“Never Take More Money to the Bar Than You’ll Drink Up or Gamble Away”
for my Grandmother who said that
Mamie was six foot tall and carried
a hard salami, so hard
she had used it a few times as a billy club.
They were all you needed you told me.
You drank with your friend
and called to giggle at two in the morning
in a way I understood.
He left you alone
with four children
and is not dead yet.
You were 27 one day and 65 the next.
Save electricity, you said, with the one
lightbulb plan. I never noticed the darkness.
The optometrist told me different and I remember
you squinting at Elizabeth Taylor on magazine covers
in the dusk light at the kitchen window.
You were strong enough to open all jars alone.
The daughter died in your arms.
The sons turned their paralyses
into their energies.
The amusement park trips even when I was
a little too old. Mostly for the boat ride.
The apple piggy bank, apple kuchen,
homemade sausage Easter, Christmas.
You worked, even for fun your hands working.
Worked til you died rubbing the bodies
of the “wealthy ladies.”
They loved you.
I loved you, Anna of the strong hands,
until their troubles had been massaged away.
Ours were just beginning.
Six additional poems from These Days were published in The Resurrection Issue, Volume 14:3, Summer 2013.
Lally’s book was the Some Of Us Press release that sold out the quickest by far; all copies were sold within three weeks. But the small feminist press in Baltimore that had agreed to print the book for SOUP, Diana Press, published an unauthorized second edition to try to meet demand. This was a controversial decision; neither Lally or Some Of Us Press ever recouped the profits from those additional sales.
Lee Lally (May 1943 - 1986) is the author of These Days (Some of Us Press, 1972). Individual poems of hers were published in The Trinity Record, The Gay Liberator, and December. A co-founder of Some Of Us Press, she served as treasurer and bookkeeper. According to another co-founder, Ed Zahniser, "Lee's meticulous attention to this critical function is the single most important reason" for the press's success. Lally, born Carol Lee Fisher, grew up outside of Buffalo, NY, and attended the University of Buffalo, but never earned a degree. She married Michael Lally in 1964, and in the Fall of 1969 they moved to DC, where her husband had gotten a job in the English Department at Trinity University. They had two children together, a son and a daughter. In 1971, they organized the Mass Transit reading series at the Community Bookshop in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, a series that continued weekly for many years. According to Michael Lally, Lee's poems were "an instant hit. Feminists adored her work and These Days had an immediate impact on many women, as well as men." He continues, "The poems in it were influenced by the blues Lee loved (Memphis Minnie was a particular icon of hers) and old timey country (Mama Maybelle Carter another of Lee's great influences and loves). And of course it was influenced by the sexual politics we were living through and experimenting out of. Lee had taken a female lover and encouraged me to take male ones, as part of what we thought was going to be the liberation of future generations from the bonds of gender and sexual discrimination." The Lallys separated in 1974 and later divorced. For a few years, the house they had shared on Emery Place in northwest DC became a lesbian-feminist commune. Michael Lally remembers that it "was a funky old place when we lived there. The neighbors often gave us a hard time for not cutting the lawn etc. in that suburban way people seem so addicted to. There was an old glass house in back of the main house. We didn't use it for anything, but there were still plants overgrowing the place from when it was in use. A great open porch, we did a lot of sitting and discussing and arguing on. A couple of nice huge old trees as well (can't remember what kind, maple? oak?). And there was a Western clothes store at the end of the street (Wisconsin? and Emery) where Lee worked part time as a seamstress. She did all the alterations for them. She was pretty adept at any kind of craft or art involving hand-eye coordination." In 1980, Lally fell ill from an ovarian infection, caused by an IUD. Complications from the surgery to remove the IUD resulted in a coma that lasted for six years. She spent those final years in a hospital in DC and a nursing home outside of Boston, and died in 1986, without ever regaining consciousness. Thanks to Lally's children, Caitlin Lally Hotaling and Miles Lally, for permission to reprint. To Read More About Some Of Us Press: Literary Organizations Issue: SOUP