Rebirth For MichFest

By StaceyAnn Chin

When the first Michigan Women’s Music festival
happened/in August/in 1976
the local paper called it
an international gathering of weirdos

imagine that first flood of women
pouring into the deep dark Michigan woods
imagine them finding the courage
to stay on the land despite the angry men
circling the perimeter/the only plan
honk your horn/if there is trouble
call your sister/and she will come

that sisterhood has since grown
into a global jungle/from which we all come
sprouting eagle from Kingston and California
slithering snake-like from Scotland and South Africa
howling wolves from Brooklyn and Bangladesh

no matter where we spring from
we have never had any doubt/this place would be here
next August/to recharge us/for the year ahead
in our heart we could not conceive
of the final closing of these gates
and now/as we attempt to say farewell
the center of me is sobbing oceans
my heart broken open/my chest/cracking raw
my ribcage/collapsing
because I will never be here again/like this
on this holy ground
these eyes of mine will never see my daughter
in this place at thirteen/or thirty-three/like me
she will never see it/as I have seen it
open/sky/naked spirits/Amazon women
dancing/round red fires of sticks/and stones
taking back the imprisoned bones of ourselves
and finding new freedoms here

in communion/we mourn this bitter end
each of us/trying to remember/that life is a series of cycles
as old as the moon/as expected as the first coming of blood

we who believe in rebirth/see this period of rest
as only a practice test designed
to help us r/evolve in these complicated times

I ask you to remember that we are trained
in the tradition of doing things/they say cannot be done
I beg you to look again
to the determination of the generation
who built this pussy-centered city
with no fucking internet
no kick-starter campaign/no social media
no legal recognition of the right
to love whomever we fucking choose

those Amazons from that era gave birth to abortion rights
and the equal rights amendment
and rape-crisis centers
and women’s shelters
that movement laid the groundwork
for decriminalizing the entire LGBTQIA-BCDEFG identity

forty years after that first gathering of weirdos/we are still here
because Michfest has always been about more than just music
it has remained a light/at the end of a yearlong tunnel
it has been a promise that has kept so many of us going
in return/so many of us/have tried so hard to keep it going
over the years/we have persisted in coming
insisted on defying the odds
year after economically challenged year
every August/for one week/we orchestrate
this neurotic amalgamation of tarp
and bug spray
and tofu
and Tupperware
this single-minded, slick-wet celebration of flashlights
and foam
these flooded sleeping quarters
these fucking RVs and second-hand Subarus
these butch parades and sweat lodges
is about knowing/with everything in us
that being called a girl/is not a fucking insult

under these Sapphic stars
it’s the highest form of compliment

this place has been a celebration of our girlhood
a recognition of the magic of surviving womanhood
it has always been an open invitation to those of us
existing outside the confines of gender-binary limitations
this place is an homage
to the bra-burning/radical feminists of the nineteen-seventies
they believed they could/not only pick a fight against
racists/sexist/homophobic motherfuckers
but/they believed they could also fucking win

we are still fighting those same battles today
which is why we still need to stand together
against the patriarchy
to stand/to gather
this miraculous gathering of women
is only going down
for an expected cycle of much-needed rest

after all/it has only been four fucking decades
since the young Blood Moon
only 19 years old/with ovaries the size of fucking Saturn
started this shit—radical/feminist/midwife that she has been
she has kept the course for 480 months
Lisa Vogel and the long crew and the short crew
and the cooks from Gals
and artisans from Crafts and the workers at the Night Stage
and the artist on the Acoustic Stage
and the witches from the Womb
and all women stirring the multiple cauldrons
that make up this crazy cavalry
they have been holding down the logistics
of this place of safety for 2,080 weeks
it fitting to acknowledge also
that it has only been 14, 560 days
since you magnificent Michigan festies
have been pushing this impossible rock
up the motherfucking mountain of misogyny

forty years is a very long time/my sisters

as the dust settles on our beloved dirt road
indulge your inconsolable ache
lament/weep/wail/cry all need or want
but know too/the seeds of joy we each planted on this land
will never be dead/instead/the legend of its roots
will grow large inside the heads and hearts
of all of us/who have loved here/and fought here
fucked out loud and without apology here
the memory of it/the spirit of it
will tingle inside the scarred chests
of warriors who survived
breast cancer
and rape
and female castration
and rape
and childhood molestation
and rape
and familial rejection
and rape
and ovarian cancer/and HIV and Aids
and drunken husbands/and human trafficking
and homophobia/and gender-policing
and poverty/and wire hangers
and rape
and rape
and rape again

this year/after we say our final farewell
we will again go home
to stand alongside incarcerated Black men
and undocumented children/and transgender boys/girls
and underpaid women/and all those bodies who remain targets
for the wealthy white bigots who would want everyone
who is not them
enslaved/or deported/or killed

with or without a yearly gathering on this land
we will never stand inside the gender-norms expected of us
we will continue to meet/in tents
in kitchens
in basements
inside convents
and churches
we will keep resisting/and out of this resistance
will come another core assembly of need and opportunity
a door that will push this community to birth itself anew

when it does/it is our duty to be ready
to receive it/every one of us
Lisa/and Judith
and Toshi
and Penny
and Holly
and Elvira
and Thokozani
and Sandy
and Hanifah
after the burning of our holy city
we must do something with this astoundingly beautiful ash
we have to cash in the credit of this place
to race toward a future in which our daughters
and our daughters’ daughters keep demanding
safety for every/body living this planet
this is call for Zuri and Cree
and Maddie
and Ruby
and Zora and Naiobi
this is a call for Zander and Josie and Emerson and Kai
this is a call for you/and you/and you/and me
this call is for all the girls/who grew up here
or came here
or heard about the magic that once existed here
to come together/to continue to fight
to grow up and out/to fucking bloom/and rise
and rise/and rise again
to find our Amazon phoenix spirit/to ascend
in flesh/in truth
let us use this moment to rewind/to reincarnate
to hatch and spawn/new blood
to amplify the ageless power we have all felt here at Michfest
the magic of this place must remain/in each of us
fueling us
protecting us
giving us direction
long after the pain of our present sorrow
is gone

From Lisa Vogel’s Facebook page.

StaceyAnn’s website is here.

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