Article out in Junkee on Stephen Hawking

I wrote an article for Junkee about Stephen Hawking and the media reception of his death. You can read it here.

Excerpt:

Stephen Hawking died two days ago. He was an extraordinary and uncommon academic, a scientist with a deep sense of artistry and a wicked sense of humour. And he was a bright fire in the lonely sky of disabled academia.

I am not a scientist. But I am a wheelchair-using academic, and I have a lot of feelings about space; my thesis has “cosmogonies” in the title. Hawking’s work was a joy and his presence in the world was a comforting reminder that people like me belong in academia just as much as any abled person does.

So it is disappointing, and deeply hurtful, to see how abled people are handling the news of Hawking’s death.

Many abled people have created artistic depictions where Hawking’s spirit is seen standing or walking away from his wheelchair. Leaving aside the fact that Hawking was a staunch atheist who described the idea of an afterlife as a “fairy story”, this fundamentally misunderstands the function of a wheelchair in a disabled person’s life.

Hawking is not “finally free” of his wheelchair now that he is dead. His wheelchair is the thing that gave him freedom during his life. The only time he ever envisioned himself mystically floating away into a sparkly cosmos, it was with his chair: go ahead and watch his cover of Monty Python’s ‘Galaxy Song’ if you want to see for yourself.

Read the full article on Junkee here.

 

 

 

HOW TO MOURN YOUR DEAD

The Rhysling nominations deadline has been extended by a month, to March 15. I realised while checking which poems of mine are eligible that HOW TO MOURN YOUR DEAD is only available online in .pdf form, so I have reproduced it here for the sake of accessibility.

I wrote this after last year’s Disability Day of Mourning vigil, for which I will again be the Sydney site coordinator in 2018 (details forthcoming). It was published in Honi Soit in March and reprinted in AFTER SAGAMIHARA, a zine commemorating the first anniversary of the Sagamihara massacre.

My other Rhysling eligible poems are CRADLE THE SEED and WIND HOWLS/BATTLE COME DOWN, AFTER THE CLASH.

Content note: filicide, ableism, explicit violence.


 

HOW TO MOURN YOUR DEAD

 

how to mourn your dead:

gather the candles. find a flame to light them with. look deep inside your heart. fuel yourself with butane fear passion and pride. remember that you know how to burn. gather the candles.

gather the cripples. they will walk and wobble and wheel their way to you. do not worry if your halls are empty. they are full of ghosts. gather the cripples.

gather the names of the dead. the ghosts are with you but they do not know their own names. the ghosts are with you but they do not know where they are buried. the ghosts are with you but they have not been put to rest. james lloyd age 4 shot by his mother. jeni cazares age 3 months head smashed by her mother. janet cunningham age 43 hacked to death with a hatchet by her father. dorothy cunningham age 62 hacked to death with a hatchet by her husband. gather the names of the dead.

gather your breath. you will need it. there are so many names and so many deaths. fill your lungs with love and flame and fear and fury. fill your lungs with oxygen and poison and clear water and sunlight. remember that you have gone without breath before. speak the names and the deaths. hannah carroll age 6 burned with bleach by her brother. trevor horn age 8 life support disconnected by a hitman hired by his father. tracy latimer age 12 gassed by her father. michael messenger newborn died after his father shut off his ventilator. danielle tucker age 3 pushed down a flight of stairs by her adoptive mother. gather your breath.

gather your courage. you are not afraid of ghosts. you are not afraid of the dark. look to your candles. remember that your heart is burning low and hot. do not falter. speak the names and the deaths. pierre pasquiou age 10 pushed into the sea by his mother. daniel leubner age 13 burned alive by his mother. lillian lellani gill age 4 strangled by her adoptive mother. cassandra killpack forced to drink water by her parents until she died of water poisoning. terrance cottrell jr age 8 suffocated by church leaders attempting to exorcise his autism. summer phelps age 4 drowned in dirty water by her stepmother. james many white horses age 2 abused and neglected by his mother. alex spourdalakis age 14 poisoned and stabbed by his mother and godmother. elisa manrique-lutz age 11 poisoned by her father. martin manrique-lutz age 10 poisoned by his father. gather your courage.

gather the forgotten. look to their ghosts. promise them that they will be remembered. baby doe newborn denied medical treatment by his parents. baby mckay newborn head bashed against the delivery room floor by his father. female name unknown age 33 shot by her father. baby C age 5 months smothered by her father. B. L. age 13 months shaken to death by his father. unknown baby girl age 6 months drowned by her mother. infant girl newborn buried alive by her father. yu age 16 months poisoned with pesticides smothered and thrown off a bridge by his father. unknown male age 4 stuffed into a refrigerator by his parents and frozen to death. zhang (first name unknown) age 7 thrown from a 9th storey window by his mother. gather the forgotten.

gather your joy and your grace and your heaven and your forgiveness and your harmony. remember that you are surrounded by those you love and who love you. joy martin age 69 given a lethal dose of morphine by her daughter. grace carlson age 13 poisoned by her mother. heaven woods age 5 beaten to death by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. forgiveness sibanda age 3 beaten by his father. harmony carsey age 2 neglected and abused by her mother. gather your joy grace heaven forgiveness harmony.

gather the candles. kill the flames. gather the cripples. kiss your lover and embrace your friends. gather the names of the dead. put them to rest. gather your breath. breathe deep and keep breathing. gather your courage. gather the forgotten. do not forget. gather your joy grace heaven forgiveness harmony. this is how you mourn your dead.

 

MELANCHOLIA

I have a blackout poem out in Streetcake Magazine today!

It uses the text of Robert Burton’s Last Will and Testament, contained in the front matter of The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up, first published 1621.

The poem and its transcription are reproduced below.

 

melancholia


 

Cui vitam dedit et mortem

Melancholia

 

Azure                   a crescent

death,                 following

casualties to which our life is subject

our                   unsettled states

have

perfect

adventure     of which I am ignorant

First

whensoever

I make

Legacies out of

specified

life                             Lady

if he be not

of the Ground                 I give

equally

other

days                                                                   I

long   to

bestow

purpose

to the

grave

perpetual

 

to redeem

my

remembrance

I desire

to be

where she is buried

besides                         I die

till then

 

Disability Day of Mourning fundraiser

fight

Image: a black shirt with text in light blue and bright red, reading MOURN FOR THE DEAD, FIGHT LIKE HELL FOR THE LIVING, a quote from Mother Jones.

I’m volunteering as Sydney site coordinator for the Disability Day of Mourning again this year, but I need some help to cover the costs of venue hire, public liability insurance, and printing event materials.

If you can, please consider buying a shirt (or a hoodie, sweatshirt, or tank top) to help cover the costs involved. There’s an option to add a donation to the cost of the shirt if you’re feeling especially kind. They come in black, charcoal, navy, indigo, and purple.

Link to the Bonfire campaign here: Disability Day of Mourning

Alternatively, if you hate wearing clothes but would still like to help out, you can send $$ via paypal.me/robinmarceline.

Crip love & solidarity 

In the past five years, over 550 disabled people have been murdered by their parents, relatives or caregivers.

On Thursday, March 1st, disability communities in Sydney and around the world will gather to remember the disabled victims of filicide – disabled people murdered by their family members or caregivers.

In the year since our last vigil, our community has lost 100 more people to filicide. These are just the cases that we are aware of – since we began monitoring this issue, we learn about more murders every week. The total number of deaths is likely higher than the amount that reach the media. This problem is made worse by irresponsible news coverage which presents these murders as the sympathetic acts of loving and desperate parents, by a justice system which often gives a lighter sentence to a parent who kills a disabled child, and by the dangerous cultural prejudice that says a disabled life is not worth living.

Media coverage and public discourse about disability filicides frequently justifies them as “understandable” and sometimes “merciful”, rather than appropriately condemning the crimes and those who commit them. If the parent or caregiver stands trial, they are given sympathy and comparatively lighter sentences, if they are sentenced at all. The victims are disregarded, blamed for their own murder at the hands of people they should have been able to trust, and ultimately forgotten. And then the cycle repeats.

But it doesn’t have to.

For the last six years, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, ADAPT, Not Dead Yet, the National Council on Independent Living, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the American Association of People with Disabilities, and other disability rights organisations worldwide have come together to send a clear message that disability is not a justification for violence. We read the victims’ names, see their photographs, and gather what information we can about their lives.

We hold the Day of Mourning vigils to draw attention to the violent injustice faced by disabled people, to commemorate the lives of victims of filicide, and demand justice and equal protection under the law for all people with disabilities.

Find your local vigil site here: Day of Mourning Vigil Sites

View the online Disability Memorial here: Disability Memorial

NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US