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     Today’s edition of Overcom: Celebrate marks 49 years since Issue 1 of Aotearoa’s first lesbian magazine, The Circle, was published. We are celebrating with ‘Marry me in the church at Staglands’ by Dani Yourukova, inspired by early issues of The Circle.
     The Circle was a monthly magazine published by the Sisters for Homophile Equality (S.H.E) from 1973 until 1986. In the first issue’s editorial, Alison writes: “The gay movement in New Zealand has been largely male dominated… The majority of women identifying as lesbian in this country have very different problems from those experienced by gay men. We are oppressed both as women and as lesbians… In certain areas of our lives we are as oppressed by gay men as we are by straight men.”
     Alison was one of a collective of fourteen women, and only the editors’ and contributors’ first names are used in this issue, presumably to maintain anonymity.
     Early issues of The Circle are a fascinating and important insight into the challenges and experiences of lesbians in the 1970s. Early contributions include a poll of readers about whether they will come out to their parents, an account of the Christchurch S.H.E branch going to a town hall Christmas dinner and ‘driving away two tables full of people’ when the women danced together, and an article about two women from S.H.E running a one-off talk-back radio programme for the public to call in with questions about lesbianism. The poems featured in the first issues are largely about lesbian yearning, sex, first relationships, and breakups. 
     Head to this Instagram post to see more of the editorial from Issue 1, along with a few of the poems published in that issue. If you would like to see more issues of The Circle, contact The Charlotte Museum in Tāmaki Makaurau or the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand (LAGANZ) in Te Whanganui-a-Tara to arrange a viewing.

Dani Yourukova

Marry me in the church at Staglands

I want to glide across the outdoor grill area          my hollow bones resplendent in a swan feather 
gown         mud streaked, pale as egg whites             I want to take you to Tracey’s Cave    
    and keep you there         I want to distribute         general usage feed-pellet party-favours  
  twisted into paper bags  pig-ready        for the kune kune       tunnel mouths, hairy-backed     and soft 
soft soft          pose for our nuptial photographs     with the paradise shelducks            honking and
flapping    and damp

take me to the aviary  and hold me        let’s get away from all this            beneath the wire mesh 
cinnamon sky             where the parrots jangle like car keys          mangling sweet orange impaled 
on the branches of trees                  they sip from bowls of scooped out citrus     tear syrupy pulp  
    from the bottom           I want you to drink me too  taste the salt of my tongue                 then rail 
me in the secret rabbit garden                where the the bunnies’ wide feet thump the earth        like a 
headboard          take me down to the trout pond             so we can  watch the fish             those 
leisurely slabs        of silver muscle                  circling us slowly like a spell

no one can stop me now!!          I’m gonna smash that tractor trailer ride              all the way down 
the aisle     open all the doors and windows         and burn the chapel down to its ankles
so we can toast our marshmallows in the ash             and weave our wedding rings from donkey 
hair    then    we’ll ask the taxidermy heads at the bar              to bless our union         with all 
their lank-jawed mould bitten hearts

then when all of the Arapawa island goats have gone home                     and the afterparty winds 
to a close          no pellet left in our pockets     we will turn and ask each other   “where the fuck 
were all the stags?           isn’t this place           called fucking Staglands?”          and you’ll smile  
but you won’t have an answer    until we’re shivering in the carpark        past dark and your eyes 
find the hill’s horizon           where the herd spreads like silk             under the forest’s eaves  
far off and quiet           as stars

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Dani Yourukova is a Wellington poet, who completed their Masters at the IIML last year by writing poems about gay yearning, ancient Greek philosophy, Les Misérables slash fiction and a choose-your-own-adventure apocalypse. Their debut collection is forthcoming from AUP next year. You could find their work in various journals, if you wanted to.

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