Image Description: A brown, round queer with clear-rimmed classes and a brown blazer with a magenta bow, looking straight into the camera.
Kay Ulanday Barrett (they/them) is a disabled Filipinx-amerikan transgender queer in the U.S. with struggle, resistance, and laughter. They are a poet, performer, educator, food writer, cultural strategist, and disability advocate, and have been recognized nationally and internationally.
.Their first book, When The Chant Comes was published by Topside Press in 2016, which documents the intersections of race, disability, gender in the everyday landscape of life. Their second collection of poems, More Than Organs, was recently published by Sibling Rivalry Press in spring 2020, a book that "excavates and hollows out a queer, trans, brown body to expose, examine, and interrogate the difficulties and heartaches of such existence," according to praise from Joseph O. Legaspi, author of Threshold and Imago.
Kay's essay in Poetry Foundation, "To Hold the Grief & the Growth: On Crip Ecologies," describes the commoditization of disabled bodies and minds, and the urgency for that narrative to be dismantled—for disabled poets and persons to reconnect with and appreciate the natural and man-made worlds. They write in their last line, "Together with this brilliance we can move poetry back to honoring the land, back to a shared practice where every aspect of nature is whole, vital, worth writing, and even better, worth living."
Their poem, "Love, artifact" is reprinted below, originally published in More Than Organs with Sibling Rivalry Press in 2020.
The air is thicket or jar of jam.
We’re breathing in bulbous catastrophe but with
layers of plexiglass over our faces, breathing
is a loose word. Shit, wearing masks
used to be
fashion statement, not need.
When they kiss you for the first time, masks
are off.There is only 3 hours of free space air for us
a day. This is what you choose to do with it:
Get wet like the ancestors before us,
fumble hair strands
in eager crooks of palms,
make garden of the minute,
bury your heart in the mud,
make pulse bigger.
It wasn’t always this way.
Lovers could sufficiently waste one
another’s time on the last planet.
This is what old newspaper headlines state.
Bumbling lungs that didn’t have to beg for air.
Plants used to be our source, corals made way for
more minutes. Oxygen of earth from earth.
That was then.
On this dome, we sneak glances over love interests
in aluminum. Save up our devotion in moments.
We can’t be remarkable in our eruptions like our grandparents.
Spontaneity is fossil. Fingertips have long
forgotten the concept of kinetic.
Why did we let it get to this point ––
God what would you do if they just touched
your cheek without planning to?
A new life they promised us. One better after the climate
stopped grappling with our mistakes.We made far
too many, and now to kiss is daydream thing.
Take off your helmet.
Welcome the storm.
We can learn to breathe again or
let us just cherish this air,
let us inhale even it breaks us for trying.
First appears in More Than Organs, Siblings Rivalry Press.