Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.Meanwhile the world goes on.Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rainare moving across the landscapes
—Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”
It’s Tuesday night, and I wait for the phone to ring. Wait to hear
your voice across the wires, strong or weak, joyful or frustrated
or hurting; to know that you’re still alive in this world where
crip lives aren’t valued, where our deaths might be debated as
an ethics point—but you, I, we have meaning anyway. Show up
for our living flinty and gritty and determined, show up on the line
with each other, to hold space, affirm the value of each other’s
existence, the persistence and beauty of our ticking bodies, the
nutty toughness of our minds. You don’t bullshit that you’re fine,
you tell me about despair, yours, and I tell you mine:
the still-tender, raw, unspun silk of pain, before I have made,
before I could make, sense of any of it, held out in my cupped
palms to you. You separate each strand, slowly, carefully,
hold it with precision, preciousness, ask normalising questions,
listen to my answers with soft attention, nodding like a sunflower,
help soothe the rawness and shame, till the sharp ache is gone.
I try to do the same for you: fumble through the fibres of your
pain, unpick the snags, ask easing questions, hold you with love.
This healing magic is ancient, but always miraculous, hard-won.
Meanwhile the world goes on,
with its tired rotes of oppression and stereotypes and margins.
We know it sees us only as a fraction of who we are. We know
it chops off our femininity, our clever heads, articulate tongues,
nimble skills, wide hearts, our avid interest in sex. It paints us
as dolls, pre-pubescent, without agency, pity-arousing, to be
arranged at will by those with power. And they do try to, feigning
concern and citing policies or directives, their hands supposedly
tied as they deny you respite care, a new wheelchair, the right to
hook up and disconnect your own I.V., effective treatment for pain.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
nourish you, are part of the joy they couldn’t take from you. You
practice witchcraft, wear fairy masks, put purple gossamer wings
on the back of your power chair. You talk sex toys and the details
of fucking-while-disabled with me anytime. You are nobody’s
spinster aunt, nobody’s patient Clara. You’re a femme powerhouse,
fierce, charming, tenacious, lawyerly, a force of nature in scrapes
with hospital staff, nursing agencies, billing departments—even with
a BP of 70/45. You are indomitable, and you get shit done. I want
to be just like you when I grow up. Watch out: our superhero capes
are moving across the landscapes.
Kamila Rina is an autistic, mad, and physically disabled immigrant Jewish non-binary bisexual poet, a sexuality, gender, and disability educator, and a survivor of long-term violence. They enjoy talking about being present in one’s body and fomenting the revolution. They like trees, books, chocolate, and people and plants that smell good. Kamila has previously been published in Room magazine, Breath & Shadow, Sinister Wisdom, Monstering, and We Have Come Far, and has produced a chapbook titled Multitasking with Feelings. Find them at KamilaRina.com.