i am not a patriot


if this poem

if this poem was a magpie
it would steal your jewelry
and leave you laughing

and if it was a feather
it would glide gently across
your exquisite face

if this poem was made of gold
my love would melt it into
a luminescent puddle

and if this poem was made of fire
it would keep you warm
all your days and nights

and you would never lose your way
because it would be a beacon
drawing you into your god-self

if this poem was a rose
its fragrance would mesmerize you
and its thorns trace lovely pain trails

and it would never wither or die
and it would always give you
just the right balance of agony and delight

if this poem was my hands
it would happily caress you only when
and whenever you wanted it to

and it would wear leather gloves
whenever you wanted a spanking
and hold you when it was over

if this poem was a balm
it would reach inside you
and soothe your deepest wounds

if this poem was the sea
it would carry you on its back
to all the continents of your ancestors

and it would rock you at night
while you slept with the sea lions
and planned your next adventure

if this poem was a book
whenever you opened it
you would learn whatever you needed to know

if this poem was a chariot
you would always ride in style
and there would always be room for friends

if this poem was a shirt
it would hug you and shape you painlessly
into the boy in your mind’s eye

and if it was a hat
it would keep you warm in winter
and never go out of style

if this poem was my eyes
it would always gaze on you
in wonder and awe

and if this poem was my tears
you would drink them and be healed
of all the shame this world has forced on you

and you would bathe in the saline water
and be cleansed of everything wrong
anyone ever said about you

and you would never believe their lies again
and you would know only grace
so that just your splendor would remain

if this poem was my love
it would fill this city with longing
and no one would go to work

and everyone would wander the streets
searching for the answer
to satisfy their soul’s sweet call
[trigger warning for violence, unhealthy abuse, recipe
and negative feelings about the united states]

i think my first act of rebellion against the united states was when i was seven and in second grade, and i refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance. looking back, it’s clear to me why i had even personal reasons to resent being forced to declare my loyalty to that scrap of cloth and all it represents, but what kind of thoughts does a seven year old think that necessitate such a refusal?

i suppose i’m a leftist, although i spend very little time in pursuit of the kinds of activities commonly associated with leftist politics. out of necessity, i spend most of my time at home, and my activism, as such, consists mostly of this blog and my other online projects. i know a lot of activists who feel anger around july 4th, but somehow the enthusiastic flag-waving just makes me really sad. the united states makes me incredibly sad.

when i was seven, i was already experiencing on several levels the vicious underside of american life. at night, i was abused at home and forced to participate in experiments that involved the torture of people (mostly children) and animals, and was encouraged to feel like a good citizen because i was “helping my country.” and in my neighborhood, the police were a constant threat and reminder that poor and brown folks in this country are second-class citizens.

i don’t know what the heartless brutality of my daily life meant to me, how i interpreted those realities through the lens of a seven year old. i wasn’t aware of the long and sordid history and continuance of settler colonialism, genocide, slavery, oppression, and imperialism that shapes my perspective now. but i do know that the day i refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance marked a beginning of a practice of resistance that shaped my young life and continues to this day.

(something else occurred to me. i wrote this at a time when being arab and unpatriotic wasn’t an actual crime as it is now. that makes me feel a little bit of fear about publishing this. but as audre lorde still reminds me from beyond: “it is better to speak/ remembering/ we were never meant to survive.”)

next time (for james)

next time
i hope i am a farm beast
born in hay
to callused hands.

with my legs under me
i stand in the grass
munching and sunning.

we lean into one another
side to side
our warm bodies
a sense of home.

sun, hay, feed
hands, brush, stroke
morning, day, evening.

quietness in the dim
stars in the sky
ground below me
i trust in life.

and when my time comes
i wish to be held firm
by calloused hands
in love and death.

quick, quiet, firm
my flesh becomes nourishment
and i go back to god.

if this poem


if this poem

if this poem was a magpie
it would steal your jewelry
and leave you laughing

and if it was a feather
it would glide gently across
your exquisite face

if this poem was made of gold
my love would melt it into
a luminescent puddle

and if this poem was made of fire
it would keep you warm
all your days and nights

and you would never lose your way
because it would be a beacon
drawing you into your god-self

if this poem was a rose
its fragrance would mesmerize you
and its thorns trace lovely pain trails

and it would never wither or die
and it would always give you
just the right balance of agony and delight

if this poem was my hands
it would happily caress you only when
and whenever you wanted it to

and it would wear leather gloves
whenever you wanted a spanking
and hold you when it was over

if this poem was a balm
it would reach inside you
and soothe your deepest wounds

if this poem was the sea
it would carry you on its back
to all the continents of your ancestors

and it would rock you at night
while you slept with the sea lions
and planned your next adventure

if this poem was a book
whenever you opened it
you would learn whatever you needed to know

if this poem was a chariot
you would always ride in style
and there would always be room for friends

if this poem was a shirt
it would hug you and shape you painlessly
into the boy in your mind’s eye

and if it was a hat
it would keep you warm in winter
and never go out of style

if this poem was my eyes
it would always gaze on you
in wonder and awe

and if this poem was my tears
you would drink them and be healed
of all the shame this world has forced on you

and you would bathe in the saline water
and be cleansed of everything wrong
anyone ever said about you

and you would never believe their lies again
and you would know only grace
so that just your splendor would remain

if this poem was my love
it would fill this city with longing
and no one would go to work

and everyone would wander the streets
searching for the answer
to satisfy their soul’s sweet call

war

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war

i define my selves as metamorphosis, more about
frantically flapping wings, erectile
singing hymns and prayers of peace. tiny in this cruel empire, information pills
i move out from the heart in each precious moment.

across oceans are my people whose olive flesh is beautiful,
radiant. it is more than bruises darkening like blackberries
smashed onto flesh that comes in my name. i know apologies
are useless, so i must maintain the beating of my wings.

together our heartsongs may save us. but is it too late?

cain and abel

pieces

does not the broken
sand dollar have it’s own cracked
beauty in wholeness?
cain and abel

oh hope, refractionist
you tenacious thing
you tiny sun
you parasite

you crumbling cliff
you weeping willow
you rescuer

oh despair, generic
you blanket
you cloud
you lover

you dark cave
you heart attack
you murderer

hope,
tiny seed in me
you make me dream
in color, in hues
i cannot comprehend

you roll around
my deep places
illuminating my dark desires
baring my despair

hope,
leave me alone!
i cannot afford you
or your treasures

quit lighting up my insides
you pervert!
no one wants to look in there

despair,
you lonely creature
you make me dream
the same hopeless dreams

you crawl around
my deep places
clutching my dark desires
gnawing into my ugly past

despair,
leave me alone!
i cannot afford you
i’ve got work to do

you child
you beast
you broken heart
no one wants to look at you

you haunters
you terrors
you lovers
you brothers

3 STEPS TO ORGANIZING A FRAGRANCE FREE EVENT

by Basil

Want to make your event accessible to people with chemical and fragrance sensitivities? Here are three steps to making that happen.

STEP 1: ACCESSIBILITY MEASURES

Decide what accessibility measures you want to provide. Know that your choice will have an impact on all attendees. Be honest with yourself and your attendees. Choose the option you can commit to.

When deciding on accessibility measures, two things to consider are people and the environment.

You’ll be asking people to change their habits and products. What limitations do you put on smoking? What kinds of personal care products can you limit at the event? This process can be intimate. Be prepped to offer websites and articles as resources.

Environmental factors in an event space include air quality and building materials. Air quality refers to the amount of pollutants in the air. Do people smoke in the space? Was it used for events that used toxic supplies (painting, silk screening, etc)? Do those chemicals still linger?

Assessing building materials refers to accessibility regarding the structure of the event space. Has it been painted recently? Does it have new materials that are still outgassing?

Here are three options for event accessibility. They are meant as helpful choices that make it easier for you to implement.

OPTION A – MOST ACCESSIBLE
• No Smoking at or near the event space throughout the entire event
• Ask participants to not wear clothes that have been smoked in
• No colognes, perfumes or essential oils
• Ask participants to wear clothes that have not been exposed to perfumes, colognes or scented oils, laundry detergents or fabric softeners
• Ask participants to refrain from using scented body and haircare products before or during the event.
• Fragrance free seating or space set aside
• Air purifiers used to increase air quality
• Building checked for issues like paint and outgassing materials. Other event space chosen if current one has recent chemical use.
• Remove offending chemical materials from space (air fresheners, chemical cleaners)
• Clean with non-toxic cleaning products before event.

OPTION B – MODERATELY ACCESSIBLE
• No Smoking in the event space or within 25 feet of the event entrance
• No cologne or perfume wearing
• Fragrance free seating or space set aside
• Air purifiers used to increase air quality
• Building checked for issues like paint and outgassing materials. Other event space chosen if current one has recent chemical use.
• Remove offending chemical materials from space (air fresheners, chemical cleaners)

OPTION C – LOW ACCESSIBILITY
• No Smoking in the event space or within 25 feet of the event entrance
• No cologne or perfume wearing
• Air purifiers used to increase air quality
• Remove offending chemical materials from space (air fresheners, chemical cleaners)

STEP 2: LET ATTENDEES KNOW

Let your attendees know how accessible the event will be. Your online and offline publicity and marketing materials should communicate expectations to potential participants. Be specific about participant demands so people with fragrance and chemical sensitivities can trust that the organizers have put thought into accessibility.

Here are two sample write-ups.

OPTION A – MOST ACCESSIBLE
To provide a chemical and fragrance free event, we request that participants refrain from the following before or during the event: Smoking; Wearing colognes, perfumes or scented oils; and using chemical based laundry detergents or fabric softeners. We ask participants to wear something that has had limited exposure to the items above.

OPTION B – MODERATE TO LOW ACCESSIBILITY
Please refrain from wearing colognes, perfumes or other scented or chemical products to the event.

STEP 3: ENFORCEMENT PLAN

Create a plan for enforcing accessibility. Please don’t let this task fall on attendees who have chemical or fragrance sensitivities. If you are inviting people with sensitivities to your event, it is important to be assertive and enforce the plan to ensure their safety and health.

This plan should include an effort before and during the event.

Your pre-event effort will include an assessment of the space and the implementation of any changes to the space. Remember to remove chemical materials, add air purifiers and add clear instructions for smokers. If you have created special seating or sections, clearly label them.

Decide what to do if someone breaks the rules. What if someone shows up wearing strongly scented products? What if someone smokes in a non-smoking area? How will you address concerns if they arise? Will people be asked to leave? To change? To wash up?

Knowing your answers in advance will ensure a better response in the moment.

During the event, monitor the smoking areas and any special seating or sections to make sure the plan is still working. Assign an accessibility coordinator who can keep track of these things so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Enforcement is key to making this plan and your event as accessible as possible.

MCS accessibility basics

when it comes to Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) accessibility, breast it really starts at home. there are several levels of making your person accessible, shop so i’ll give the broad strokes of each.

1. fragrance-free events or activities

it is very important when attending scent-free events to make sure you are not wearing anything that has come in contact with scents or cigarette smoke. some folks set an outfit aside to wear to accessible events. if you do use essential oils, definitely bathe with fragrance-free soap, shampoo etc and refrain from using them until after the event. also refrain from smoking after you have washed, until the event is over.

additionally, make sure your clothes are not dried with dryer sheets, as these are one of the worst chemical offenders. if you use public laundry facilities, it’s also a good idea to air out your clothes for several days before storing them or wearing them around chemically sensitive folks, as they tend to have residue from other people’s stinky laundry.

when i’m going anywhere where i know there is likely to be other chemically-sensitive folks, even if the space is not specifically designated as fragrance-free, i follow fragrance-free protocols.

2. being in community with the chemically sensitive

like some other folks with MCS, i do occasionally use scented products. they are particular to me and i try and restrict my use of them to my home or spaces where they will be completely drowned out by others’ scents (places where i generally need to use my gas mask). like everyone with MCS, my tolerance for scents is particular to me, and even to the brand or batch of the particular product or plant.

i have a small collection of essential oils. i use these medicinally, topically for aches and pains and i smell them for mental health concerns. i no longer wear them as perfumes, as i did before i became educated about MCS accessibility. i keep my oils in a metal box, and the metal box is in a cabinet.

when i meet other folks with chemical sensitivities, i will approach hanging out with them or going anywhere they might be as if i am attending a fragrance-free event and prepare as such. if we end up spending more time together, i usually like to do an audit where we go over the particulars of each others’ products and figure out what the other person is sensitive to.

there are people in my community who are educated about MCS and about my particular accessibility needs. i usually ask that folks who are serious about MCS accessibility consult with these allies if they have questions about anything. people in my various communities often send me emails about how to make their events MCS accessible. unfortunately i’m too sick to answer most of these emails. a lot more needs to be done to promote education about MCS accessibility in seattle (and generally), and unfortunately there is not enough popular education being done. YET!

i also try and make mental notes of anything folks with MCS say in passing about their particular sensitivities, as i know that not everyone is able to be assertive or completely thorough about their air quality needs.

which leads me to my final point about this: most folks with MCS are in a constant struggle to navigate our daily lives. if we are able to go out, we face a constant barrage of life-threatening chemical exposures. because MCS affects not only our bodies but our cognitive abilities and emotions, we often cannot express or identify that we are being made sick by one particular product someone is using. so if we do take the time to let you know that something you’re doing is making us sick, please respect that and don’t make us tell you twice, or g-d forbid, more than twice. it’s incredibly painful for us to find that people who purport to be our friends or allies, who express the desire to be near us, do not take our basic needs seriously and even cause us harm after we have expressed that there is a problem. if you are struggling with a solution, please let us know so we can help you resolve it, or if that’s not possible, so we can stay a safe distance from you until you get it resolved.

3. friendships and intimate relationships

if you want to hang out with someone who has MCS, that’s great! lots of us do not have many friends we can safely spend time with.

firstly, to reiterate:
when you meet other folks with chemical sensitivities, approach hanging out with them or going anywhere they might be as if you are attending a fragrance-free event and prepare as such. if you end up spending more time together, offer to do an audit where they go over the particulars of your products and let you know what they are sensitive to. it is best to send a list of products you use, so they &/or their allies can do research and identify known problems.

spending time with someone with MCS is not something to take on lightly. telling yourself that you’re fine because you think you are is not enough. many people with MCS will not tell you that you’re making us sick, either because we’re too sick or addled to communicate; or we’re overwhelmed because we thought we were going to be safe with you and we’re not; or we’re just too damn tired to talk about it and deal with the possible conflict; or we’ve been socialized or told that asking people to change their lifestyle for us is selfish, rude, demanding, unreasonable or wrong.

this is important. if you want to spend time with someone with MCS you must be willing to humble yourself to our needs, regardless of how that makes you feel. ask us for information and resources and use them. check in with us periodically and ask if anything has come up that we need to tell you about. don’t assume that everything is fine because we are not saying anything. we may be conserving our energy to survive the aftermath of whatever exposures we are getting.

if you feel overwhelmed with the changes you are being asked to make, seek support from folks who understand MCS accessibility &/or support you in pursuing these changes. if you need time to make changes, make sure you do not subject your sick friend to exposures while you are making the transition. believe me when i tell you that i prefer someone staying a distance away from me and telling me they are not fragrance-free/accessible to someone who gives me a hug cuz they’re trying to be fragrance-free and they figure i will tell them if the [blah blah blah] they are still wearing/using is a problem for me.

a last note

it is my belief that MCS accessibility, like all disability accessibility, is a social justice issue. if you decide to join us in the struggle for access, congratulations! you are part of a movement that is slowly gaining momentum and has the potential not only to save our lives but to protect the health and safety of all human beings and the planet. you are participating in a struggle that is part of the larger disability rights movement, and each aspect of this struggle is important and worthy. if you are living with other disabilities, i hope that you will also be fighting for your own access and we will be building bridges across our differences to increase our viability as a movement.

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