Tucked in the lower corner,
the headline told the ostensible story,
“Former professor, to call girl,
then suicide, police say.”
Untold, unsung, are the thousands like Brandy,
those less picturesque,
less resonant to media,
as untold as the untellable millions
endangered by her passing.
In the battle against AIDS, against the virus that slays
through sex, drugs and their seductions,
Brandy was a brilliant coming star
who married bright ideas, research savvy, caring,
passion, and impatience —
all needed, all in short supply.
Though young, she was a leader
in researching power for women to resist the risks
that hide waiting for women
during sex, doing drugs,
. . . for women dependent, for women abused.
She helped think up our agenda,
plan our analyses,
plan our papers,
plan our book,
and remained a friend
through the struggles this entailed.
Perhaps she was too bright,
too caring, too impassioned,
too concerned for women,
too concerned about fighting
these modern plagues,
for the order packing, order-picking pecking order
of the corporation
that was the modern university that employed her,
that denied her tenure,
that ousted her and her research grants
from their sexist dollared doors.
We tried to offer her a roost for her research,
a new position,
but her lawsuit for redress, for reinstatement,
this simple right to sue for justice
against the employer who destroyed her,
proved a sticking point, a trap door,
for an executive director
scared of law suits,
and so he, an employer,
denied her a rightful roost.
Perhaps her husband was over-challenged
by her brilliance,
her acting her belief
that women too are people.
Perhaps her challenge to his right-full powers
sprang another trapdoor shut,
unleashed the lurking devil
many men hold pent within,
so his ropes, his knots, his stabbing knife
left her once again a victim—
but a victim whose acts of self-defense
marked her “dangerous”
to men of power,
marked her “dangerous”
so they would not employ her.
I can not imagine, only mourn,
the anguish, the need,
that led her to her new job
to her arrest and persecution
for such a sin,
a final attack by the powers of manhood,
by their golden rule:
“Seek only employer-sanctioned
sources of cash,”
by their hectoring newspaper and TV headlines,
by their genius at making their callous power
not to employ
seem your weakness, your folly,
I do not wish ever to imagine
her thoughts as she placed another rope
around her once-stabbed neck,
as she opened another trapdoor beneath her,
as her spine broke like her fight-back spirit must have.
I mourn her lost ideas,
her lost impatience,
the many lives lost to the virus
for lack of her lost presence,
but my mourning is not alone.
It is married to my hating anger,
anger at a world where employers of people this system has destroyed,
is destroying even as I write these lines,
an anger that feeds once again
to uproot these powers soon.
- Sam Friedman