Poems by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha | Performance Space New York

Poems by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

When your friend dies like Jesus on her 33rd birthday

and you get the call
and think, she woke up from the surgery!
(you can write your disabled BIPOC romcom screenplay for Netflix now)
Everything worked out!
(all the prayers and good wishes
the email to her friends asked for)
You were never really worried,
you’d felt the calm hand of god all around her
and it turns out you were right
but it was holding her different
than you thought.
when your friend dies like jesus on her 33rd birthday
it stops your clock
with a smashed hand
your mouth makes the words
no nooooooo
you howl break
and then spit out the
I’m supposed to be on a conference call
with four of our friends
about whether we should take
the ford foundation
DJ art money
in 22 minutes
– I can’t be on that shit!
(you were going to ask her
for advice
about whether to take it
once she woke up.
you can’t.)
you call up one of the other four
he goes
nooooooooooooo nooooo
you break
you text
you call
you break the news
everyone picks up, is mildly surprised you’re calling, but glad to hear from you,
until you tell them.
I want you to know
(I know you know)
your death was met
by cripple howls of grief
all over the world.
you were loved
than most of us.
you still are.
me scream driving down the 5
on cripple autopilot
my lizard brain steering the curves
that put thousands of miles on my car
over the five years I didn’t
move back home to be your neighbor
sea tac to fedway
Tacoma dome to Tacoma mall
Puyallup to Lakewood
JBLM to the Lacey exit,
and the food coop sign,
screaming along to the Pixies on my phone on high:
(that’s what you were doing
with all of your life)
talking to myself outloud to you
in my old coffee cup bumpersticker bad smell car
like the crazy
bitch that I am:
I don’t want
to live in a future
where you
are a memory.
I want to kill the entire medical industrial complex for you
I want to kill the whole ass medical industrial complex for you.
I want to kill every fucker who killed Carrie,
and Jerika, and Heather, and people I don’t know
and now won’t, because ableism killed them,
who might kill you
because you are a fat Asian femme
with a vent in her throat
who needs a damn cancer surgery
I won’t forget
how long they left you in the hallway after that CAT scan
no vent
no pain meds
I want to kill every motherfucker who has said to me
oh, I don’t think we really need to do a biopsy!
oh, I don’t think you really need that medication!
oh, I didn’t think to check the lymph nodes!
I want to kill every one of those bastards
who kill us with pats on the head
four hour wait times hold times and indifference
I want to kill every motherfucker who told me to trust them,
who asked me if maybe I was just a little depressed,
who refuse to give me imaging a few of the million times I asked
I want to murder the ones who told me they really didn’t care
if I understood what was happening, just if they could charge me for it
I want to commit mass murder
which will just start to make up for every time
they said that your life was worth less
than the $1000
the antibiotic you knew you needed
Call me another autistic mass shooter risk – I don’t care!
– no made-up murder I write about in a poem
can make you be alive.
Four months in four days
We remember you in small ceremonies:
one of your oppas and I touch knuckles through a screen
while they discuss your work in their DS 101 class
I’m blasting air purifiers, text reminding our friend
It’s ok that they’re not you
as they coord the resiliency centers
you came up with and found the money for
as the forests we love burn up into a toxic night
there’s so many moments before I find sleep
where I’m grateful
you’re not alive trying
to breathe through this
you breathe through us everywhere,
in the angry email snapping at a comrade I don’t send
in the accessible home you find me
on the other side of the continent
where I make sense
and can walk to the river and write you poems on my porch-
you my morning coffee,
my last kiss goodnight
the first week after you passed I ran a million miles a second
into a wall,
slid down to lay on the couch for two months:
grief is a long goodbye, a long hello
with a question mark in it.
I love you like an autistic person does
and I mourn you like an autistic person does, too,
with too many tears, for far too long
– not the two weeks permissible, but months after,
and sometimes when I wake and when I sleep,
sometimes seven hours curled in the orange half of the coach boat
I cry the hurt, I echo echo I miss you, I miss you so much
I mourn you in my big autistic silent singing house
I live in by myself with two cats, this is where I live,
this is the place you never saw, you couldn’t have made it into,
but you were still here, you are in these pink walls, this fireplace.
I was going to move and then it came to me, singing:
my room and yours was where the second act of our friendship lived,
I saw you in person once a year but we were constantly entwined
in texts and zoom lectures and webinars we co taught and snarky snarky texts
during and in between us explaining what ableism was to blinking heads,
you texted me in bed and I texted you in bed, we sent each other GIF gifts,
all the time, these pink walls witnessed our friendship
the way my old roommate said,
whenever I heard you two laughing on the phone, I thought-
that’s Leah talking to her sister-
and you were, the way an autistic orphan has a sister,
the way disabled people love each other.

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