Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a Toronto-based writer and activist.
Much of both her writing and activist work focuses on the struggles of LGBTQ people, particularly queer and trans people of colour.
This piece explores both gender and sexual identities, and their intersection with identities of place (particularly, in this case, urban space). The poem itself is “hard”, with the alliterations (“guts of the girl gang”) landing like little punches. It’s a poem of collision and contrast, of “broken things” which are still “lovely”, in spite of (or because of?) their “brokenness”.
Human sexual identities are not homogenous or straightforward; they are complex and sometimes contradictory, and here Piepzna-Samarasinha uses the urban space — itself hard, contradictory, often difficult to deal with — to mirror that complexity. The poem contains images of urban decay (“a boarded up warehouse”), but its concluding image — “protecting all that explodes from something so long abandoned” — suggests tenderness and care, but also a radical renewal and liberation that shatters boundaries.
The Ruby Kid
when I left Worcester, I took the cracked sidewalks’ smirk with me,
the sexy guts of the girl gang of wild weed trees
that would bust through all the vacant lots like a bank robbery,
kicking the door down with guns and grin of getting everything for free.
I’m as hard-assed as every lovely broken thing in this town,
as every donut shop that’ll tell you off in a heartbeat, every Economy Fruits bursting with
day-old sweet juice, every pretty dress with just one fucked-up thing
dug out of the Auburn TJ Maxxx quadruple markdown clearance rack.
My city is a lovely tough girl
asking you what the fuck you’re looking at, a boarded up warehouse
hoarding secrets like homeless fire roaring inside,
her redbrick and vinyl siding nailed up all over me
protecting all that explodes from something so long abandoned.