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
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.