Translating the Crip

Can I translate myself to you?
Do I need to?
Do I want to?

When I say crip I mean flesh-proof power, flash mob sticks and wheels in busy intersections, model mock.

When I say disability I mean all the brilliant ways we get through the planned fractures of the world.

When I say living in America today I mean thriving and unwelcome, the irony of the only possible time and place.

When I say cure I mean erase. I mean eradicate the miracle of error.

When I say safe I mean no pill, no certified agency, no danger to myself court order, no supervisory setting, no nurse, can protect or defend or save me, if you deny me power.

When I say public transportation I mean we all pay, we all ride, we all wait. As long as necessary.

When I say basic rights I mean difficult curries, a fancy-knotted scarf, a vegetable garden. I mean picking up a friend at the airport. I mean two blocks or a continent with switches or sensors or lightweight titanium, well-maintained and fully-funded. I mean shut up about charity, the GNP, pulling my own weight, and measuring my carbon footprint. I mean only embrace guaranteed can deliver real equality.

When I say high-quality personal assistance services I mean her sure hands earning honorably, and me eating and shitting without anyone's permission.

When I say nondisabled I mean all your precious tricks.

When I say nondisabled privilege I mean members-only thought processes, and the violence of stairs.

By dancing I mean of course dancing. We dance without coordination or hearing, because music wells through walls. You're invited, but don't do us any favors.

When I say sexy I mean our beautiful crip bodies, broken or bent, and whole. I mean drooling from habit and lust. I mean slow, slow.

When I say family I mean all the ways we need each other, beyond your hardening itch and paternal property rights, our encumbering love and ripping losses. I mean everything ripples.

When I say normal I don't really mean anything.

When I say sunset, rich cheese, promise, breeze, or iambic pentameter, I mean exactly the same things you mean.

Or, when I say sunset I mean swirling orange nightmare. When I say rich cheese I mean the best food I can still eat, or else I mean poverty and cholesterol. When I say promise I mean my survival depends on crossed digits. When I say breeze I mean finally requited desire. When I say iambic pentameter, I mean my heart's own nameless rhythm.

When I say tell the truth I mean complicate. Cry when it's no longer funny.

When I say crip solidarity I mean the grad school exam and the invisible man. I mean signed executive meetings, fighting for every SSI cent.

When I say challenges to crip solidarity I mean the colors missing from grant applications, the songs absent from laws. I mean that for all my complaints and victories, I am still sometimes more white than crip.

When I say anything I know the risk: You will accuse me of courage. I know your language all too well, steeped in its syntax of overcoming adversity and limited resources. When I say courage I mean you sitting next to me, talking, both of us refusing to compare or hate ourselves.

When I say ally I mean I'll get back to you. And you better be there.


Laura Hershey
November 2010

Copyright © 2012. Used with the permission of Robin Stephens.