The Operating System

3rd ANNUAL NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: SABINA IBARROLA on LEAH LAKSHMI PIEPZNA-SAMARASINHA

LLPS

When I think of Leah Lakshmi’s poems, I think about femme. I think about hustle, and I think about love. I think of words like pussy and glitter and plum and open. I think about that pretty brown brown. I think about salt and honey and flying. I think about wartime heartbreak survival rituals, like throwing your best blue panties in the river as an offering to Yemayá.

Leah’s resilient working class mixed race brown girl survivor crip poems do some heavy lifting, writing a roadmap to liberation for queer people of color. They have helped me come into my own politicized consciousness as a queer mixed race femme. Her work seamlessly reaches one arm backwards into our family’s stories – the ones we’ve been told and the ones we’ve had to imagine – and the other arm forward, documenting and reveling in what’s here and now, and spinning a sci-fi web of imaginings about our future.

One of the things that I most admire about her poems is their deep relatability and groundedness. Her work embodies gratitude for the tiny things, the daily urban blessings, because sometimes, that’s all we have.

This is good medicine. It makes you fuckin glad to be alive. Try reading this one aloud, from Leah’s second book of poetry, the Lambda Literary Award-winning Love Cake. See if it doesn’t feel good in your mouth.


femmes are film stars

Femmes are film stars
in the movies of our lives
Instead of dishwater we choose danger
grab belt buckles, smooth lip gloss
and make eye contact
we put Bollywood to shame

we’re the stars of our own danger-filled whirlwind
there are dramatic plot twists and more edge-of-the-seat
.     .moments
than you can believe
and suspension of disbelief?
girl, you know we suspend disbelief
do shit ain’t nobody supposed to be able to pull off
we’re our own romantic epic
like Frida in Paris
Audre in Mexico
standing on two tree trunk thighs
planted firm and swishing

when we were girls and someone said diva
we breathed in that word
and it turned into a glimpse of a woman we saw once
on a multiplex screen
a beautiful lady
who shone in her skin
and rose out of it
maybe it was our favourite aunty
or our mama when she was young
maybe it was Frida or Rosario
maybe we’ve never seen the one that could be us yet
but we make her up
we make her up outta thin air
outta brilliance and ass

it’s not always so glamorous close up
there’s a lot of shit in making movies you don’t see
I mean sure there’s
vintage slips
booty shorts
fabulous moments

but backstage
sometimes it’s a little more complicated
you’re the director and the producer
you gotta figure out
how to walk down the street.                         . how much skin you
.      .want to show
how to fuck in the middle of the club .             .how to feel it
how to get a discount on the copies .              .get immigration
.      .status
not get deported when the club is raided .        .not get kicked outta
.      .the organization

and even though this is a movie
it’s the kind Hollywood will not make
we’ll go to Josie and the Pussycats just to see Rosario Dawson
sit through She Hate Me for five minutes of Sarita Choudhury
but we want more than that for our children
so we make our own movie
as we walk down the street
make revolutions with chipped turquoise nails
spread thighs and hard cocks
eight hours gooood sleep and dreams on satin wishbone pillows

and dreams?
girl, when we dream
we dream the cliffhanger ending
where girl is never bruised
spread thighs never despised
where every girl
can be the star of her own glitter-dusted revolution

we dream the place
where our lives
are what girls get to grow up
to be

“femmes are film stars” from Love Cake.

Copyright © 2011 by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. See more here

I have learned that marveling at the litany of small miracles is an important strategy for staying present, and in my own work, strive to breathe in this kind of deep rootedness while reaching ever toward the sun.


you can’t always get what you want.

but you can get:

dollar pizza any time of day or night.

books from the library. for free.

bombass chicken tostadas from the lady with the cart
by the Newkirk Q stop, to eat in the
humid blue Halloween twilight.

Yemayá candles at the botánica.

gold thrift store booty shorts.

a letter filled with orange glitter.

and if you are very lucky you can get:

cradled like a sugar spoon.

the smell of your cunt
on someone else’s beard.

the transformative power of eyeliner.

and you might even get:

to sit in the sunshine with your sister,
eating homemade fried chicken

and talking about love.

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer disabled Sri Lankan cis femme writer, performer, organizer and badass visionary healer. The author of the Lambda Award winning Love Cake and Consensual Genocide and co-editor of The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities her work has appeared in the anthologies Dear Sister, Letters Lived, Undoing Border Imperialism, Stay Solid, Persistence: Still Butch and Femme, Yes Means Yes, Visible: A Femmethology, Homelands, Colonize This, We Don’t Need Another Wave, Bitchfest, Without a Net, Dangerous Families, Brazen Femme, Femme and A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over The World.

With Cherry Galette, she co-founded Mangos With Chili, North America’s performance incubator for Two Spirit, queer and trans people of color performance artists, and is a lead artist with Sins Invalid. In 2010 she was named one of the Feminist Press’ “40 Feminists Under 40 Who Are Shaping the Future” and she is one of the the 2013 Autostraddle Alternative Hot 105. She has taught, performed and lectured across North America, Sri Lanka and Australia and co-founded Toronto’s Asian Arts Freedom School.. She is currently completing her third book of poetry, Bodymap, and a writer’s manual, Writing the World, to be published by AK Press in 2014.

 Sabina Ibarrola is a performance artist, activist, and troublemaker. This mixed-race bruja finds the meat and magia of her work in the natural world and urban ecosystems of Brooklyn, New York. Sabina currently apprentices with herbalist Robin Rose Bennett of Wisewoman Healing Ways. A graduate of Hunter College and the Hemispheric Institute’s EMERGENYC program, she collaborates with the Boston-based Femme Show and is an organizing member of Brooklyn’s Heels on Wheels Glitter Roadshow. Inspired by a brilliant galaxy of queer femme artists and instigators, she explores themes of heartbreak, ancestry, chosen family, femininity, apocalypse and faith. Sabina is karaoke-obsessed and plays a rhinestoned kazoo. She is faking it til she makes it.

[Editor’s note: Sabina’s is the final installment in the dazzling array of fierce-women-participants via the-creative-conduit-also-known-as-Caits-Meissner series — check out Maiga Milbourne on Nazim HikmetCristina Preda on Lillian Yvonne Bertram, and Christina Rodriguez on Clarice Lispector from earlier in the month, or any of the great work from Caits for the OS, searchable here! #thisgratitudeknowsnobounds]

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