In Memory of Miriam Bobkoff

My friend, sometimes known as “the other Miriam” died yesterday in Kingston Residence in Santa Fe, attended by friends, caring aides, and Ambercare Hospice. She was a librarian (in public, community college, and tribal libraries), an ordained Zen priest in the Soto lineage, and also a lover of poetry and editor of the e-zine “Santa Fe Poetry Broadside.”
Here is an incredible poem she wrote based on what she called her “communal past,” that speaks not just to an important part of her personal history but to that of the city of San Francisco’s. It is about the famous drag queen, activist, and local personality Hibiscus.
If you knew Miriam Bobkoff and this is your first notice of her death, the team that cared for her will also be sending out a group email of a more personal nature. Also, feel free to write me at msagan1035@aol.com.

Unexpected Elegy

When I wrote him off he was famous
in his fashion,
a caricature of all the people who had imitated him,
whole audiences of them,
the screwy drugged-out Angel of Light making only the
occasional flight
in the theater he created.

Afterwards he died of ‘gay pneumonia’
before so to speak there was such a thing as AIDS,
as if he had invented his death, too, and all the others have
imitated him.

“I heard that Hibiscus was dragged screaming in chains
down the middle of Polk Street,”
said Jilala or Ralif or someone else who would have heard it
at the baths,
and we all disapproved.
I could see it plainly, the nineteen flowing layers of garments,
the wreath of real flowers in waist-long hair and the
glitter in his beard, writhing in oil and broken glass
under the feet of buses and cars and the aunties of Polk Street–

right then I forgot him for ten years,

whom only now I remember:

he showered us with rose petals, my first lover and I,
coming through the velvet curtain between his room
and mine, scattering handsful over our bodies
as we lay there making love

he called me Garance sometimes, and once when the commune was
in a crisis too ordinaire for his delicate self
he handed me a note and fled the house,
I have the paper still:
‘Garance — Never mind. The moment is past.’ Baptiste

he came from New York longer ago than that
(I was a model, he said, my specialty was looking sullen)
the beautiful boy who wanted to sleep with me
when I was still
living alone in a carriage house and had never slept with anyone,
and he was still George Harris the Third.

1/2/89

11 thoughts on “In Memory of Miriam Bobkoff

  1. Thank you for sharing this poem, shining light on another aspect of San Francisco. I did not know either of them either but I do know a little bit more now, and I send condolences to you and her friends. What a beautiful way to go out of this world, surrounded with friends and love. Good Journey to Miriam.

  2. I read some of Miriam B.’s blog about seabirds and the Pacific Northwest, so in addition to her amazing poem above, it’s a gift to read the beautiful work she has left behind. I never met Miriam B., but it sounds like she was a wonderful human being. So sorry for your loss, Miriam This blog is a lovely tribute to her.

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