You won't be able to get these Actual Slashes out of your consciousness the scar tissue will form and you'll be thankful--if you've got the courage. --H. Brown Miller

Finding Donna M. Lane

Back in 1974 I was a student of John Madden at the City College of San Francisco. My memory is vague. Either Donna M. Lane was also a fellow creative writing classmate or she was doing a guest appearance.

Either way, I was amazed. Her raw talent was inspiring, and although I can’t recall any specific poem that I wrote that was inspired by her work, I am sure she had a large impact on my style, which, looking back, I would describe as punk poetry, filled with images intended to shock, you know like the poem she wrote, Necrophilia. Need I say any more?

She had recently self published a volume of her work called “Actual Slashes.” She was selling them after a reading in class and I bought it.

I have been in possession of that book now for over 50 years and lately I have been referencing it a lot. I even mentioned Donna in a poem that I wrote called “The Secret of Lost Poems.”

Periodically, I found myself searching for more information about her, but Google wasn’t eager to give her secrets up. There was always the danger that when you found the people you are looking for that you will find that they have died, like when I searched for another former classmate, Seaborn Jone. Seaborn published several books of poetry, received various honors and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He died in 2014 before I had a chance to hook up with him again.

Unfortunately, this was also the case with Donna who died in 2012. Despite bravely fighting and surviving breast cancer, Donna faced its return in 2006. Although she is no longer physically present, her words continue to echo her artistic brilliance. It is November of 2023 as I am writing this, and I only found out yesterday.

Donna did not die alone. Friends and admirers gathered to honor her remarkable life at the grand English Oak tree in the meadow near the rose garden in Golden Gate Park. Donna had dedicated over a decade to tending this park as a gardener. This tree held a special place in her heart, inspiring numerous poems that reflected her deep connection with nature.

Throughout her life, Donna’s essence, contemplation of mortality, and relationships with women, family, and diverse experiences found expression in three moving collections of poetry: “Actual Slashes” (1974), “Where I Live” (2005), and “Faster Than the Speed of Hope” (2010)(I just ordered a copy of the later).


Marilyn, they want to dig you up
and feel you up
and throw you up until the spasms
of their memory stop.
Mailer wants to spread your legs
and feel your legs
to see if your diaphragm is up
in there.
He wants to exhume your abdomen
and grasping your ovaries in his hand
count on his tongue your one or none
He has asked everyone who has never
been close to you how it was
how it really was
how good was it really
Marilyn, if you were a chicken gone sour,
every dog in the world
would be in the garbage
digging you up
feeling you up
throwing you up
even I
would touch the bones.

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