Poem of the Week: Amber Dawn’s Queer Grace

Queer Grace

No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,
sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,
dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,
our animal passion rooted in the city.
Twenty-one Love Poems, Adrienne Rich

Quiet, you whippersnappers. You were born in the eighties
and I must school you. Our foremamas and papas
didn’t have the luxury of safe assembly, much less
facebook. Think Stonewall had a hashtag?
“Allen Ginsberg just yelled, ‘Defend the Fairies.’
#fuckingriot #dragbomb. Boom, queer speech
had to boom to be heard in real time.
Queer gait was a march. Queer hearth was our rage.
We shared the meager feast or starved. Potluck.
No one imagined us. We wanted to live like trees,

or at least weeds. We wanted to take root.
Many of us still sow a humble seed to grow
temporary space, knowing that a single moment can
turn it all to rot. I’ve been involved with the rise and fall
of a hand full of radical underground conclaves
Only queer kin can show you the way
out of the merciless bright mainstream.
Away from the gentrifying rows
of condos and Starbucks and capital influx. Past
sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air.

Past the tar-patched dead-ended streets
to one thousand square feet of damp concrete
nestled under a union-worker-built bridge. I tell you
it’s worth it to find yourself, no matter how briefly,
in a community-driven, collectively-run, anti-capitalist,
gender nonconforming, sex-positive hotspot.
Here. Now. Raise our voices.
Here. Now. Shake our asses.
Our asses are hairy warriors. Thick hips. Our asses are
dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding

with desire: daisy chain, finger cuffs, fisting the forsaken mystery
right out of each other. Fucking the magic back into our bodies.
This grace is ours. This grace is no holds barred. Believe me,
I have lovers and friends from Berlin to Brooklyn, the same radical
spaces exist there, but don’t take this grace for granted.
Let me remind you that a few hundred queers gathered
in an unlicensed warehouses for orgies or for organizing is still considered
a disruption. Let me remind you queer roots reach deep.
Never forget the graves of our foremamas and papas, like
our animal passion, are rooted underground.

–Amber Dawn, from “Where the Words End and My Body Begins”

Posted with permission from the author. Amber Dawn is a writer and creative facilitator living on unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver, Canada). Her debut novel Sub Rosa (2010) won the Lambda Literary Award for Debut Lesbian Fiction and the Writers’ Trust of Canada Dayne Ogilvie Prize. Her memoir How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir (2013) won the Vancouver Book Award. Her poetry collection Where the words end and my body begins (2015) was a finalist for BC Book Award’s Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. She is the editor of two queer anthologies Fist of the Spider Women: Fear and Queer Desire (2009) and With A Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn (2005).

Her sophomore novel, Sodom Road Exit is forthcoming Spring 2018, and probes themes of systemic poverty, trauma, vengeful ghosts and lesbian desire, all set in a failed amusement park town in the early ‘90s.