The old man cruises our neighborhood
in a 2-tone Chevy built like a fort;
he offers 25 cents to the girls
who’ll come close enough to let him pinch
a cheek—gaze hidden behind dark
glasses, one hand on the wheel,
one eye on the rearview mirror.

Across the street, we dare
each other: you do it; no,
you do it—pulled as much by the glory
of what a whole quarter buys,
by the yearning to be wanted
by someone—we’re just trailer court kids
on a Saturday morning made of asphalt,
shaggy pines and rain. Our mothers
chain smoke Pall Malls inside thin walls,
fathers or stepfathers or mothers’ boyfriends
out hunting work or already drinking.
We’ve all spent nights waiting outside The Mecca
in our parents’ old cars, peering over back seats
into dark windows as if wishing
could erase those light-years of distance.

I am a hungry heart on skinny legs,
standing on the edge of a journey—
no maps, no guides, instincts muddled
by neglect or abandonment or mistake;
naked, letting other people dress me
in trust, shame, lust. I want to say
I will learn how to hide my longing—
that invisible sign scrawled on my forehead
like an SOS revealing my location to the enemy—
but the truth is something more like this:

If there is a patron saint of trailer courts,
if Our Lady of the Single-Wide watches over
potholed streets, crew-cut bullies,
stolen bikes and wildflower ditches, if
children learn to brandish scabs and scars
like medals; if a prayer exists to banish predators—
well, no one taught me that magic.

So I step into that road, cross that street,
take that bribe—and keep walking, out
of that trailer park, away from that childhood.
I follow my hunger, my emptiness, the flame
on my forehead not betrayal but reminder:
it’s not wrong to want, to ask—not wrong—
I keep the beacon lit so love might see me.

Related Poems

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

[(symbol)’s really beautiful. When (symbol)’s standing in the trees]

[symbol] ’s really beautiful. When  [symbol] ’s standing in the trees
and thinks nobody sees whose.  [symbol] ’s like a stag.
Which sounds silly but  [symbol] is. The way the light shines


on whose. The way it bounces off whose hair
like spray from the sprinkler. And  [symbol]  doesn’t know.
Because  [symbol] ’s looking somewhere else.

 

Maybe up at a bird?       I was standing
and turned back because I heard
                                               whose whistling.


[symbol] thought I wasn’t listening.
                                               [symbol]  wasn’t thinking of me.
[symbol]  was looking at a bird


who was sitting in the tree
and looking back at whose.
                                               If whose shirt was off  [symbol] ’d


have been dappled golden by the sun
coming through the leaves.  [symbol]  didn’t notice me
watching whose without whose shirt on.


                                               [symbol]  was standing in the forest
                                               and the sun was coming
                                               through the trees and covering whose.


[symbol]  glowed.
I knew  [symbol] ’d be warm if I walked up and
touched whose. And probably not mad.
 

                                               [symbol] ’s like something in a movie
                                               or like a book we’d read in summer by the pool.
 

[symbol]  didn’t see me looking
because  [symbol]  was so peaceful
staring at the bird.

 

*Title should read: 
[symbol] ’s really beautiful. When  [symbol] ’s standing in the trees

What Is Broken Is What God Blesses

   The lover's footprint in the sand
   the ten-year-old kid's bare feet
in the mud picking chili for rich growers,
not those seeking cultural or ethnic roots,
but those whose roots
have been exposed, hacked, dug up and burned
			and in those roots
			do animals burrow for warmth;
what is broken is blessed,
	not the knowledge and empty-shelled wisdom
	paraphrased from textbooks,
		not the mimicking nor plaques of distinction
		nor the ribbons and medals
but after the privileged carriage has passed
	the breeze blows traces of wheel ruts away
	and on the dust will again be the people's broken
							footprints.
What is broken God blesses,
	not the perfectly brick-on-brick prison
	but the shattered wall
	that announces freedom to the world,
proclaims the irascible spirit of the human
rebelling against lies, against betrayal,
against taking what is not deserved;
	the human complaint is what God blesses,
	our impoverished dirt roads filled with cripples,
what is broken is baptized,
	the irreverent disbeliever,
	the addict's arm seamed with needle marks
		is a thread line of a blanket
	frayed and bare from keeping the man warm.
We are all broken ornaments,
		glinting in our worn-out work gloves,
		foreclosed homes, ruined marriages,
from which shimmer our lives in their deepest truths,
blood from the wound,
				broken ornaments—
when we lost our perfection and honored our imperfect sentiments, we were
blessed.
Broken are the ghettos, barrios, trailer parks where gangs duel to death,
yet through the wretchedness a woman of sixty comes riding her rusty bicycle,
			we embrace
			we bury in our hearts,
broken ornaments, accused, hunted, finding solace and refuge
		we work, we worry, we love
		but always with compassion
		reflecting our blessings—
			in our brokenness
			thrives life, thrives light, thrives
				the essence of our strength,
					each of us a warm fragment,
					broken off from the greater
					ornament of the unseen,
					then rejoined as dust,
					to all this is.