March 19, 2007


Thanks to Chip Duckett for sending this one my way. You can barely even find a photo of Marsha online, much less video! The sassy Stonewall vet performs a self-penned poem entitled YOU GOTTA HAVE SOUL. Marsha's wearing what appears to be a piece of a smashed mirror ball as a head dress. And for those of you who may not know it, Marsha always claime dthat the "P" in her name stood for "Pay it no mind!"


"Marsha P. Johnson is now a historic figure, an icon from another era. Here, "Miss Marsha" gives her gay audience "the message". She was universally loved for being totally without pretense. Her body was found floating in the Hudson River at the foot of Christopher Street in July 1992, probably the victim of a hate crime."

And a little note from Chip:

don't know why, but i was just thinking of our old (and late, lamented, and never to be replaced) pal marsha p. "pay it no mind" johnson.

i first met marsha on christopher street the first time i visited new york in the 80's (i was featuring those dreadlocks i put on a 1984 card a few years ago, which you called gagging over) --- i was such a freak wandering through the west village that she came over and introduced herself. i know it was cuz i looked like such a nutjob with that extension-heavy hairdon't, but she actually came over and hugged me and introduced herself.

found this nice poem online. seems it was written in '04, but since i don't keep up so much with the latest poetry news i just found it.

marsha p.: the kind of woman that made both you and me want to move to new york. i wouldn't say she should r.i.p., i hope she raises hell in heaven, or wherever she landed --- cuz marsha p. would never rest in peace. marsha is cutting up wherever she is, but she is definitely not resting peacefully.


And now a poem about Marsha, yams, corn, Billie Holiday and dove's blood!

For Marsha P. (Pay It No Mind!) Johnson

By Qwo-Li Driskill

found floating in the Hudson River shortly after NYC Pride, 1992

"You are the one whose spirit is present in the dappled stars."
-- Joy Harjo, from "For Anna Mae Pictou Aquash..."

Each act of war
is whispered from
Queen to Queen
held like a lost child
then released into the water below.
Names float into rivers
gentle blooms of African Violets.

I will be the one that dangles
from the side but
does not let go.

The police insisted you leapt
into the Hudson
driftwood body
in sequin lace
rhinestone beads
that pull us to the bottom.
No serious investigation -- just another
dead Queen.

I am the one who sings Billie Holiday
as a prayer song to you, Marsha P.

We all choke on splintered bones,
dismembered screams,
the knowledge that each
death is our own.

I pour libations of dove's blood,
leave offerings of yam and corn
to call back all of our lost spirits.

Marsha P, your face glitters with
Ashanti gold
as you sashay across the moonscape
in a ruby chariot ablaze.
Sister, you drag
us behind you.

We are gathered on the bridge between
survival and despair.
I will be the one wearing gardenias
in my hair,
thinking about
how we all go back to water.
Thinking about
the night
you did not jump.

I will make voodoo dolls
of the police and other thugs,
walk to the edge,
watch the river rise to meet them.

I will be the one
with the rattlesnake that binds
my left arm and
in my right hand I will carry
a wooden hatchet to
cut away at the
silence of your murder.

Each of us go on,
pretend to pay it no mind,
bite down hard on the steel of despair.

We will be the ones that gnaw off our own
legs rather than let them win.

We will be the ones mourning
the death of yet another Queen.

Girl, I will put your photo
on my ancestral altar
to remember all of us
who never jumped.

Miss Johnson, your meanings
sparkle like stars dappled
across the piers of the
Hudson River.

Gathered on the bridge
we resist the water.

Qwo-Li Driskill is a Cherokee Two-Spirit writer and activist also of African, Irish, Lenape, Lumbee, and Osage ascent. Hir work appears in numerous publications including The Crab Orchard Review, SAIL: Studies in American Indian Literatures, Many Mountains Moving, and in the anthologies Nurturing Native Languages, Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology, and Speak to Me Words: Essays on Contemporary American Indian Poetry. S/he is currently living in Three Fires (Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi) and Huron territories while pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing at Michigan State University. Hir first book of poetry is forthcoming. Qwo-Li's Website is

Marsha P. Johnson's train commute from Hoboken into Manhattan earned her the nickname of The Transormer form the homeboys on the train! Video accounts from a friend of Marsha's here.


Blogger Star Queen said...

A queen with a voice

what a concept

8:42 PM  

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