I’ve been wanting to read something by, in her own words, “queer disabled Sri Lankan cis femme writer, performer, organizer and badass visionary healer” Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha for quite some time, having heard about the awesome cultural work she’s been doing in Toronto (has done? She might be living somewhere else now, I think). I was not disappointed when I read her 2012 book Love Cake in one sitting. It’s a beautiful, diverse collection of poetry that is one of those books you just keep wanting to scribble in and underline and slow down and read again, and jot down lines, or whole poems. For a slim book, Love Cake tackles a wide variety of topics. For example, the links between language and identity:
I want this hurricane of syllables storming out of me
furious yellow butterflies beating in my throat
my teacher says
you can make any sound in the universe
once I wanted to call you lover in my language
the way habibti burst blood orange honey
on my shoulder
I wanted kunju to come out of my throat effortless
like it had always lived there it has always lived there
now it does
I have the most beautiful words
curled up inside me
Also, love, as in the poem “rock”:
when we rock we rock earth to earth
belt buckle to pussy
our bodies prayers to keep us here
and when we pray we sing
there is this earth underneath it all
our cells spit molecules of home
when you say I love you
it’s on purpose
when you say I promise
I believe you
Piepzna-Samarasinha also writes about pain, trauma, surviving sexual abuse, and reclaiming your body. God, these few lines are so beautiful it kind of breaks my heart:
last night it was a steady cold rain. and I so wanted to take all
my clothes off and lie on the roof with the rain beating down
on my hurt.
A significant portion of the book is dedicated to the importance of queer community of colour and the fact that “love never stops seeing colour”:
I used to make white guys give me head for nineteen hours as some form of reparations, beyatch! for colonialism.
And then I got over it. Brownness was a relief. The biggest exhale.
Sometimes the queer community of colour is so small. so wanted. so necessary. so drama-filled. so exhaustion-ridden. I know everyone’ secrets and keep them safe…
I don’t know how the story ends. I am still gathering data. … I know love is an anarchic bitch that will slap your ass and upside your head and send you places you’d never thought you’d go.
but there’s a place in my pussy my arms aren’t long enough to reach. there’s a spot on the back of my neck I can’t kiss by myself. so momi, I am grateful, but if you could see your way of throwing me some really good magic fuck boy or girl sometime soon, I would buy you flowers and chocolates.
I would smear flower petals and dark chocolate bitter and rich all over my sheets and crusting into my body’s creases. I would have rain water trickling down my leg and rub up against some tree bark.
And about being femme and the complexities of the whole top/bottom thing:
I’m a femme who bottoms and I know this as the opposite of worthless. teaching yourself to respond. receive bear witness wince give it up and take it be my boy my girl my blessing. I am so lucky to get it. you are so lucky to get it too.
I’m going to join her in dreaming and living a world “where every girl /can be the star of her own glitter-dusted revolution.” I think you should too.