What do we mean when we say the future is female? That the past has been. That the present must be. That in every age of woman, we raise fists and rip saris to staunch bloodflow, no matter who opposes us.
To image the future, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s poem gives us a past. It’s one of a strong collective of Sri Lankan women, dauntless and excited, determined and agile in the face of struggle: “We do things like, oh, start the first rape crisis center in Jaffna / in a war zone in someone’s living room.” The women in this first movement of “Femme futures” know when to stand their ground, and when to flee in pursuit of sustaining their resistance. This is the womanhood of the narrator’s past, her “appamma and great aunties” of the 1920s, who were radical and revolutionary in their time.
There is that love into which you are sometimes born, “Femme futures” reminds us, and there is the “radical sisterlove” you must hew yourself, from the utterly-real imaginarium of books, inventions, and the people you have yet to meet. As the poem builds upon the base of its three movements, it roves from historical sisterhood, to the community of disability, “where crips limp slowly, laugh, have shitty and good days / recalibrate the world to our bodies instead of sprinting trying to / keep up / Make everyone slow down to keep pace with us.”
As the poem casts its gaze – unapologetically crip, undauntedly queer – to the future, it imagines compassion; co-construction in safe spaces; all the ways queer women can build their own possibilities, hand in hand in hand. It’s about “the money in the bank and the ways we grip our thighs / back to ourselves”. Oh, women like this change the world. You know they always have.
Read “Femme futures” here.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s memoir, Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home, was published in 2015 by Arsenal Pulp Press.
This is the fourth installment of Here for the Unicorn Blood, a Queer POC Poetry Reader which runs from June 1 – June 30. Historically, June commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, heralded as the birth of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. #PrideMonth’s global significance, its unabashed celebration of queerness, its marshalling of non-heteronormative joy, resistance and tenacity, motivates this close reading series, which specifically engages the work of POC Queer Poets, in international space. People of colour have been vital to queerness before queerness had a name: this is one way to witness that, to embed my reading practice in it, and to raise my brown, queer fist in yes.