shared what we’d written. I was immediately drawn to Ginny because of her gift for re-creating real life, without the boring bits. What sealed the deal was her political point of view. It was the same as my own. We both came from the working class, and we were both smart. Ginny’s IQ was MENSA level, and her thoughts were informed by philosophers I’d only heard of. But her speech was educated working class like my own. Her works were all accessible. We shared the belief that work should be understood by everyone, not only the highly educated.

Ginny had been an English teacher for a time in her life. She’d also been a political radical in Berkeley. We got to know each other in my workshops, then somehow became lifetime friends. We also became our own writing “group” of two, sharing our work with each other, offering critiques, and debating the work of others.

We carried on that way until shortly before Ginny moved into hospice. I began to grieve her loss when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, even though she lived for years after. We’d been friends for close to thirty years by that time.

This is one of Ginny’s poems.

Knowing Nothing Will Come of Counting One’s Breaths

By Ginny Foster

Give up

falling in love.

Give up the prize

in the Cracker-Jack box.

Give up the razzle-dazzle.

Give up seeking answers.

Live with the questions,

folding them like gauze curtains

into a teakwood box.

Give up

time in the rocking chair

watching undulating patterns

the aurora borealis

behind closed eyelids.

Give up sanity,

even though the others get frightened.

They call from the shore

“come back.”

No matter.

I will remain

a woman trying to find the way

to fall into a black hole.

A woman

hatching three black eggs in her head

waiting for astonishment.

A woman seeking

a revolution of the mind.

A way to overthrow

the imperialists of logic

that still hold territory

inside her head.

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