Friday, October 23, 2015

Bodymap - Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Mawenzi House)

Today's book of poetry:
Bodymap.  Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.  Mawenzi House.  Toronto, Ontario.  2015.

We all have the histories of our bodies to lament or rejoice, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha Momma Thorton's her Whitman' YAWP.

Ol' Walt intoned "I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world."  Bless his cotton socks. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha yawpsings a "queer disabled femme of colour love song."  The entire time she sounds like a cross between the sweetest songs of love and desire - and a hep mad cat fist-machine hell bent on bending the world into welcoming her point of view.  Bodymap is a splendid step in every direction at once.

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha's poems are scalding prayers of intimacy and desire.

a million dollars

I was pumping gas and you asked to pump it for some spare
I said sorry man, I have forty bucks to my name,
and you said, well, you look like a million dollars

& I wondered what a million dollars looks like
and what
minus 187 in overdraft plus fees looks like
cause I have looked like that.

I have looked like that
hard femme
don't fuck with me
switchblade ass swish
ima cut you at the bus stop for saying good morning
because I know everything that could and has come
from that moment

I have looked like
walking to the store in a miniskirt
after the car breaks and the phone breaks
and there is twenty dollars in a wallet
for the next two weeks

I'm a chipped manicure full of starry glitter
ends worn to the quick
from hard
hard work
I'm a gorgeous ass that's bedbound

I want you to love me messy in the morning
the same four year old booty shorts and no bra.
I want you to know
I beautiful
like a 36 year old on her couch
before the shower
the makeup
what I show you
what I will allow you to see.

I want you to love me
after the lipstick wears off.


Today's book of poetry is an almost 60 year old, straight, white man run operation.  What the hell do I know about femme lit/life?  How do I read, process and share Bodymap?  Many of these poems are scathing indictments - but they aren't aimed at me - they are a manifesto aimed at a new type of freedom and poetry has no more noble purpose.

I love hard girls
for amber dawn

hips like a hummingbird jackhammer
a brick house         body a brick city
Boots that climb to thighs
thick and pebbled
with the big bags of potatoes and rice waiting in the pantry
to survive hard times
Those girls who will fuck you up for no good reason

I love girls with whiskey espresso belly
I love the brown girl worry line
perpendicular to the perfect eyebrow
The rosewater olive oil in the food and in the homemade facial
the groupon and the gas money
the twenty bucks tucked away and passed
the penny jar hip bones shaking brass
the emergency stockings
the you wanna make $300?

The delicious satisfaction of wanting to text
go fuck yourself
I hate you
fuck you

I love girls who wanna set shit on fire,
whose cut eye can penetrate oil spills
I love girls who want to smash faces, break windows
whose asses swish with the cut of razors

I love every loud-mouthed-hard-assed-fuck-with-you
skin soft like a loquat as they punch your cunt into an infinity
I love girls who will fuck you up for no
and every good reason

and I love those girls
who look at me hard and whisper thank god
who have never once been scared of me


Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha reminds us here at Today's book of poetry of those many dear friends we all share whose lives are complicated by the colour of their skin or their choice of partners for intimacy.  Bodymap is a real kick in the ass that reminds us all that there are an infinite number of paths to joy.  Justifiably angry and frustrated by having to kick against the pricks - Lakshmi Peipzna-Samarasinha none the less finds ways to soar.  These poems allow us to soar with her.  Remember the Yawp.

These poems narrate a sad roster of disappointments and laments but the more I read, the more universal it all sounded and the more I began to hear the joy within.  The best poetry always rises above labels and this poetry raises above any particular agenda.  This is another colour for the mosaic that celebrates all the colours of the rainbow.

I will take care of you forever

spring equinox and I wake at six a.m. because you're not standing
on my chest
but something is hovering, I turn the light on, edit what I wrote.
I feel you pass out of right ovary
I don't have to hold on to you.
there's no way I could lose you
I whisper, I don't think I ever told you
the Cree word for love means we'll take care of each other forever
and even though we'll never speak again
I promise: this to you.


Today's book of poetry has to tell you, unequivocally, that there are some heart-stopping, jaw-dropping, sweet-sweat inducing horny poems in Bodymap.  Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is going to raise the temperature in every room her poetry enters.

Today's book of poetry was enthralled by the boisterous intelligence that rivets the reader to every page.  The world inside this book isn't a new world but it is generally one overlooked by the day to day of the mainstream.   Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha's Bodymap opens a big door, walk in.

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Winner of the 2012 Lambda Literary Award, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha is a queer disabled femme writer, teacher and performer of Burgher/Tamil Sri Lankan, Roma and Irish ascent. The author of Bodymap,  Love Cake and Consensual Genocide and the co-editor of The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities, her writing has been widely anthologized.  She is the co-founder of the queer people of color arts incubator Mangos With Chili, 
a lead artist with Sins Invalid and co-founder of Toronto’s Asian Arts Freedom School.
In 2010 she was named one of the Feminist Press’ 40 Feminists Under 40 Shaping the Future.
Her first memoir, Dirty River, is forthcoming from Arsenal Pulp Press in fall 2015.

"Sharp, yet remarkably compassionate, Piepzna-Samarasinha knows that the poem is no place for tidy inquiry and easy answers. She offers her own tenacious guts and veins on each every page. Only someone who understands rage and reconciliation and blood and bone can write like this."
     —Amber Dawn, author of How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir and Sub Rosa

"These poems are a gift for your love for self, your love itself and everyone you love. It is rare that a poet priestess offers words that allow us to emerge reborn with dirt, glitter and tenderness... Revere it. Revel in it. Read it again and again!"
     —Alexis Pauline Gumbs, author, Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Loft Equilibrium Supershow
video: The Loft Literary Center


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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