Defeat: By Kahlil Gibran

Defeat, my Defeat, my solitude and my aloofness;
You are dearer to me than a thousand triumphs,
And sweeter to my heart than all world-glory.

Defeat, my Defeat, my self-knowledge and my defiance,
Through you I know that I am yet young and swift of foot
And not to be trapped by withering laurels.
And in you I have found aloneness
And the joy of being shunned and scorned.

Defeat, my Defeat, my shining sword and shield,
In your eyes I have read
That to be enthroned is to be enslaved,
And to be understood is to be leveled down,
And to be grasped is but to reach one’s fullness
And like a ripe fruit to fall and be consumed.

Defeat, my Defeat, my bold companion,
You shall hear my songs and my cries and my silences,
And none but you shall speak to me of the beating of wings,
And urging of seas,
And of mountains that burn in the night,
And you alone shall climb my steep and rocky soul.

Defeat, my Defeat, my deathless courage,
You and I shall laugh together with the storm,
And together we shall dig graves for all that die in us,
And we shall stand in the sun with a will,
And we shall be dangerous.


(For my love of you.)

For Strong Women: Marge Piercy

A strong woman is a woman who is straining.

A strong woman is a woman standing on tiptoe and lifting a barbell

while trying to sing Boris Godunov.

A strong woman is a woman at work

cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,

and while she shovels, she talks about

how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens

the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up

develops the stomach muscles, and

she goes on shoveling with tears

in her nose.


A strong woman is a woman in whose head

a voice is repeating, I told you so,

ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,

ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,

why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t

you soft, why aren’t you quiet, why

aren’t you dead?


A strong woman is a woman determined

to do something others are determined

not be done.  She is pushing up on the bottom

of a lead coffin lid.  She is trying to raise

a manhole cover with her head, she is trying

to butt her way through a steel wall.

Her head hurts.  People waiting for the hole

to be made say, hurry, you’re so strong.


A strong woman is a woman bleeding

inside.  A strong woman is a woman making

herself strong every morning while her teeth

loosen and her back throbs.  Every baby,

a tooth, midwives used to say, and now

every battle a scar.  A strong woman

is a mass of scar tissue that aches

when it rains and wounds that bleed

when you bump them and memories that get up

in the night and pace in boots to and fro.


A strong woman is a woman who craves love

like oxygen or she turns blue choking.

A strong woman is a woman who loves

strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly

terrified and has strong needs.  A strong woman is strong

in words, action, in connection, in feeling;

she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf

suckling her young.  Strength is not in her, but she

enacts it as the wind fills a sail.


What comforts her is others loving

her equally for the strength and for the weakness

from which it issues, lighting from a cloud.

lightning stuns.  In rain, the clouds disperse.

Only water of connection remains,

flowing through us.  Strong is what we make

each other. Until we are all strong together,

a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.

*This poem that is one of my favorites. I think all women who have faced trauma in one way or another should read this and feel comforted by her words. It really captures the essence and beauty of a strong woman.

The Journey

Let me in, let me see what is inside

Let me feel that place where you are trying to hide.

Two wounded souls from different places in time

Coming together without a map or a rhyme.


As you suffer in silence, I fly around in the dark

and search for words to help you embark.

Stolen moments meet us half way

to carry us forward thru a whole new day.


Two lovers gather in the evening silence

Yearning to touch and find their way once more.

They seek solace in the arms of each other

Hoping to find what they are looking for.


The past sits on the edge of reason and doubt

While it waits to be soothed and coddled.

Confusion lurks and passions await

Time moves on in haste.


The bed feels empty; the mind is reprieved

By a thought or a gesture that provides some relief.

I wait and I ponder and I wonder as I wander

The roads are clear but the climb is steep.


The painting is finished but the oils have yet to dry.

The journey is in motion and there is still more to do.

The dancers step forward and take their cue

While the room lets out a sigh…


The sounds are released and they move

Two people together, aware of nothing

But the instruments guiding their way.

As it is…

The Truth

Is that we are who we are whether we like it or not.

The Dream

We wished for came true, then we gave it back.

The Mountain

Was tall and slippery, jaded and painful; yet we climbed and stood on top.

The Journey

Continues while we look back and take inventory, keep walking even though we limp and set goals even though the old ones have not been reached.

The Choice

To move ahead while you drag your feet behind makes sense because you follow intuition.

The Answers

Are not clear and may never be, though we must live and seek as though we will find.

The Faith

Waivers when we don’t get what we want. It is clear that we have a belief but not in ourself.

The Time

Has come to let go and be.

The Message

Is not here even though it has told you many things – that you already knew.

The Point

Was to remind you.

copyright 2005

Natalie Clifford Barney – Dayton, Ohio

1896 painted by her mother Alice Pike Barney

Ms. Barney  (October 31, 1876 to February 2, 1972, Aphrodite/Scorpio) only lived in Ohio, where she was born for 10 years. However, I assume because her parents were both born and raised in Ohio, she is accepted on the roster of notable women from Ohio (on Wikipedia). There is also a historical marker where she was born in Dayton. Her heart and where she spent the majority of her life as a famous salonist was in Paris.

One must become idle to become oneself. Natalie Clifford Barney

I developed a love/hate relationship with Ms. Barney and trying to read 368 pages of Suzanne Rodriguez’s book “Wild Heart,” (2002) took me a couple of months. Ms. Barney is famous for saying “I am a lesbian. One needn’t hide it nor boast of it.” I have a great deal of respect for this sentence because I think the way our world is today is quite hedonistic and part of why we are in such turmoil as a whole. Ms. Barney would probably agree with me. She was a society lady, raised in wealth, appreciating high fashion and having exceptional taste. What I did not like about her is that she was a snob and if she were a man we would say she was a player. Friends, who spoke to the writer of this book described her as a very giving and generous woman. These were not her liaisons that made these observations. They documented much more painful and passionate thoughts as to her character. A player is a person who will use the word “love” sparingly and in her case as sonnets to continue playing with her web of intrigue and manipulation. A player loves the chase, like a cat to a mouse and once caught, will carry it around in their mouth until they are ready to spit it out. Natalie was known to have said “When you want to make someone crazy, you must not give in.” If she had been a poor woman, it is doubtful she would have had half of her success with friends, though she would not have been a snob.

Natalie Clifford Barney

Ms. Barney was a writer, though what I have seen thus far (very little is translated) is not quite to the level as many of her counterparts, many who were her lovers. Her salon in Paris on 20 Rue Jacob, was her child, a place where she helped create futures for young writers from the 1920’s to 1972 when she died. Some of the people who were known to be in her circle, such as Pauline Tarn (aka  Renée Vivien ) the courtesan Liane de Pougy, Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, and Lily Gramont (the Duchesse de Clermont-Tonnerre). There were also very famous people (that we know today still, the others were famous then) who made their way to her “Fridays” and these were James Joyce, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Max Jacob, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Mata Hari (entertainment), Isabelle Duncan (entertainment), Antole France, Romaine Brooks and Jean Chalon.

Natalie and Romaine

Her longest relationship was with the painter Romaine Brooks, who is now being brought back to life by many art historians. I did find myself captivated by her work when I looked at copies online. I wonder if Coco Chanel would have been intrigued as well, since they might have known each other then. Her work is black and white paintings with what is said to be incredible insight, on her part, in capturing someone’s psyche. What is odd is that they met in 1914 and it wasn’t until their mid 90’s, right before both of them died that Romaine ended the relationship for good. Of course this had to do with her mental condition that she was in at this time. My guess, from reading, is that she probably had some form of dementia. However, due to her early abusive upbringing, she had always been a bit of an eccentric and had very low self-esteem. I felt sad for Ms. Brooks because Ms. Barney was never faithful to her. I can imagine what this must have been like for her. Ms. Brooks was a survivor in some respects though. She would live elsewhere or travel abroad whenever Natalie was chasing after another skirt. Sometimes she had other liaisons herself.

Self-portrait by Romaine Brooks

In her younger days, Ms. Barney was a horsewoman, known for her athletic abilities. What is fascinating when you read this book is reading descriptions of her pursuits of other women or networking with locals, on horseback through the streets of Paris. I found myself caught up in visualizing what this might have been like, though I have seen many period pieces that have shown this.  What is funny about this book is that one might think every famous woman in Paris was a lesbian, considering her exploits. What I began to gather though, is that at this time women she chased, who were well-bred ladies like herself (for the most part) and many of them married, only knew what they were allowed to behave like with a man. Natalie introduced them to newer, more promiscuous and perhaps sometimes even safer ways to be able to express oneself. Most women at that time were more comfortable with other women. I have read in other historical books that lesbian type behaviors were actually acceptable in women’s schools and colleges. It kept them from focusing on boys but was considered natural behaviors too. Once they married it was meant to end of course and they were meant to behave in a manner fitting a betrothed spouse. With Natalie’s lovers, sometimes this happened; sometimes they continued the affair and on occasion a ménage-a-tois.

Ms. Barney’s salons were famous because of her extroverted behavior, the wonderful delicacies that she served, her choice of entertainment but also her rules. The rules had to do with not cursing, behaving appropriately (not being a jerk) and if she didn’t like you, then you weren’t allowed to come back. Agents and publishers would approach her about bringing around what they hoped would be a protégé. On one occasion Natalie invited Emmeline Pankhurst; to discuss women’s suffrage in her parlor. She listened intently but in the end was disturbed by the way their discussions and ideals turned into petty arguments. She decided at that point on not to use her salon as a political venue. This is something I could applaud her for as well. While these ladies did so much for their countries, in getting the right to vote, their behaviors kept this from happening sooner (see my article on Victoria Woodhull).

In 1927, Natalie created Académie des Femmes as a reaction to the discrimination against women in Académie Française (a group recognizing writers, but only allowing men to join). While her group did not last very long, it did bring attention to women writers. It wasn’t until 1980 when Académie Française would admit the first woman.

The last salon would occur at the cemetery on February 4, 1972 when 23 friends came to honor the passing of Ms. Barney. They realized it happened to be a Friday which was fitting this great lady and her famous salons. Ms. Barney and her sister Laura were buried together. Laura was famous for her translations in the Baha’i faith. Natalie had known that the Van Gogh brothers were buried together and thought it was ridiculous that all the marker said was “Here Lies.” As a result, Natalie prepared her own tribute which says “I am this legendary being [Amazon] in which I will live again.” Her nickname, given to her by the writer Rémy de Gourmont, after they met was “The Amazon.”