A Zodiac of Lesbian Poets

In 2009, a gay poet wrote to me, “I just don’t think lesbian poetry is that important.” This wounding statement fueled my engines, and I wrote a series of poems in which I placed my favorite poets in the sky as constellations, beginning with “Sappho the Ram,” and ending with “Jackie Kay the Fish.” When I finished the series of poems, which became part of my chapbook, The Poet’s Zodiac, I wrote a kind of prose-poem afterword, and here it is.


Where are you?

Sometimes while I’m writing, I call out for you: Where are you? A flock of goldfinches answers, chirping in the yard, but not in my language.

Wu Tsao
In what corner of the heavens is she? The farmer loses her memory, though her greens are as sweet as ever.

Christina Rossetti
I see her waiting on the corner for the yellow school bus, smoking with some boys, books aside. There is no history, science, poetry to explain this. The scholars have searched. The poets assure me.

Emily Dickinson
Susie. I said your name, and they took your name away from me. What’s with them? Now and ever: Where are you?

Amy Lowell
My secret garden. My bed. My table. I bring you here and fall weeping at your feet, for all the blue lights of day and night, while they last. I have a mansion. I am determined.

Charlotte Mew
How I delight in her white blouse, the accidental brush of her against me, the way the wind blows her hair in all directions, sometimes in my direction. This is a crime, they say, and I burn inside and out for the sake of her, though we never touch. My touch is white smoke.

Hilda Doolittle
Say I am in love with her. Say I give her all my pearls and years go by, pearl by pearl, until the strand is empty. Then my lungs have lost the use of calling: Where are you?

Anne Sexton
Putrid, I inhaled. Pure, I finished. Early I learned the place that storytellers go. I went there to find her, Hilda, Charlotte, Christina, Emily. Let the dress fall from her shoulder.

Adrienne Rich
Her face is so full of feeling. My face is feeling. No place for proms, our bed. The balloon is rising, and the rivers are colliding. Are you home?

Judy Grahn
I take mountains, cities, bridges in stride, but she, oh she with her eyes takes me in her arms. I take skies in stride, but she with her red womb makes me speechless.

Marilyn Hacker
What we do together. Then what we do apart. Then what I do without you where the unrelenting dark thunders. Be with me again.

Jackie Kay
How sharp the nettles of longing. Where are you? We had this whole house, rooms full. Never dull. I go galloping over and over, round and round the track. I lack the apple without you.


“Where are you?” was first published in Cascadian Subduction Zone.


Mary Meriam advocates for the right of women to love each other in their poetry and art, and strives to give their work a place at the table. She writes about and publishes such work in the journal she founded, Lavender Review, at the press she cofounded, Headmistress Press, and at Ms. magazine, The Critical Flame, and The Gay & Lesbian Review. Her poetry collections, The Countess of Flatbroke, The Poet's Zodiac, The Lillian Trilogy, and Lady of the Moon, honor a cosmos of strong, creative women. Her latest collection, My Girl's Green Jacket, was published in 2018, and her poems have appeared recently in Poetry, Prelude, Subtropics, and The Poetry Review.