When Susan Got Busted, Philadelphia 1975
by Barbara Ruth

I’m not sure when the air began to change, to vibrate differently. I know the molecules screamed alarm the day Bryna and Val were walking down the street holding hands and a cop pulled them over. Routine harassment. Except the cop had been flipping through the FBI Most Wanted files just that morning at the Roundhouse. He looked at Val. She matched an updated photo, a possible ID of a woman who had eluded the Feds for seven years.

“You’re Susan Saxby.”

Bryna tells the story this way: ‘No, you fool,’ she thought at the cop, ‘she’s Susan Saxe.’ Bryna maintains she didn’t know Val was one of the two women who’d gone underground after expropriating funds from banks and giving the money to the Black Panthers. Who had broken into an armory and found plans for a detention camp in case of a Boston insurrection. Susan and her comrades mailed the plans to a radical newspaper they knew would publish them.

In the six months they had been lovers, Bryna says she never guessed Val was Susan until there in that squad car. I say: if Susan had to get busted, it was incredibly good luck she was with her lover at the time – who just happened to be a paralegal at ACLU.

Susan’s bust terrified us, not just for her but for ourselves as well. The other woman who took part in the actions with Susan back in the sixties was named Kathy Power. She was still free. Grand Juries had been convened in cities across the country in an attempt to capture members of the Underground. Dykes in Kentucky and Oregon were doing time because they refused to tell the Grand Juries who had been lovers with whom, who attended what meetings, who might have “sympathies.” The FBI collected names of candidates for Grand Jury inquisitions in Lexington, Kentucky, New Haven, Connecticut. Now they were here in Philly. They disguised themselves poorly – it was obvious which woman at the lesbian concert did not attend because she loved the music. Mostly they didn’t try disguises. Mostly they were men in suits who flashed their badges and said we had to answer any questions they asked us. They flashed those badges at our workplaces, at our bars, to our parents and neighbors. Pamphlets signed by “Lezzie Fair” began appearing in radical bookstores and gay bars, telling us it was against the law to lie to them, but it was our right, it was duty to the movement and our sisters, not to talk to the Feds. Nobody knew what the FBI would do next. I wore buttons that read “We harbor fugitives” and “Kathy Power to the Kathy People.” But I knew neither my buttons nor my mace would make them go away.

Meanwhile, a media extravaganza upped the ante. The Philadelphia Inquirer printed a picture of Susan and Bryna’s bed on page 1, with the heading “Self-Styled Revolutionary Lesbian Love Nest!” The paper said the incriminating evidence the cops collected at their apartment included Susan’s poetry.

That got to me. I was becoming a moderately well-known poet and I was guilty of writing poems against the state.
Susan’s post-capture press release said, “I continue to fight on, as a lesbian, a feminist, an amazon.” Of course I had to love her.

Yes, I knew a guard was killed during one of the bank robberies. Surveillance tape showed one of Susan’s accomplices – who had been caught long ago and died at Attica – pulled the trigger. But it happened in Massachusetts and that made Susan guilty of felony-murder. And writing poems against the state.

I thought the felony-murder law was an outrage. I thought what Susan had done was heroic – especially the part about not getting caught all those years.

The newspaper had used the words to belittle Susan, but “self-styled revolutionary” was exactly what I was becoming. And I was not the only one.


BRAIDS, Barbara Ruth

by Barbara Ruth

if it hadn’t been almost Thanksgiving
if Akai’s Mom hadn’t loved his manbraids so much
if the best stylist he knew didn’t live in the worst housing project in NYC
if Kimberly had taken a bit more time zigzaging Akai’s cornrows 
if they’d started on plaiting earlier
if he’d come for his cornrows the next night
if Kimberly and Akai had decided to go out and show off his braids an hour later
if the elevator at Louis F. Pink House #1 hadn’t been broken
if the busted out lightbulbs in the stairwell of the eighth floor had been replaced
if two rookie officers hadn’t disobeyed orders and begun a vertical search of the building 
if the Glock had stayed in the holster
if the bullet hadn’t ricocheted off the cement wall to strike below Akai’s beautiful braids
if either policeman had 
	called 911
	performed CPR
	done something besides argue then text their Union reps
Akai Gurley might have lived to be 30
before some cop got away with
murdering him
Barbara Ruth was raised by parents who did their best to pass as White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. This has complicated her relationship to her Ashkenazi Jewish and Potowatomee bloodlines and also placed passing as a central issue which she dances with in this incarnation. She is neurodivergent, old, lesbian, physically disabled, and unable to find housing. She remembers finding the concept of synchronicity in the writings of Jung 50 years ago. In another 50 years she will have much more to say about it.

Issue 10: Synchronicity

Issue 10. Cover Art: Barbara Ruth.
[Image: a portrait-orientation image with a black background. Up the left sides, the words “Barking Sycamores” in sans serif sand-colored font appear. In the bottom right corner, the words “Issue 10” appear in the same print style, in gold-coloured letters. Above “Issue 10” appears a photomanipulated image of a group of round black cacti on the ground: some are small, with one large specimen with long spines near the top center of the image. The ground beneath appears in various tones of gold, beige, and sand.]
It’s true that 2016 has been a painful year for many of us. We’ve seen the deaths of artists who have meant a lot to us, whose creative works have touched many –– Prince, David Bowie, Alan Ruckman, Anton Yelchin, and Gene Wilder, to name a few. Once again, we hear the clarion call of needed change as more Black people die at the hands of law enforcement, bigoted populists attempt to legislate queer and trans people of out existence, rape culture continues to abound, and fearful political forces rise that echo fascist and racist demagogues of the past. Meanwhile, neurodivergent and disabled people continue to fight for basic civil rights and against ideologies that deny our personhood, humanity, and rights to accessibility and self-determination. With all of this, it’s easy to wonder if anything in our world has meaning or connections. Does anything make sense? We’re not sure how to answer this question.
Solomon chose the theme, “Synchronicity,” which is loaded with potential connotations. Usually defined in dictionaries as events occurring near in time to each other but with no apparent casual relationship, we also thought of Jung’s suggestion that while these events may lack causality, they do not lack meaning when taken together. We’ve both been very keen on exploring time, time travel, and causality. Ian’s been especially thinking about these themes while working on his MFA thesis, a collection of poems tentative named Time Travel in a Closet. (Happily, he passed his defense this summer and graduated.) At the very least, both of us have concluded that imaginations and our sentient understanding are ways in which alternate events, options, and timelines can be explored. Connections can be discerned in many ways, some obvious and some more intuitive.
Illness and life events delayed the publication of this issue, but here we are. Once again, due to the sheer number of submissions we found it difficult to make our final selections. This issue welcomes some previous contributors as well as new voices in our ranks. Our cover features art by Barbara Ruth; this piece is called “Circles and Bubbles in the Key of Cactus.” We hope you enjoy reading it as it rolls out over the next few weeks.
N.I. Nicholson
V. Solomon Maday