I woke up Saturday morning and spent an hour or two in front of the space heater, in my pajamas, working on a cup of coffee and trying to thaw out from the Bay Area cold snap. Sleeping in the small cedar cabin where I reside has been a little more of a challenge since the temperature's been hovering in the 30s over the last week. I was pretty floored to receive an email from Jess Hoffman, one of the editors of http://www.makeshiftmag.com/ , that the sections from my memoir in progress, Dirty River, had been nominated for a Pushcart Prize! http://www.pushcartprize.com/index.html
The Pushcart Prize is, to quote from their website:
-for critical resistance, and after amir rabiyah and li young lee
in the city of my desire
we own this house. or we don't own it,
but I've lived here for forty years now.
we made additions. fixed the hole in the roof. had time, stories and bread.
I lived to be an old woman, still hot
nobody owns anything
but I had time to put down roots
and just live here.
There is no panic attack every two weeks:
love shot!/ millions of dollars going to something terrible!/a bad sentence/
a youtube video of streets bleeding/facebook fight over tactics
all now unsurprising.
no one is evicted
by gun or signature on paper
no one is taken away from us
by someone who despises us
In the city of my imagination,
I get to be surprised
I get to not know
how the story ends
In the city of my desire
nothing is perfect. oceans rose
people died. people we loved and needed,
they died. not how we wanted them to.
perhaps the water stopped three blocks from my house
because we made sea dikes and magic
and I jog by the oil scented salt water every morning.
or I didn't make it and I am a ghost speaking to my grandchild
who is living in toxic water like the sharks by the Farallon islands
still diving and grinning next to cold war nukes dropped thirty years ago;
I look at her mutated, beautiful, persistent smile.
In the city of my desire
my diaspora settles like a nervous stomach after a ginger beer
I have family all over the world
in the best tradition of my people,
and I can see them whenever I want
we live wherever we want
and back home is a place we want to live
once, my only home was the runway
now it is one home,
but radiation never bombards my body naked
so folks brown or browner than me can laugh
as roots stretch rhizome
forward and back
They are allowed to grow
and something new comes
beyond the breaking open of empire
and the IMF bloody wound crust
the city of my desire
is my body
I spent so long learning to love this crip body
altered by trauma capitalism bled into my mother's stem cells
but things happened:
my parents before dying are accountable for my childhood
old carpet soaked rust belt toxins out of soil
I got to rest as long as I needed
so did everyone else
whose bodies fell apart in the last days of desire
and I limp and jog towards the justice of healing,
I and we the someones
who didn't die.
In the city I walk daily
community accountability is a fucking mess
we all know that
all our hearts a fucking mess
we know that
we had forty years
to try and learn compassion
as we the last generation earn our grey hair and bad teeth
to learn words simple on a page flying messy into blood and meat
flying like rock doves back home to words
The city in which I love you
is tricky. complicated.
broken before we breathe it.
all we have. our own genius,
two or three things I know for sure, how genius we are raising $5,000 at a house party
how tragic the inside of heart set on fire
it's like arguing over monogamy versus polyamory-
no matter how much I get irritated and compose brilliant Scorpio emails
lambasting a lover's dumb ass when they fuck up, I know I can't get married.
All I have
is the task of figuring it out.
the city where I adore you
is only this: love storm. broken toxins.
halfassed brilliant solution. oya wind. unknown child.
my feverish tremmoring body who has time to lie on a couch and write this best poem
of cages crumbled sea walls holding
the inside of our hearts writing the urban planning
drawing the maps crooked bleeding ink
of the city we breathe toward cherished
buoyant dream I reach for
with you, kindred
in this city where we live and desire, now
body brown filled with broken gratitude
breaking bread open breath
that loud that terrifying that held on to hustled
that deep bell peeping and sounding your earth's shake
a magnet four times stronger than the earth's core
that's me sitting in a straight-backed chair in business casual
saying yes, I'm his sister yes, I'll stay in the room during the procedure
yelling at the tube they've stuck you in
I know you can't hear me but I love you
and I'm yelling it whether or not you can hear me
he says you didn't seem like yourself that day
i say this is my self
crunching my forehead to stay in the palace of words
lamaaze breathing through pain spikes
asking for a vicodin with a shaking hand
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This work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.