Brown love is getting the pat down but not the secondary screening
and waiting after you clear to make sure the Sikh man or
the Black woman or the hijabis behind you get through

Brown love is asking the Punjabi guy working at the starbucks knockoff
if all the tea sizes are still the same price

and he says no,
it hasn’t been like that for at least four years,
but he slips you an extra tea bag without talking about it.

Brown love is the unsmiling aunty
at the disabled immigration line

barking
anything to declare? No? No? Have a good day.
and your rice, semolina, kari karo seeds and jaggary all get through
even though they are definitely from countries
where there are insects that could eat america to the ground

Brown love is texting your cousin on whatsapp asking
if she’s ever had a hard time bringing weed tincture in her carry on 

brown love is a balm
in this airport of life

where, if we can scrape up enough money
we all end up
because we all came from somewhere
and we want to go there
or we can’t go to there but we want to go to the place we went after that
where our mom still lives even though we fight
or our chosen sis is still in her rent controlled perfect apartment
where we get the luxury of things being like how we remember
we want to go to the place we used to live
and even if gentrification snatched the bakery
with the 75 cent coffee where everyone hung out all night
we can still walk the block where it was
and remember

and the thing about brown love is, nobody smiles.
nobody is friendly. nobody winks. nobody can get away with that
they’re all silently working their terrible 9 dollar an hour
food service jobs where tip jars aren’t allowed
or TSA sucks but it’s the job you can get out of the military
and nobody can get away with being outwardly loving
but we do what we can

brown love is the woman who lets your 1 pound over the 50 pound limit bag go
the angry woman who looks like your cousin
who is so tired on the american airlines customer service line
she tags your bag for checked luggage
and doesn’t say anything about a credit card, she just yells Next!
Brown love is your tired cousin who prays you all the way home
from when you get on the subway to when you land and get on another.
This is what we have
we do what we can.

More by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Femme futures

Where does the future live in your body?
Touch it

1

Sri Lankan radical women never come alone.
We have a tradition of coming in groups of three or four.
The Thiranagama sisters may be the most beloved and famous,
but in the 20s my appamma and great aunties were the Wild Alvis Girls.
Then there is your sister, your cousin, your great-aunts
everyone infamous and unknown.
We come in packs		we argue
we sneak each other out of the house
we have passionate agreements and disagreements
we love each other very much but can't stand to be in the same room or continent for years.
We do things like, oh, start the first rape crisis center in Jaffna in a war zone in someone's living room.
When war forces our hands,
we all move to Australia or London or Thunder Bay together 
or, if the border do not love us, we are what keeps Skype in business
When one or more of us is murdered
by the State or a husband
we survive
whether we want to or not.

I am an only child
I may not have been born into siblinghood
but I went out and found mine.
Made mine.

We come in packs
even when we are alone

Sometimes the only ancestral sisterlove waiting for you
is people in books, dreams
aunties you made up
people who are waiting for you in the clouds ten years in the future 
and when you get there 
you make your pack
and you send that love
back

2.

When the newly disabled come
they come bearing terror and desperate. Everyone else has left them
to drown on the titanic. They don't know there is anybody 
but the abled. They come asking for knowledge
that is common to me as breath, and exotic to them as, well,
being disabled and unashamed.
They ask about steroids and sleep. About asking for help.
About how they will ever possibly convince their friends and family
they are not lazy or useless.
I am generous- we crips always are.
They were me.
They don't know if they can call themselves that,
they would never use that word, but they see me calling myself that,
ie, disabled, and the lens is blurring, maybe there is another world
they have never seen 
where crips limp slowly, laugh, have shitty and good days
recalibrate the world to our bodies instead of sprinting trying to keep up 
Make everyone slow down to keep pace with us.

Sometimes when I am about to email the resource list,
the interpreter phone numbers, the hot chronic pain tips, the best place to rent a ramp,
my top five favorite medical cannabis strains, my extra dermal lidocaine patch—it's about 
to expire, but don't worry, it's still good,
I want to slip in a PS that says,
remember back when I was a crip
and you weren't, how I had a flare and had to cancel our day trip
and when I told you, you looked confused
and all you knew how to say was,  Boooooooooo!
as I was lying on the ground, trying to breathe?
Do you even remember that?
Do your friends say that to you, now?
Do you want to come join us, on the other side?
Is there a free future in this femme of color disabled body?

3.

When I hear my femme say When I'm old and am riding a motorcycle with white hair down my back
When I hear my femme say When I'm old and sex work paid off my house and my retirement
When I hear my femme/myself say When I get dementia and I am held with respect when I am between all worlds
When I see my femme packing it all in because crip years are like dog years and you never know when they're going to shoot Old Yeller
When I hear my femme say when I quit my teaching gig and never have to deal with white male academic nonsense again 

When I hear us plan the wheelchair accessible femme of color trailer park,
the land we already have a plan to pay the taxes on
See the money in the bank and the ways we grip our thighs back to ourselves

When I hear us dream our futures,
believe we will make it to one,
We will make one.

The future lives in our bodies

I know crips live here

I know crips live here. So many couches and blanket throws.

I know crips live here. A bathroom filled with coconut oil, unscented conditioner and black soap.

I know crips live here. Your Humira and T on the bottom shelf of the fridge.

I know crips live here. Only house on the block with a homemade ramp, property standards so mad. 


I know crips live here. Big exhale at the shower chair, the slip pads and the air purifier.


I know crips live here. I see all the things in reach around your mattress of glory, the vibrator, the library books, the TV, the stuffed animals.

I know crips live here. Straws and Poise pads and crosswords and weighted blankets and stim toys.

I know crips live here. You've been home for a couple days. A week. That's the imprint of your ass in the couch surrounded by empty bags of food and plates and the Advil and the heating pad.

I know crips live here. 50 pounds of epsom salts, from the farm store, your painkiller display like an altar.


I know crips live here. I see your EBT card and your fought for DSHS care attendant.

I know crips live here. How you taught yourself to be an herbalist so you could afford to manage your pain.


I know crips live here. Everybody late.

I know crips live here. Your dogs, cats and stuffed animals are part of your family.

I know crips live here. Your disabled parking placard a candle in the window.

I know crips live here.

Welcome
You are home. 

Related Poems

if found, then measured

1.  
Now that I can, I am afraid to become a citizen.
I don’t want to become anything because I’m afraid of being seen. 

I am arriving, and departing, 
and later I will punish myself for looking over 
at the person sitting next to me on the plane, checking their screen 
and reading their email. For now there is no punishment.
Today I have realized everyone is just as boring as me. 
Everyone in TSA had enormous hands. 
I still refuse to travel with my green card.


2. 
It is my mother’s birthday and I bought her merchandise from a school 
I didn’t attend but only visited. She, too, understands the value of cultural capital.  

Today I am wounded. I like to say wounded instead of sad. Sadness is reserved
for days when I can actually make money from what I do. 
My mother raised me to make sure nothing I ever did I did for free. 


3.
When I land, Northern California is burning. 
We keep a suitcase near the door just in case.  
A man calls me three different names before giving up
and asks if my son has begun coughing yet.  
Beneath all that ash, no one seems bothered if you cry in public. 

Sitting around a circle of grateful alcoholics, some of whom will leave 
the room towards a clear portrait of their ruin,
which can either mean they will or will never return, 
a man tells me I have been selfish, and I admit I have. 
Sometimes I want every goddamn piece of the pie. 
A woman pulls aside her mask to smoke and says 
she’s going to look up what temperature 
teeth begin to melt, the implication being that if teeth melted, 
they won’t be able to identify her parents who are still missing in Paradise.

When I pray, I don’t know who I am talking to yet.
I take the eucharist in my mouth for the first time 
since changing religions and it is not as holy as I imagined. 


4. 
How easy. How effortless. This breath. 
I’m here. I’m here. I’m right here. I want to say.
I wish things were simple, like taking just one drink
and not another, like not burning in a fire, 
like letting things be good without being holy.
I wouldn’t have to pretend to try
to resume the bounty of this blossom.  

A Journey

It’s a journey . . . that I propose . . . I am not the guide . . . nor technical assistant . . . I will be your fellow passenger . . .

Though the rail has been ridden . . . winter clouds cover . . . autumn’s exuberant quilt . . . we must provide our own guide-posts . . .

I have heard . . . from previous visitors . . . the road washes out sometimes . . . and passengers are compelled . . . to continue groping . . . or turn back . . . I am not afraid . . .

I am not afraid . . . of rough spots . . . or lonely times . . . I don’t fear . . . the success of this endeavor . . . I am Ra . . . in a space . . . not to be discovered . . . but invented . . .

I promise you nothing . . . I accept your promise . . . of the same we are simply riding . . . a wave . . . that may carry . . . or crash . . .

It’s a journey . . . and I want . . . to go . . .

Where I am Not

I ask the new migrant if he regrets leaving Russia.
We have dispensed already with my ancestry.
He says no. For a time, he was depressed. He found
with every return he missed what he left behind.
A constant state of this. Better to love by far
where you are. He taps the steering wheel of his car,
the hum of the engine an imperceptible tremble
in us. When he isn’t driving, he works tending
to new trees. I’ve seen these saplings popping
up all over the suburbs, tickling the bellies
of bridges, the new rooted darlings of the State.
The council spent a quarter mil on them &
someone, he—Lilian—must ensure the dirt
holds. Gentrification is climate-friendly now.
I laugh and he laughs, and we eat the distance
between histories. He checks on his buds daily.
Are they okay? They are okay. They do not need
him, but he speaks, and they listen or at least
shake a leaf. What a world where you can live off
land by loving it. If only we cared for each other
this way. The council cares for their investment.
The late greenery, that is, not Lilian, who shares
his ride on the side. I wonder what it would cost 
to have men be tender to me regularly, 
to be folded into his burly, to be left on the side
of the road as he drove away, exhausted. Even
my dreams of tenderness involve being used
& I’m not sure who to blame: colonialism,
capitalism, patriarchy, queerness or poetry?
Sorry, this is a commercial for the Kia Sportage
now. This is a commercial for Lilian’s thighs.
He didn’t ask for this and neither did I—how
language drapes us together, how stories tongue
each other in the back seat and the sky blurs
out of frame. There are too many agonies
to discuss here, and I am nearly returned.
He has taken me all the way back, around
the future flowering, back to where I am not,
to the homes I keep investing in as harms.
I should fill them with trees. Let the boughs
cover the remembered boy, cowering
under a mother, her raised weapon
not the cane but the shattering within,
let the green tear through the wall
paper, let life replace memory. Lilian, I left
you that day, and in the leaving, a love
followed. Isn’t that a wonder and a wound?
Tell me which it is, I confess I mistake the two.
I walk up the stairs to my old brick apartment
where the peach tree reaches for the railing,
a few blushing fruits poking through the bars,
eager to brush my leg, to say linger, halt.
I want to stop, to hold it for real, just once
but I must wait until I am safe.