LOVECRY/BATTLESONG

Recently one of my poems was a finalist in the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities’ Pen2Paper disability-focussed creative writing contest. I have reproduced the text of the poem here.

To my crip siblings, crip lovers, & crip mentors, to Laura Hershey and to Stella Young.

LOVECRY/BATTLESONG

To the crips I love and who love me in return
from a distance or intimately close during
long nights where neither of us can sleep for pain
waiting for morning and the pain that morning brings
I am here for you.

To the crips who have been crips for longer
than I have been on this earth and who
welcomed me with open hearts and fire
of loving purpose in ancient battle
I am here for you.

To the crips who taught me power
comes from pride and pride comes from practicing
until you are proud (and that you don’t get proud
by being shit: you get proud by practicing)
I am here for you.

To the crips who do not know that they are crips
but know only that they hurt that their bones ache
that their muscles are heavy and that their eyes sting
in sunlight after another unhelpful appointment
I am here for you.

To the crips institutionalised and imprisoned
whose first crime was living and continuing to live
abused and neglected in homes that are not homes
trapped not in their bodies but by bar and mortar
I am here for you.

To the crips who sleep overnight
in desk chairs and wheelchairs
in the offices of politicians bedecked with banners
reading FREE OUR PEOPLE
I am here for you.

To the crips that have houses but not homes
or homes but not houses or neither home nor house
forced to live on the kindness and sideways glances
of strangers on public transport
I am here for you.

To the crips whose lands have been stolen
whose waters have been stolen
whose children have been stolen and whose lives
continue to be stolen
I am here for you.

To the crips who dislocate their hips
doing full service sex work to pay for medical bills
incurred from dislocating their hips
while doing full service sex work
I am here for you.

To the crips fighting to love each other
and to have their love recognised on equal terms
with all who are in love without penalty or price
or public stigma or getting bashed on street corners
I am here for you.

To the crips fighting to love themselves
after being unloved by those who should have loved them
or after being hurt by those who professed their love
but only when it was convenient
I am here for you.

To the crips who are drowning
in cold oceans seeking refuge or drowning
on dry land as their lungs fill with fluid
while emergency registrars do not watch
I am here for you.

To the crips who are burning
who have burnt out and from the ashes
are rising again charcoaled and brittle
and bold and battle-hardened
I am here for you.

To the crips who died
after living and loving and fighting
and then falling
to be remembered with love and fight
I am here for you.

To the crips who aren’t dead yet
living and fighting and fighting to live
and loving each other and fighting
for each other
I am here for you.

To the young crips, the old crips, the
queer crips, the trans crips, the brown crips,
the black crips, the proud crips, the tired crips,
the warrior crips, the poet crips, the dead and alive crips,
I think of you
I love and fight for you
I am here for you.

UNSPOKEN WORDS: a festival of writing

[image description: collaged text in pink orange & white on purple background, UNSPOKEN WORDS June 3-4 RED RATTLER: performances/workshops/panels/open mic reading space]

oh gosh there has been so much happening lately & i have so little time to think let alone to write anything about any of it. i am running desperately late on a numberof important projects (including salvaging my Honours degree – i have just yesterday managed to get access to Dragon dictation software which i am very much hoping will help with the writing of long essays with dislocated wrists part of that!!)

most recently neglected: my appearance in a series of panels & lectures on at UNSPOKEN WORDS, a festival of stories. the sunday evening session (including a poetry reading from myself) was Auslan interpreted by the excellent Auslan Stage Left. i am quite proud of the accessibility guide i helped develop which is available here.

the program is available here & lists the incredible lineup of artists and panels, including Hani Abdile, Evelyn Araluen, Maryam Azam, Stephany Basia, the Black and Deadly Women’s Poetry Circle, Emily Crocker, Winnie Dunn,  Stelly Gappasauress, Isaac Green, Dan Hogan and Stacey Teague of Subbed In, Lizzy Jarrett, Gabrielle Journey Jones, Holly Friedlander Liddicoat, Fayroze Lutta, Paige Phillips, Poesifika, Candy Royalle, Sea, Ella Skilbeck-Porter, Effy Marie Smith, Margarita Tenser, Thelma Thomas aka MC Trey, Bron Watkins, and Joseph Zane. the festival was MC’d and organised by Emma Rose Smith.

i ran 1 solo lecture, was on 2 joint panels, & read some of my poetry in the evening.

defining-ourselves-for-ourselves

[image description: white text on pink and blue background. PANEL – DEFINING OURSELVES FOR OURSELVES]

Defining Ourselves for Ourselves

Maryam Azam, Winnie Dunn, Robin M. Eames

11:15am – 12:15pm, main stage

Can we define ourselves by writing ourselves? We write ourselves, in whatever way possible for our individual needs, so as to create alternatives to single narratives. We need to see ourselves represented by people like us. Too many stories filter the whole world of experience through the gaze of abled cishet white people. This panel discusses the resistant power of telling our own stories, through the symbolic dialogue between living, visibility and text. We ask if and how we can write despite and beyond the dominating gaze of dual invisibility/hypervisibility that often occurs around politicised bodies.

CRIPPING THE LITERARY

[image description: white text on yellow and blue background. LECTURE – CRIPPING THE LITERARY: FINDING CRIP CULTURE]

Cripping the Literary: Finding Crip Culture, Learning Crip Language
Robin M. Eames

2:30 – 3:00pm, main stage

A fifth of Australians are disabled. So where the fuck are they? Are they at your poetry events? Are you reading their work? Are you listening to their communities? Are you fighting alongside them for their civil rights? If not, why? How do we change that? How can a gig, or space, or culture, be accessible (or not)? What are we overlooking? Why aren’t wheelchair users coming to our non-wheelchair-accessible events? How does disabled culture & community even manifest itself? For few answers & more questions, come to this lecture by Robin M. Eames, a disabled queertrans warrior poet who is only mostly dead.

queering-poetry

[image description: white text on pink and blue background. PANEL – QUEERING POETRY: WRITING OURSELVES INTO EXISTENCE]

Queering Poetry: Writing Ourselves Into Existence

Margarita Tenser, Isaac Green, Robin M. Eames

5:00 – 5:45pm, main stage

Three trans, queer, & disabled panellists speak about queering poetry, trans retrohistories, art & intersectional identity, living in ill-fitting worlds & bodies, finding ourselves in stories not made with us in mind, and writing ourselves back into the narratives.

unfinished-business-1

[image description: white text on pink and yellow background. PERFORMANCES – UNFINISHED BUSINESS]

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Doors open (and dinner served) from 6:30, performances start 6:45. Main stage.

Hani Abdile, Winnie Dunn, Isaac Green, Robin M. Eames, Lorin Elizabeth, Dan Hogan, Elizabeth Jarrett, Gabrielle Journey Jones, Ella Skilbeck-Porter, Margarita Tenser, Auslan Stage Left

Come one and all to the biggest session of Unspoken Words! Hosted by the wonderful Lorin Elizabeth, this night will feature poetry readings by Winnie Dunn, Isaac Green, Robin M. Eames, Dan Hogan, Elizabeth Jarrett, Gabrielle Journey Jones, Ella Skilbeck-Porter and Margarita Tenser.

Hani Abdile will then present Absent Souls: A conversation with imprisoned souls. This new performance will be accompanied by a Q&A session and Hani’s performance of her own poetry.

This session will feature live Auslan interpretation thanks to Auslan Stage Left!

Dinner will be available thanks to Parliament on King, the social enterprise caterer. Beautiful food made with love. Proceeds from the catering are reinvested into hospitality training programs for locals with asylum seeker / refugee backgrounds at the King St café.

poster
[image description: event poster with a not-quite-complete list of artists, in the style of the featured image of this blog post, described above]

the festival was held at the Red Rattler Theatre, on the stolen lands of the Gadigal Wangal peoples of the Eora nation. sovereignty has never been ceded. always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

i really can’t emphasise enough how utterly awed, delighted, & proud i felt to be sharing a stage with such powerful & beautiful artists, & to have the chance to listen to their words. we did something really special last weekend & it gives me hope.

on disabled authenticity

today i had the unutterable pleasure of reading this article by Dan Monks, an Australian actor from the womb, who writes beautifully on the challenges of storytelling disability, & on the problem of authenticity, of choosing between the stories we want to tell and the stories that others want to hear. the following is a particularly excellent section from the piece in question:

But more than that, if when I first acquired my disability, I could’ve seen real, authentic representations of myself in the stories we as a culture tell, it would’ve changed the way I felt about my disability and the shame I experienced around it. When our bodies are seen and our voices are heard, we are telling the younger generation of disabled people that they are valid, valued members of our society, who deserve to been seen and heard in all their beauty and ugliness and humanity.

i think i have written here before that from age 5 i knew that i wanted to be a writer and nothing else. i used to staple weird little homemade books together & i wrote several 60-70000 word novel(la?)s over my HSC yr & gap year (one of which very nearly got published, & i will forever be terrifically grateful that it didnt, since i was going through a phase where i desperately wanted to be jeanette winterson but hadn’t quite figured out yet that the only person with the sheer guts & skill to be as fabulously infuriatingly vainglorious as jeanette winterson & get away with it is, in fact, jeanette winterson). i made money off my writing here & there and i got published in token lit mags here & there and then my disability (which truly onset in 2014 although in many ways has always been with me) started really degenerating & i just stopped. i used to fill shelves of notebooks of handwritten epics, but i just can’t write longhand like that anymore. even with wrist braces i can’t type for too long without dislocating my wrists & fingers. i cant focus on tasks or read long paragraphs (even if i wrote them! like this one!)

& fuck it all but i’ve started writing poetry? which is so utterly bizarre to me that i still can’t quite believe it. i have never been a poet. and yet recently i discovered my english workbook from age 7 and found the pages filled with poetry, and odd little sketches, and autistic earnestness, and alienly beautiful half-anecdotes. perhaps my poetry was always hiding inside me the same way my disability was. anyway it just makes sense to me now. i’ve lost a great deal of occipital lobe functionality but it’s like some pathways light up when others are obscured. fragmented things make sense to me. i’ve begun to really love polishing poems into something very honed & deliberate & that’s something that prose as a genre just doesn’t allow for in the same way.

it’s fucking hard & the world doesn’t make it easy but we find ways to get by. i’m so determined to fill the world with beautiful furious banal queercrip stories because i needed them so badly growing up and now. & whatever form those stories take, it doesn’t matter, we just need to put them out there. we have always been reaching out and storytelling and speaking. the world just needs to listen. we are here & we are alive & we exist in all our beautiful ugly unabashed authenticity, & we will be heard.

on not disappearing

“I am disabled and proud. Yet I remain lonely… Why are there so few scholars with a disability? Why do nearly 70% of people with a disability remain unemployed? … where are my people? Well, most of us cripples live on the edge of poverty… Few of us are in meetings when decisions are being made that will directly impact our lives… Bipeds think they get to choose what is and is not accessible. Of course we are accessible. I hear this all the time. Bipeds don’t know what the world accessible means. I show up and cannot navigate the aisles in a given restaurant and only upon arrival do I learn the bathroom is located in the basement.

What can one do in the face of ableism? Never ever give in. Get on the bus. Get on the plane…. Expect every building on every university campus to be accessible. Demand inclusion. Fight the good fight for I know all too well the easiest thing to do is not go out. Not going out the front door will lead to social oblivion. Do not let the bipedal hordes win. I will continue to be audacious. To do the ordinary is to be audacious for we cripples. It takes guts to leave our homes for we know we are unwanted. We are an economic burden. Worse, utilitarian theorists think cripples like me should not exist… if I cared I could never leave my home. The world is just too gorgeous to abandon.”

bill peace’s words get me through a lot of bad days.

a dear friend & i went dancing and a stranger thanked me for being there & said she cried when she saw me. someone asked for a picture of me & was very confused when i said “no” & acted like it was a complete sentence. in his enthusiasm to get me a glass of water i was already holding, a stranger accidentally spilt water in my lap and then patted my thigh.

a dear friend & i went dancing and a stranger told me “yeah, break all the rules!” (they didn’t elaborate as to which rules we were breaking).

at a local queer Halloween party the security guards carried me in my wheelchair up several sets of stairs & then one of them had to call to unlock the elevator (locked “so that people don’t try to use it” she explained), the photog stalked me as per usual (esp at queer events), and a stranger grabbed my hands (taking them off my rims, which i was using) trying to dance with me.

my housemate & i were waiting to cross the rd right in front of our house, with an armful & lapful of groceries respectively, & a stranger leant out of her car window to ask if we needed help; we just needed her to keep driving so we could cross the rd; “oh, ok!” she said, “i know what carrying things is like!”

my university’s wheelchair stair lifts usually need a biped to operate them & either don’t work or need a key and in every building a different person has the key and none of them know who each other is – just build a ramp!!!! just! build! a ramp!

my osteopathy clinic can’t build a ramp because the building is heritage listed so i come around the back gate past a pile of bricks & plasterboard & a pitchfork (ACTUALLY) & then the back door & the staff bathrooms & three steep steps in narrow corners. the day after my first appointment my osteopath went out and bought a portable wheelchair ramp (which at that short notice must have been at considerable personal expense) and spent her weekend refreshing/relearning/learning about EDS, drove my transfer cane home when i left it at her practice bc she was worried abt me having to climb my stairs without it, listened to me, listened to me, gave me lists of GPs she trusted, wrote unprompted letters just in case the GPs were reluctant or ignorant, called a trusted neurosurgeon contact, called for copies of my MRIs & faxed them over, said she was worried, said i was forced to be very trusting, said i was strong, said i was in pain, ducks out of appointments to recheck her anatomical knowledge so as not to rupture my aneurysm, tugs my friends over to the next room for the sake of having an immediate comparison cervical spine, asked & wanted to hear the answers, said she would drive me to the hospital today if i needed it, said she hoped she’d be seeing me again in ten days.

i don’t want to disappear