vernal equinox

by Hazel Crawley

Image: The Cultural Landscape Foundation

I do not think this love will last till Spring,
It was in wombs and tombs and cellars carved
And trained, like Ivy, on dank walls to cling,
Lacing two souls that had been too long starved.
Excluding air and sun and wind and rain,
Bent on destroying someone’s muttered curse,
We tightly plaited dammed-up dreams with pain
And now the ebb-tide wills us wounds to nurse.
The year’s first crocus will be our death knell;
The song of the first robin will incite
The thawing, waxing, sunlight to repel
A love that cannot turn away from night.

Poet and playwright Hazel Crawley was born in Newark and served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. These lines are from her 1975 collection Erratica.

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sappho is alive and well

by Hazel Crawley

Image: Queer Newark Oral History Project
Image: Queer Newark Oral History Project

Yes, Sappho is alive and well;
Within my life’s blood does she dwell.
My short-lived joys, my long-lived pain,
Command her into being again.

Despite long spans of dried-out Hell,
Despite my mask, despite my shell,
Despite bans, Witch Hunts, family …
She thrives … and she abides in me.

No other format gives me sway;
Only her candle lights my way.
Let canons, tomes, toll our death knell …
I tell you, ‘We’re alive and well.’

Newark’s official gay pride celebrations date back to 2005. The rainbow flag was raised in front of City Hall in 2007 for the first time, a ceremony repeated each year in July.

Hazel Crawley’s poem appears in her 1975 collection Erratica.

african dancer

by Hazel Crawley

Moved by a slim
A more insistent pulse
than that which drums
The life-blood through his veins
The dancer leaps
No, corkscrews into space
And then returns
By deft glissando to
Dynamic earth

Along the raw
Primal percussive thread
A million cells
Which have no need of light
Contract expand
Propel him here then there
Down ancient paths
My ancestors knew well

And though my brain
Is well glazed with veneer
I smile to see
One foot is still alive

“African Dancer” appeared in Crawley’s collection Erratica (1975).

taproots

by Hazel Crawley

I

God of my fathers,
Please accept these lips
You flattened on my face
With your long kiss;
These lips that lose their way
Around your name…
Accept these eyes
Which cannot pierce the veil
Bonded like plywood
For three-hundred years.

I claim you kin
By virtue of the fact
That the Sun’s love
Was burned into my genes
Not to curse Ham,
But to caress a soul
Which can create
Black, tan, beige joy
And fling it in the face
Of Blue-eyed Death

II

I claim you kin
By virtue of the fact
That I can translate Hell
Into a Spiritual;
Can ‘make a joyful noise’
Before the tree of death;
Before the polls Scylla
And Charybdis guard
With charred perversions
Of their Son-of-God.

I claim you kin
By virtue of the fact
That I shall walk again
Through the White Sea,
A child from your
Black Phallus on each hand,
Another…as a smile
Within my eyes,
Into the fecund womb
Of man’s birth-rights.
There is no death
Can alter me from this.

III

Then…only then,
When all our sons are men
And not the petty
Function of their skins,
I want to lie
Ten-thousand miles removed
And hear my brother
Oozing through the brush
At break of day,
Plucking our lunch,
Which stands upon four legs,
From throbbing life.

 

Image: streetartnews.net
Image: streetartnews.net

Poet and playwright Hazel Crawley was a Newark native. “Taproots” appeared in her collection Erratica in 1975.