Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Bad road

“my body is 40 miles of bad road”- working class krip saying

you mean well, but
when I say I hurt         when I say some part of
my body hurts      and you say oh, did you do something?
I hear       what did you do? As is, it's your fault,
there's cause and effect and there's a simple
story, and if a + b = c we can fix it

But there's no simple story in this body.
She falls apart whenever she feels like it,
which is often. She doesn't feel like going to
work or up and down three flights of stairs, and she'll tell you all about it.
She can smell the weather.
She got a lot of stories
and  just like her mama did at slam church two decades ago,
she spits them out my kneecap like a gun with chaotic
yet accurate aim.
She is forty miles of perfect bad road
all bumps and potholes that could take out your wheel.
You gotta know how to drive it.
You gotta not be too worried about breaking your car
(because she's already broke          too)

I mean, I could tell you, everything happened! I could tell you my mama
molested me, I could tell you hers did too,
I could tell you we had to walk a long long way and get on a boat,
I could tell you I moved to brooklyn for love but there's a lot of stairs here too
I could read you the particulate matter of the air, that they're spraying for pesticides today
that I ran out of  the fish oil that greases my knee into smoothing,
and I don't know if the CVS sells it here
- but does anyone want to hear all that?
The staying chant         
the recitation
of everything that's happening in my body, and their body,
and the park's body, and on the subway huffing diesel and cigarettes

When you say it's just pain for no reason all the time, fibro, right?
I say, close but no cigar!
I say I intimate with pain tides
This ground not steady!  Why would it be?
As soon as I figure it out she flips me the bird
shapeshift hip transforms and says fuck you, you figure it out
Sometimes the place where my mama threw me into the wall
at three and broke my sacrum talks to me,
locks all my earth into cement.
Some days I don't know what day it is.
Some days my ass leaks tidal marsh, briny river
Some times everything    everything
everything    every thing
like a church bell
like a call to prayer
and it calls me to pray
this pain
breathing into any place that doesn't hurt
some of which only exists in my revolutionary imagination.
Sometimes you have to talk quiet.
Sometimes I can't talk at all.

Of course you don't believe that, but I feel the need to declare:
my life is worth living anyway
I love every jounce on this bad, bad
underfunded budget cut frost heave road
not everyone's car can make it down;
      you gotta know
      how to drive it
I love every car that just gave up in the mountain pass
every hubcap that fell off
every- yes- road not on any map
every rock and resisting
every reason this happened
every reason this body
is reason enough
for being.


Femme houses

for Meliza, Neve, Jesse Manuel, Sabina, Naima and me

1. This perfect pink house in South Central, your inheritance.
I see your room of your own, your bed, bong and books
Full pantry for now, cosmetics carefully curated:
I see the rich.
We smoke medicine and sleep well. You get up at four-thirty
to drive me to the airport, ten minutes on the streets.
I runlimp to plane, don't want to release my arms from your disabled parking spot hug.
I see your femme abundance,
your row of grandmother's pompadour pictures from east los in the 30s
your laugh crackle breaking out, how you say, mija, take anything you need.
This is your wealth.
You're here because your grandfather built this house,
left it to you. You will live here, building wordhouses,
femmehouses of your body, til you die. Maybe.

2. Home doesn't have to be forever to be home
I have it tattooed on my chest but I still forget,
daily. We've all lost our beloved places
to four dollar lattes and shiny white couples pushing children.
I want there to be neighborhoods they're afraid to go to.
I want them to know there are places they don't belong.
I want them to hate us, to fear us,
to not see anything pretty in our houses that makes them want to buy them up for cheap.

3. Once I lived in a house for $175  
fig tree and black mold and chill to the bone
and oven for heat
and it was ok to cry in front of the washerdryer,
it was ok to borrow someone else's fucked up car.
You could live off the eggs and kimchi in the pantry if you needed to.
We were always ready for the end of the world:
earthquake water        bags of grain.

We are always getting ready for the end of the world
and she keeps creeping. I thought a soft collapse and
I would live and die in that house.
Instead, whiteness refinanced its mortgage and moved back in.
Instead, I moved into more falling apart,
less pretty. Instead, I left the country again,
with two big bags on a plane and all my stuff on Amtrak.
Instead, I came back and squatted in
another neighborhood mine invaded by white. As soon as the laundromat lady knew me
to chinnod, I was on another plane
to a place I hoped would have water, and a house,
and it did, but it had cold and no sun.
We made a femmehouse. I wondered if my hipbones could relax.
They sort of did. Not like before.
I lost my child's trust in a here safe forever
I trust it is safe enough, now.
4. Their house has a pink canopy, a shower chair,
no stairs. Takeout burgers and makeup. Mess.
My house has a plum couch, a scrubbed tub, a hot tub. One stair.
Her house has an apothecary, flogger shouts,
a witch stoop. Her house has two cats, steak and weed in the freezer.
Their house has a crystal cunt,
rolling tobacco pouch, mama's picture.
We float in clouds and walk on earth.