my fuschia living room walls, at the shark pit.
ten days til move out, I sleep so sweetly in my little cedar shack like always. wake up cupped in my wide bed, to the birds that live in the plum trees that drop heavy sweetness on the plexiglass a frame windows.
losing comes to me in spurts. this morning i realize, staring up at 7 am, that soon I won't wake to see my line of necklaces pinned on the wooden crossbar in the slanted window above my bed, interspersed with show flyers and crush art. I won't push open my little cabin door and walk through a path of dried mountain lion grass or rain wet january lushness, to walk up the deck steps to coffee. i won't pee in the middle of the night in the raspberry bush, or stroll through the yard in a bath towel when i want to dress post a shower. i wont smell the smell of cedar wood and fir and eucalyptis cupping me as i sleep. see the lush fig tree and roses and camellia.
i have loved this house hard. ever since the first day two years ago when i took a u haul shared by all of us full of crap and hauled it into the backyard. the first day after when 5 of us sat on busted couches in a puke green living room and drank strong coffee and discussed matters and breakfast took two hours. from all the days of people staying on the couch and soaking in the hot tub when it worked, of intensive gardening and 50 pound sacks of grain and beans in the pantry that fed me and all of us during some tight times. film shoots and film screenings and wrapping in blankets and trying to fix the heat and a broken oven for a year and mold remediation and the times i slept on the couch because it was just too god damn cold in the shack in janury, even with the space heater going non stop and mason jars filled with boiling water on my feet. the times i made love in the yard and thought i was being subtle. all the sounds of orgasm coming loudly out of all the rooms. the hate crime open mic and the movie nights and all the dinners that filled the dining table with homies and food. the herbal stocks and the emergency water stocks in the backyard.
I have loved this house whole heartedly, without question, loved flying in and out of this compound, all of us between tours and lover visits and crises. have loved us through home breakins and landlord insanity, through many days working at the kitchen table and on the couch. i grew home here.
this morning annah and me rolled out of bed early to go have fancy coffee and gourmet buttermilk donuts at the fancy place her lover works, for free, and to catch up. when i asked her, what else, what have we not covered, she said, all i can think of is that the pit is breaking up. and we grabbed hands.
me too. i came back from two blissful weeks of home in toronto on monday night, late, after 17 hours in transit, starting with the 5:30 AM wakeup to make it to the 7 am megabus that takes you to the buffalo airport by ten, enough time to clear security for your 11:30 flight to JFK, four hour layover, then five hour flight to SFO. it's still amazing to me that I can cross 3,000 miles in 17 hours. came home to mist and shivering thighs at sfo waiting for my girl to pick me up in her little red car, taking me to pulled local pork sandwich and a whiskey for me, sazarac for her. enjoying the oxygen content of the air but body which had been so happy in the hot sunlit thick strawberry juice humid of toronto air, curls curling out every day even though there is also UV radiation and drying out from two showers a day. the next day i slept, shopped for groceries, dropped checks and ripped envelopes open. the next day I spent panicked and crying from lack of house and hitting refresh on CL rooms/shares with "queer, east bay" as keywords and resorting to texting random friends asking if they had a couch, or a roommate need. today, I am calmed. i would rather live transiently than commit too fast to someplace that is not living with beloved family. i want to commit again, to a place i am as home, that i love this hard, as hard as this house, which I thought we would have forever. but our landlords are perfidious and we have to move out august 1.
there were years when i was alone, sick, broke, working off the books and hustling to keep a house. there were years when I hung on to a $450 basement bachelor with no light, but it was my own. but I still could've used some help for the days I couldn't get out of bed. there was the year of the beautiful lesbo two bedroom with wood floors and heat, that I knew I wouldn't be able to keep when me and my girlfriend split up, both of us fighting over who would keep wood floors and heat with her raised-poor and rural, my broke disability body that loved being able to control the hydro. and these years recently have been years when not only did I have good housing, I had beauty. I had camellias and roses, and I had roommates who got chronic illness and mutual aid.
and that's not to mention how this house has been the best in a string of safe, beautiful houses that are the opposite of my childhood house. my dream come true. plum walls, friends around the kitchen table, hugs and massive bouquets of kale and my little shack close but apart from the queer family brokedown beauty house, where raspberry and mullein leaves hung to dry on the crossbeam, and I slept well.
i have the word home tattooed on my breastbone, and friends remind me why I got it. the truth of it, that home is there. but this is also about land and gentrification, colonialism that has blown and continues to blow me and my family all over the planet and puts me on someone else's land where they did not ask me to be, race and class, banks and profit, the desire to stay in a magic queer brown city and the reality of push-out when our narrow slices of survival. it is about all the ways as disabled and chronically ill folks, as black and brown and broke folks, we find to try and find some stable sweet place to live where we can just live. this house has been close to 80% of my access for the past two years. scent free and low stairs, washer dryer in the house, and always people around to open a jar or help with groceries, bring anemone tincture or trade rides to BART and groceries. I lived off of our big stores of grains and beans and eggs and backyard veggies many a time when money was beyond tight. it didn't hit me til recently that I wasn't just losing a beloved home- I was losing a big chunk of my disabilty and class access (intertwined). access like that is hard to find.
i am not alien from the gentrification and 15% rental increases and foreclosure pushing me out, not a bit. I am a college educated WOC from not-here, not-Oakland. this is true. and it is also disability affecting job and access and what homes feel safe, are safe. it is june jordan getting her phone cut off because she couldn't afford to pay the bill, it's gloria anzaldua buying her santa cruz house with her NEA grant, it's Chrystos living in a trailer in Spokane with her books out of print. it's all of the ways disabled, queer women of color artists and non artists struggle to find a place we can stay in. it is all of it. the magic we make, we know how to make, and the reality of searching for a just place to live, a just way of holding land, where we survive and colonize and steal from no one.
an email from a friend:
"Yes. It is fucked how colonization is ongoing and chases you and so many others all over the globe. Yes, your community will hold you through this, and you will root where you land and from that keep growing your resistance, strong as the earth beneath you. Your community will not leave you without a place to stay. If you do go to Toronto, you will not loose the people who are here in the bay. Skype. Text. Visits. The fact that most of the bay people are transient anyhow and who knows how long they'll be here (i'll probs be in Boston eventually) the connection you have with folks is based on intimacy not proximity. Not saying thats how connection works, just saying it seems to below you roll. not to minimize the value of proximity, just saying, your heart is pretty damn elastic. "
Working class lullabye
lost wallet out of your pants biking home
with EBT card and $100 to your name
I keep saying
it's gonna be okay
it's gonna be okay
in that mindless brain-stem rhythm
bred into me
and $30 in the mahmoud darwish book for rent
going to the free queer clinic
and selling your father's watch
and can I come over to use the washer cause I'm broke
means I keep saying
you're gonna figure it out
you're gonna figure it out
cause what else can I say
cause saying it
means it's gonna happen
cause it's a prayer
intention follows thought
that lets us get some sleep
in the bed we still own
as times continue to be hard
because no promises
but our thin skin scamming greyhound
sharing a 92 accord
all work is shared under a Creative Commons license- credit if you share, no commercial use allowed.
This work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.