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CripStory

Maria R. Palacios

Welcome!

“Empowerment happens when we realize we have what it takes to make a difference, and choose to do so.”  Maria R. Palacios

Welcome to CripStory, a blog I have created with the purpose of sharing experiences, memories, lessons, poems and other aspects of my personal journey as a woman with a disability.  It is my hope to empower other women (and men) with disabilities to discover and embrace their own personal power and to offer awareness about disability rights, disability and sexuality, positive body image and self-esteem, historical and cultural views of disability and much more.

Below are some of the themes you can look forward to reading in future blogs:

Love, Sex & Relationships

Personal Confessions

Poetry and Poetic Excerpts

The importance of positive language as we relate to the disabled body

Growing Up Disabled:  Childhood stories and other memories

Disability Humor

Disability related news, updates, critiques and advocacy

Exclusive updates on Maria’s latest work, projects and workshops

 

 

I look forward to opening this window into yet another aspect of myself as an advocate and  creative spirit.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

 

Maria R. Palacios

The Goddess on Wheels

Featured post

Why All Disabled People Need Crip Camp

By Maria R. Palacios

I watched Crip Camp. I watched it on the very same day it was made available on Netflix, and although I had wanted to watch it in a viewing party and surrounded by the company of other crips, I sat on my bed that afternoon and opened up a screen that led my crip identity climb back into my own experience of community and crip liberation, my own journey toward the realization of how beautiful and important crip friendships really are, and how our collective advocacy is able to part seas and move mountains —because when disabled people come together, we do so with truths that are relevant to everybody’s future and everybody’s reality.

As much as the world wants to negate our existence, throw us away, or deny us access to society, when disabled people join forces, we become advocacy like never seen before. We show the world how it’s done, how we survive and keep surviving because while society is busy dismissing our lives, we are busy living, busy surviving, busy creating community, creating revolutionary activism and making sure other disabled people know just how beautiful our crip solidarity is, how important our cross-disability friendships are, and how much we learn from each other. Crip Camp, to me, was about all that, and about the importance of sharing as much of our history as possible because nobody else is going to do it for us, and because when we do, the disabled people who don’t yet have crip friendships will realize how much we truly need each other, and how powerful we become when we come together joining forces through the experience of our shared struggles and collective advocacy.

Not every disabled person has or has had the opportunity to learn about crip solidarity in the fun and safe space of a Crip Camp experience. Most cross-disability friendships, and the lessons of life with a disability often come from hospital and rehab stays where many crips get their first exposure to others like themselves before getting thrown into the ableist world that forces normality out of our disabled lives.

For me, growing up disabled gave me early exposure to others like myself, but, such exposure was almost always in the medical model mold of cultural oppression and forced normalization of bodies that looked like mine. I grew up, part of my life, trapped in institutions and medical facilities where disabled children and disabled people were left to be “fixed”, and in some cases, left to die. It was those early friendships what gave me the foundation of my love for disabled people…my first realization of what ableism was, although back then, there was no name for it —disabled lives simply were broken. Nobody ever questioned that. Not even us, as disabled people. Those of us who grew up disabled had a lot of unlearning to do. My unlearning and “crip camp” experience did not happen until I came to the United States as a teenager and spent part of my summer at the Lions Club Camp, here in Texas, where for the first time ever, I was among a group of other disabled kids outside of a hospital setting. Unlike most American children who grew up disabled in the United States, my childhood growing up in Latin America was pretty lonely. I was the only disabled kid in the entire school (during the times I actually went to school), or I was homeschooled, or went without any school during weeks of hospitalizations and body casts that confined me to a bed for months, and sometimes years at a time. My friendships with other disabled people had always been around painful experiences and the forced medicalization of our disabled bodies. Going to camp that summer, when I was fifteen, was a first peek into what crip liberation could look like —a look into the window of the crip advocacy that was yet to come as part of my journey.

It wasn’t until my young twenties that I came to immerse myself into the energy of disability culture. The words disability and culture, however, were not something yet woven into our consciousness as crips. The movement, back then, was about breaking physical barriers and building ramps. It was about breaking chains and building paths. It was about recognizing our most basic human rights and the right to own our lives and make our own choices. —Own our lives, and make our own choices….it seems so basic, but to disabled people the right to do that has been taken away or never given to us.

I came into the Independent Living movement still fresh out of the cultural shell that had sheltered me from the truths of other disabled people. I remember being shocked at the sight of disabled people being productive —disabled people in positions of authority. Disabled people employed. Disabled people living on their own. Disabled people driving. Disabled people doing all the things I had been told I would never do. My first visit to my local CIL (Center for Independent Living) was the door leading to the rest of my life as a disabled woman. The crip role models that shaped my life were crip warriors whose lives resembled my own, whose scars reminded me of mine, and whose stories validated my own story in ways that transcend race, culture and language, and although I was just a young and shy immigrant girl, the badassness and crip power of my new peers pushed me to discover my own power and the beauty of my personal crip identity. Shortly after getting involved with HCIL, I was also introduced to ADAPT, the group of revolutionary crips whose advocacy became nationally known for their direct action protests and radical activism that passed the ADA thirty years ago. My involvement with ADAPT is responsible for the thick roots of disability pride that became the mother tree of my Goddess persona. My involvement with ADAPT was MY Crip Camp experience, my personal liberation from the institutionalization of my cultural upbringing.

But my personal history of positive crip identity did not necessarily come over night. In fact, my involvement with ADAPT took me to experience for the first time EVER what being treated like a real adult felt like —the freedom to choose for myself. I was young and beautiful although, at the time, I really didn’t believe that. Part of me had been too traumatized by the medicalization of my polio body and the weight of all the ableist lies I had been forced to believe. Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by disabled people whose passion an independence I wanted to experience. I wasn’t sure how to handle being so free. Nobody had ever before respected me enough to let me decide for myself although I was already in my twenties. Nobody had ever before prepared me for so much freedom. It was exhilarating and terrifying. It was the beginning of the rest of my life as a disabled person.

The truth about crip liberation is that it is different for each of us, but once we experience that freedom, we simply want more. I wanted more. I wanted more, but for me there was always a void, a something I couldn’t name. It took me years to understand how my crip identity was also connected to my cultural identity, to my immigrant identity, to my bisexual identity, and to so many other aspects of myself which I felt would never fit in with the white crips whose power I saw as Godly when the ADA was passed. I had been part of that energy. I was at the Capitol Crawl and witnessed the amazing advocacy of Justin Dart, and Judy Heumman, crip heroes of our disability rights. I looked up to them so much, but I couldn’t see myself in them although we were fellow polios. I didn’t know what to call this back then, but I know now it was me wanting “more” while trying to find myself in the traveled roads of other disabled people.

Life has a way of teaching us the lessons we must learn as we evolve into ourselves, as we discover our own versions of Crip Camp —the crip friendships that change our lives and shape our futures. Disabled people are lessons of survival, lessons of advocacy and solidarity to the world. As the world is brought down to its knees by COVID19, disabled people already have a deep understanding of survival and endurance. Disabled people have ALWAYS had to fight to stay alive. We have had to create our own versions of Crip Camp, in our own communities. We’ve done it with minimum resources and while under constant ableist attacks on the value of our humanity.

One day, nondisabled people will be one of us. It’s not a curse. Disability is a natural part of life, but fear of us and our differences makes the normies believe they’re immune to the possibility of disability being painted in the landscape of their personal lives. We, the pitiful cripples, we are just supposed to be the charitable cases of history, the poster children of society, the ones you help from afar but are not invited to be part of your communities —and although you may not say that, it’s been said by denying us access to life unless it is framed in the context of the medical model lies, that to this day, imprison so many disabled people.

Crip Camp gives disabled people a chance to break their own chains of ableist oppression and see a different reflection of ourselves , one that doesn’t have to negate our disabled bodies or our disabled lives. Crip Camp reminds disabled people about how much we’ve had to fight for our basic rights, and how much we still have to fight for our basic rights. It’s like, so much has changed, and at the same time, so little has. In the end, Crip Camp is about the realization that we need each other. —That our power comes not from the nondisabled world, but from the shared lessons of advocacy and solidarity that move mountains and part seas of ableist oppressions.
As a disabled woman able to represent multiple minority identities, I dare say my crip identity is the one that best highlights and represents my humanity and who I am. It is my crip community the most important family I have, the most cherished resource in my life. Crip Camp is a reminder of all that, and with all my heart, I wish for all disabled people to find their way home to a crip community of their own. I hope they are able to experience the power and the love, the truths that have been worn by the crip advocates of the past, and the crip survivors of today. Every disabled person, I hope, finds a way to their own Crip Camp. All of us crips need that, and we must never forget that needing each other is part of the power that keeps us alive in a world that has no problem negating the value of our disabled lives.

May all of us crips always build and find community in one another for such is our legacy of advocacy and liberation.

Our disabled lives are ALWAYS worth living!

Radical Self-Care

 

 

 

To the disabled, self-care means

surviving…

surviving poverty,

surviving ignorance,

surviving segregation,

surviving

the invisibility forced upon our lives.

 

To the disabled, self-care means making sure

we don’t die

of hunger,

we don’t die of sadness

we don’t die alone, abandoned, and forgotten

in some shit-hole nursing home

that paints a peaceful transition to heaven,

but is a living hell behind closed doors.

 

Self-care means we force open the doors

that were made to imprison us.

It means breaking the oppressing chains

that hold disabled people down

and acknowledging that none of us can move up

when others are still down.

We must keep each other alive while the nondisabled world

wants us to die, disappear, become extinct,

a thing of the past, at last, eliminating

the infirm, the broken,

the undesirable.

 

Self-care means unlearning the bull-shit we’ve been told

about our disabled bodies, the lies we’ve been forced to wear

in nondisabled costume,

forcing us to try to fake

able-bodiedness we do not have,

find humor in our struggles

while feeling ashamed of our differences.

 

Self-care means we learn to love our differences,

and recognize

that we have our personal greatness as a gift.

It means we know how others lift

our bodies like a heavy cross they must bear

while we endure the pain of their ableist fears.

 

For the disabled, self-care means we undress our own fears

knowing that doing so will hurt.

It means letting others know the hurt

caused by their actions,

caused by ableist words casually thrown

to describe our bodies.

 

Self-care means we forgive our bodies

for not walking, not talking, not seeing,

not hearing, not thinking, not acting,

not feeling, not being

like the boring normals who consider themselves to be better.

 

Self-care means a better

understanding

of our right to exist,

our right to resist, our right

to love ourselves without guilt.

Self-care means

we forgive those who trespass

against our rights,

but do so by making sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

Self-care means knowing

it will happen again, and again

and again,

and knowing we will again,

and again go back

to the battlefield

to slay the dragons of ableist crap

that trap

disabled people

into believing that the normies know,

more than we do

about our bodies and our needs.

 

Self-care means we get to explain our needs

to the doctors, to the attendants,

to the social workers, to the concerned relatives,

to the “professionals” who think they’re experts at living our lives.

 

Self-care means remembering all that

when the only thing we can remember

is the past due bill on the table,

and the fear of not being able to make ends meet

this month, or the next, or the next.

Self-care means telling ourselves that next time

will be different,

although we’re not sure how.

 

Self-care means we know how

to survive because it’s something

we’ve simply learned to do.

Self-care means asking for help knowing it’s ok to ask.

It means asking for help,

and asking exactly for what we need

and without feeling guilty for it.

 

Self-care means remembering

that we don’t have to apologize for our needs.

Self-care, to us, means allowing our wounds

to heal out in the open.

It means knowing we don’t have to cover up our pain,

but nor do we have to disclose it

in order to validate our truths.

 

Self-care means our relationship with pain,

like our relationship with God, is personal.

 

Self-care, when we’re disabled, means,

learning to self-regulate positivity because

the non-disabled world only sees negativity and pity,

instead of strength and love.

 

Self-care means we are aware of our personal strengths

but also know we don’t’ always have to be strong.

Self-care means letting the tears flow in order to heal the soul.

Self-care means we know it is the soul

through which we exist in our bodies.

It means we love our bodies

but are fully aware of how fragile they can be.

 

Anybody can become disabled.

Everybody will become disabled.

Those are truths nobody wants to hear.

Self-care means, that when we do hear those truths,

we already know that life goes on,

and that being disabled is not the end of the world,

but it is a world constantly under attack

by ableist oppression.

 

Self-care means we don’t forget

that ableist oppression is real

although it might not always affect

all disabled people the same,

the same way racism doesn’t affect

all people of color the same.

 

Self-care, when we’re disabled, means

addressing the crime of neglect and abuse

and the use of ableist practices

as society practices

divisiveness and oppression in the name of what’s good for us.

 

Self-care means we know that we are the only ones

who can truly know

what’s good for us.  It means

we own our bodies even

when the Medical Model broken definition of who we are

may say otherwise, because when we’re disabled,

owning our bodies is the most radical form of self-care and self-love

we will ever practice and exercise,

and it will be the most criticized and

revolutionary action of our lives, and the non-disabled

will continue to fight for the right to live for us

while we exist in our non-normative bodies,

and our non-conforming minds.

Society whines at the outcry of our rebellious advocacy,

but rebellious advocacy is

how we practice self-care.

 

We practice self-care

by constantly performing CPR on our broken dreams,

by remembering that others will forget us

because they always forget about us

although they pretended to remember us

during the evacuation drill

where fake disabled people played our part,

and real disabled people were left behind because…well….

we must never forget

that others will not remember,

but they will always remember to tell us what to do

and how to live.

 

When we’re disabled,

self-care also involves telling non-disabled people to back off

and fuck off, if we must go to that extreme.

Self-care, when we’re disabled, sometimes requires extreme

measures

like acknowledging the pleasures often denied to us

in the name of normality.

 

Self-care involves the beautiful abnormality

of crip-sexy,

and they way we define sexy,

and claim the power of our bodies

as the wholeness that makes us complete.

 

Self-care means

we don’t have to compete to be less disabled

in order to prove our worth.

Self-care means we know we are worth the chance…

the chance to love,

the chance to share,

the chance to be part of the world that fears us.

 

Self-care, when we’re disabled, involves all that

while still managing to squeeze time to imagine

a relaxing bubble bath and a glass of wine,

happy sex with somebody we love, or some of the other

luxurious rewards of the non-disabled world.

When we’re disabled, self-care means adding those thoughts to a crip  list that reads:

a)    Find accessible bathroom with big luxurious bath-tub

b)   Budget wine into next shopping trip

c)    Have happy sex…(although not sure what that is, but thinking about it makes us happy, and self-care also involves happy thoughts.)

And happy thoughts are often at the core

of disabled self-care because

we have to believe others do care,

although deep down we know nobody gives a shit,

and if they do, it is with an ableist clause

of having to accept something in return,

maybe some unexpected prayer,

or unsolicited advice,

or maybe forced help that denies

our humanity, and disrespects our independence.

 

Self-care means having to remind ourselves

that disability never equals

the devaluing of our lives and our right to exist,

and the right to make community

within a community of our choice.

 

Self-care means we know we have a choice,

and a right to choose

and nobody has the right to use

our differences as an excuse for the denial

of our human rights.

 

When we’re disabled, self-care means

constantly educating others

about our basic rights,

always repeating ourselves

and our realities out of mere necessity

because if we don’t ,

the non-disabled world will pretend we don’t exist.

Self-care means we resist.

We say yes.

We say no.

We own every aspect of our lives, even

when every aspect of our lives may depend

on non-disabled assistance.

It means we project our power from within

letting the normies know

they don’t have the right to decide for us

unless we give them permission to do so.

 

Self-care means borrowing able-bodiedness

without losing touch with the fact

that we are still in charge.

Self-care means we identify ableism

and treat it as such.

 

It means we say “enough” when it’s been too much,

and we do it without hesitation

because we know we have the right to say: Enough!

Enough ableist lies.

Enough ignorant remarks.

Enough pity loaded Amens.

Enough expectations of inspiration.

We do not owe you space

in our personal space

simply because we may not fit

your boring definition of normalcy.

 

Self-care, when we’re disabled, means

having to flourish in arid terrain,

in constant drought and constant doubt.

It means recognizing that our thorns

are part of who we are,

and while others expect us to die,

we become cactus, and the prickly pear

is the forbidden fruit we bear.

Paradise

in the desert of your fears.

 

Self-care means we sustain and support one another.

We lift each other up

knowing

that unless we do,

we WILL be forgotten.

We repeat this in our heads

over and over because otherwise, we, too, can forget.

Ableism is always lurking,

looking for a way in,

knocking on the door of our own identities,

trying to make us forget

that we have the right to be ourselves

in our personal liberation, in our definition of self

and whatever liberation means to us

as disabled people

with our own extensions

of, often, half-narrated sections

of truths we are still learning about ourselves

because being disabled is just one aspect of who we are.

 

This is true for everyone,

but when we’re disabled,

every other aspect of ourselves goes out the window

because, society’s tunnel vision of our disabled lives

only sees brokenness in the narrative of our stories.

 

Self-care means we re-tell our stories

until they get it right,

until our voices are heard,

and until the various parts of who we are

become evident to ourselves

and to those we negate our positive crip identity

and our capacity to love.

 

Self-care means being proud of our differences,

embracing our uniqueness,

celebrating our power,

knowing that while some are fighting

for the right to bear arms,

disabled people are still fighting

for the right to bear life,

for the right to exist, and the right to see ourselves

in future generations.

 

Self-care, when we’re disabled, means

fighting for the right to reproduce, the right to be a parent

without it being so apparent

how others hate the thought of that.

Self-care means ignoring the ableist lies

that tell us we can’t do it, ableist lies that attach shame

to the word disability taking away our ability

to nourish our self-esteem.

 

Self-care means

trying to find the time to rest

while the world thinks that

being disabled means that rest

is all we get all the time because we are broken,

and can’t work

or contribute, or find success as is it measured

by capitalism.

 

Self-care means learning to survive capitalism

through solidarity, and the sustainability of hope,

because it is only when we are there for one another

that somebody will be there for us

when the time comes for us to survive.

 

Those of us who have been there already know that.

We stand by the entrance of the temple

calling others to the table,

teaching the new ones

that they’re able to move on, to reach out,

to realize that the light is not out

although darkness is real.

 

Self-care is about survival.

When we’re disabled,

self-care is, always, about survival.

It’s about economic justice,

food justice,

sex justice,

social justice,

and making sure the movement

and the march doesn’t move on without us

because unless we are there to remind them, they will

move on

without us.

 

Self- care, when we’re disabled

is a nonstop advocacy ride,

and until we are no longer oppressed by ableism,

self-care will continue to be

just another definition

of privilege.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Few Cents On Inspiration Porn

Stella Young died young —probably too young to have realized the massive awareness she generated when she coined the term Inspiration Porn. It is in her memory that I take her concept of normie feel-good pity and turn it into a poetic rant.

 
Inspiration porn is

using our disabled stories

as a way to uplift yours, but doing so

by putting us down, and framing our struggles

into little happy pictures about overcoming our bodies

while you feel grateful you’re not us,

and say this to us

with an Amen or a God Bless You because your version of God

will justify your ableist crap,

and you expect us to accept one scrap of your charity

at a time, on your time when the time is convenient

to you, and you donate to your favorite charity,

one of the many that inspire, like, you think,

all cripples should.

Inspiration porn teaches you

that it is our job as disabled people

to make sure you feel blessed, lucky, and grateful

that you don’t have to live

our broken lives.

 

Inspiration porn is how disabled people are used.

We are forced to feed the broken conscience of those

who’d rather ignore us.

We are forced to share our scars,

our pain, our success, our art

through a voice of forced gratitude,

sending the message

that without your non-disabled help,

we are too pitifully crippled

to contribute anything,

to create

anything,

to dream up anything.

And that’s just some of the bull shit

crips are forced to believe.

 

We speak in words of constant gratitude.

We’ve convinced ourselves

that unless our experiences are validated by the normies,

our crip truths are not worth sharing.

Society is convinced

that disabled people are meant to be

a non-stop source of pity-rooted admiration.

 

Your interactions with us

are the hooks you throw

into the pond of our imprisoned desires –our desire for inclusion

our desire for equality,

our desire to break free and share

who we truly are.

You turn our hunger

into your chance

to feed your ego, build heaven brownie points, and become part

of the passive-aggressive oppression of disabled people.

We are not here to help you grow

at the expense of our own identity.

With are not here to help you accentuate your day

with that Amen or that Hallelujah

that celebrates the dismissal of our humanity.

Inspiration porn is when you can’t see humanity

in the disabled people you cage in institutions,

and seeing our oppression as a photo-op for your organization,

the chance to document our struggles as your success,

put a label on a file

that secures funding

to help empower the cripples who you think are nothing

without the good deeds caught on film.

Inspiration porn is your lack of shame when you do all this.

Inspiration porn is doing all this and thinking you’re doing us a favor

by offering us cookie-cutter models of inclusion,

and feed us an illusion of equality

while you praise your own kindness in public

in the name of the Lord.

Inspiration porn is when the only opportunity you give us

is the opportunity to be your prop —the token cripple

in your fake story of equality

where you get to claim full credit

for offering the appearance

that you give a shit.

 

Your shit sandwiches presented as caviar,

and, Jesus,

cripples bought them!

 

 

Invite Maria R. Palacios to speak at your next event.  Email her at palaciosmaria66@gmail.com

Growing up without a mother

 

You grew up without a mother
because I stole her from you.
I stole her by being disabled
although at no fault of mine,
she decided to dedicate her life
to the one child, she felt, needed her most,
kind of like the way Jesus
left the ninety-nine sheep
to go after that one
that got lost.
I guess I was
the lost
sheep,
(who eventually became
the black sheep
when I refused to conform
to ableist expectations
that pushed me to see myself
as broken) while being the reason
why you
grew up without a mother.

Your entire childhood
was scarred by separation
and every time we left,
your soul was broken, and you were left
feeling alone and abandoned
because although you were
in the care of “loving family,”
in the life of a child, nothing is more needed
than the presence of a mother
because a mother loves, and forgives
and understands,
and instead you were left
with a stern grandmother who was afraid
you would become a loose woman
because
of your rebellious ways.

You had a tough childhood.
I don’t think you ever recovered
from the last time we left
when we came to the United States
and never went back.
We stayed, but with the promise
of bringing you soon
—a promise that took ten years
to come true….ten years
that turned girls
into women
and childhood dreams
into the memories
of a painful past.

By the time I saw you again,
I was married
and in my mid-twenties
and as always, you still were
the outspoken one,
the one
with the balls
to do anything,
and even though years had come
between us,
the minute we saw each other again,
we connected
as if we had never been apart.

We connected, and laughed, and cried,
and tried to fill the hole that had been left empty
by separation,
by a decade of distance that had led us to become
the women we had become,
and although we were still young,
we knew
there was nothing we could do
to recover the lost time,
to re-live the childhood we lost,
to heal
the hole in your heart in the shape of a mother,
that sorrow that never went away
because to this day
the wounds of growing up feeling so alone
seem to have made themselves at home in you
and your persona.

My childhood was not easy either,
but I know
out of the three of us,
you
had it tougher
because no matter what physical pain I survived,
I always had the comfort and the love
of a mother by my side
—the mother that I took from you
because she,
like Jesus
wanted to save that one sheep
in this case,
the crippled one.
And I guess in so many ways she did
save me.
She saved me from growing up
in a culture that would have kept me hidden
and shamed ,
hidden and blamed
for differences I did not choose to have.
My mother, our beautiful mother,
made the ultimate sacrifice
when she chose to leave her two little girls behind
to save the one
whose life was the one in danger
—in danger of ignorance and oppression
in danger of being wasted and thrown away
by a society that refused to understand
that disabled kids still have a future.

Her leaving you
gave
so much to me. I owe
my freedom, my pride, my self-confidence
to the fact that I had a chance to blossom
in a community that was beginning to rise
with the notion of disability pride.
It was fertile soil and I was one of the seeds
that grew into the Crip Mother Tree
I have become.

I am sorry. I am so sorry
for those ten years you waited
while you imagined an American dream
like the ones you’d seen on TV…
the high-school life
and freedom you lacked.
—A dream you didn’t get to live
because by the time we came together again
your teen years had already passed,
and both of us
already had started living
some version
of being adults
a version that involved jobs
and life
beyond the childhood dreams we had
when we got separated.

We don’t really talk about that any more.
We have both grown into women and mothers,
and we both have
very different views
about, almost, everything.

In so many ways, we have grown apart,
but none of that matters
because in my heart,
I know that although there’s still a lot of pain,
and wounds that haven’t fully healed,
there is also immense love
and that
is what I hold on to,
and I hope that you do too.

Thank you
for being who you are.
Thank you
for your generous heart.
I hope one day you look back and realize
that although it might not have seemed like it,
you were always loved.
You were always wanted.

Some things
are hard to understand
until we become
mothers ourselves…only then
can we feel
the anguish and the pain
felt by just the thought of having to choose
to save one child.
We tell ourselves, we wouldn’t do it.
We tell ourselves, there have to be other ways.
But we know
it’s always easier said than done.
We don’t have the right to judge.
We never
have the right
to judge!
And one thing I know for sure,
is that the day will come,
whether we like it or not,
when we look in the inner mirror of ourselves
and, as women, we learn
we have become
our mother.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Maria R. Palacios

 

 

 

 

Invite Maria R. Palacios to speak at your next event.  Any of the posts found on this site can be made to fit the diversity needs of your classroom, cultural event, disability themed conference, immigrant issues and disability intersectionality awareness, and much more.  

palaciosmaria66@gmail.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phenomenal Cripple

 

(With love and respect of Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman)

 

Walking women wonder

where my secret lies.

I’m not able-bodied or built

with long legs that can dance,

but when I start to tell them, they go into a trance

when I say:

It’s the strength of my arms

and the spin of my wheels,

the curves of my spine

and the lies of my hips.

I’m a cripple, phenomenally.

Phenomenal cripple.

That’s me.

 

I roll into a room

with such elegant ease

that even total strangers

will drop down to their knees

to look me in the eye as I say:

It’s the sound of my voice

and the gleam in my eye,

the silk of my words

and my poems that glide.

I’m a cripple, phenomenally.

Phenomenal cripple.

That’s me.

 

Men have often wondered

what they find in me.

They try so hard

but cannot understand

my sexy inner crip.

When I try to tell them,

they claim to still not see.

I say

It’s the scar on my back,

and the warmth of my heart,

the bounce of my breasts

and the grace of my ride.

I’m a cripple, phenomenally.

Phenomenal cripple.

That’s me.

 

Now you understand

why I roll around so proud,

and go about my business

knowing what it’s all about.

When you see me passing,

I ought to say out lout:

There’s no click to my step.

There’s no step in my dance,

but the touch of my hand

and the spell in my eyes.

‘Cause I’m a cripple

phenomellay.

Phenomenal cripple.

That’s me.

 

 

 

Copyright Maria R. Palacios 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reasonable Accommodations

My disability
is an inconvenience
to you.
You don’t necessarily say that
but the fact that you offer me
“reasonable accommodations”
lets me know upfront
that my crippleness is a problem
you’d rather not have.
But you know
it’s one you have to face, or
at least try to pretend that you care
or that your company
welcomes
our kind.

You don’t want to be
on a cripple’s shit list
because in your own ridiculous superstitions
you probably believe it’s bad luck
to be mean to a disabled person
because God could punish you
and turn you into one.

So, whether out of fear of God or
fear of a law suit,
you make sure everybody knows
you believe in equality,
and you hire crips
who can represent well,
—the ones whose lives
are just like yours, except maybe
with a slight “defect” that doesn’t prevent them
from measuring up to the ableist expectations
that keep
those with significant disabilities from having a real chance
to offer what they have to give
as workers, as employees
as human beings.

As a disabled person,
a “reasonable accommodation”
translates into:
“We are willing to accommodate your needs
as long as your needs are not
an inconvenience
to us”.
Reasonable accommodation echoes
the misconception that crips’ needs are
special needs
instead of human rights.

That’s why I take offense
to how your offer of accommodations
comes with an opening clause
of self-protection, armed
with preconceived ideas
about what my needs are
even though
I am the only one
existing in my body.

And while there are things I may need
to be able to give
fully, to be able to work,
as long as my access needs are not going beyond
what you automatically get
through your able-bodied privilege,
I see no reason why
I’m the one
who has to be
reasonable.

 

Copyright 2018 by Maria R. Palacios

Almost born in Peru

My mother says she didn’t think we would live
(neither one of us)
when she was pregnant with me,
as she struggled to survive
in the jungles of Peru.

She had gotten married one day out of the blue
as a way to escape the memories
of a sad childhood,
and she ended up, instead,
living in poverty,
married to a man who was a mama’s boy,
an only son
and my mother was,
in his mother’s eyes
not good enough
for him.

So, my mother lived
with a mother in law from hell
who would rather feed the dog,
than feed her,
and nine months pregnant,
my mom weighed
ninety pounds,
and in her mind there was no doubt
we were both
going to die.
But we both lived.

We survived, probably because my mom,
almost delirious with fever,
walked by the river until she found a road,
and just as she was about to give up,
a car went by,
and she was able
to mail a letter to her mother
in which she said her goodbyes.

Just days later,
she was going into labor
when she opened her eyes
and saw her mother
standing by her side,
My mother says she thought she had died.
But it was true. My grandmother  was there
urging her to get up
because she was taking us home.
And my mom held on,
and prayed
more than anything that I
would not be born
in Peru
because having a Peruvian child
would have been my father’s pride
especially if I were a boy,
and she did not want to give him that.

And there I was…
a little baby girl
that barely weighed five pounds.
My mother says I looked
like a little bag of bones
and a pretty face.
She was just amazed
that we had both survived.
And we had.
And we did.

Throughout my life
my parents were
in and out
of a failed relationship.
My father seems to have been with us
only long enough to create three lives
and then disappear for years on end,
blaming my mother for everything,
but especially so
for me getting polio.

Having someone to blame
must have been his way
of washing his hands,
but then again….
who am I
to judge?

I only know what I was told
by his absence,
and by the story of how my grandmother
saved us …
and kept me
from being born
in Peru.

 

 

 

Copyright 2018 Maria R. Palacios

The Lie

 

You flirted with my younger sister,
I guess as a way of reminding me
there was no way
you could ever fall
for a disabled girl.
Deep down I knew that.
I had been taught to believe
romance was something reserved
for the able-bodied,
and so, even though
I was in love with you,
I never said anything,
never expected anything.
I simply loved you
in my poems
and in my diaries
–silent witnesses to the torture
of loving alone,
but that’s just the way
things used to be
for girls like me.

We were just expected to exist
and live sexless, loveless lives,
empty of romance…
empty of dreams.

I had been taught all this
and still, I secretly and quietly hoped
others were wrong.
I chose to embrace hope,
and in subtle ways, I started flirting…
a sexy smile here and there,
a wink, a hint of the normality
that wanted to burst free
from the stereotypes and the lies
that chained me.

I took a chance
by flirting with you.
I took a chance, I guess,
because I expected rejection
and although you had been flirting
with my sister,
you suddenly also started flirting
with me.

We were raised
in a strict household.
We were supposed to do nothing
without permission, and it really was a miracle
that a tall and handsome boy like you
was allowed to hang out with us.
Looking back I realize
you were probably not seen as a threat
because my sisters
were “too young” and I, well….
you know…
who could possibly be interested
in me?

So you were considered “safe”
and you were always around
after school and on weekends.
You became a happy part of our days,
and later
a happy memory.
That’s how I chose to remember you
although I think you also know
that’s not how the story ends.

I’m not sure why you did it….or
what possessed you
to do what you did to me….to lie
as if my feelings didn’t matter.
For years,
I didn’t think of you
and I suppose I must have
buried the pain,
the shame,
the memory of that day
when you came to me and said you loved me
and how you wanted
to talk to my mom
asking her for permission
for me to be to be your girl.
When I looked into your eyes,
I didn’t see your lies
maybe because I so desperately wanted
to believe you.
I so desperately wanted
your love to be true.
And when I asked if you were sure,
you said yes,
and made me promise to tell my mom
that you were coming to talk to her
because you really wanted
to make it official.

I still remember how it got dark while I waited
behind the wall to wall windows
of the living room.
A soft drizzle announced rain
and tears
as my worst fears came true.

It had taken everything out of me
to talk to my mom…it took
me confessing to her how lonely I had felt
and how finally a boy wanted me…
how happy I was and how you had been
the one insisting to talk to her.
I felt like such a fool
when you didn’t show up,
and even more of a fool
to learn you had played me for one
when the next time we saw each other,
you acted as if nothing happened…pretended …
that you had no clue
about why I was feeling so blue…
why I was feeling
so broken.
And I said nothing after that.
I let it go, and I guess somehow
managed to bury that memory
and move on…but then…
Facebook happened
and there you were
saying how much you have missed me
and how I had been
the love of your life.
Not a single apology.
Not a single word to explain
what happened back then
and why you had hurt me.

Instead, you turned things around
and talked about how hard your life has been
and how much love you need,
and anything else you might have said
because all I really heard was
Blah blah
Blah blah
Blah blah
Blah.

Life has a way
of giving us back
the pride we thought we lost.
I am not fourteen any more, my friend,
and I am not
broken.

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Maria R. Palacios

www. goddessonwheels.com

 

 

 

Daddy’s Little Girl

 

My dad wasn’t always in my life,
but when he was,
he was, to me,
the most interesting man in the world…
in my world
-a man whose intellect I admired,
and whose words became
the mirror where I wanted to see myself.
I wanted to be
a poet,
but I also wanted to be
one of his poems…
the flesh and blood of his pride and joy.
I wanted him to enjoy
having me as a daughter.
I wanted to be “daddy’s little girl”
and I wanted him to be
the “perfect dad.”
Don’t we all kids dream of that?
Don’t we all wish we had a perfect dad?
But that is a fantasy that dissolves
when we realize nobody’s perfect
-not even our parents who we trust with our lives,
or any of the people we idolized
in our youth.

And it should have hurt my feelings.
It should have broken my heart
when he came in one day
and picked up my sisters one by one
escorting them to the living room
where his friends gathered.
He was introducing his daughters
and he did not
come back
for me
because having a child with polio
was such a pity,
and he
was in the mood to brag.
I should have gotten angry with him.
I should have.
But didn’t.
I think maybe I projected the anger
toward my mom
who came in with hurt in her eyes
and carried me to the living room
loudly announcing me as their oldest daughter.
Her trembling voice tried to project pride,
and, I guess, that
is what infuriated me.
Her words felt like a lie
to me.

I preferred to believe
that my father’s invisible love
was a way of protecting me.
It was easier to believe that than to think
he was ashamed of me
and that I was never his princess
although he called me that.

I loved my dad.
I always have,
and always will.
But I know
his actions were
about protecting himself
from shame
instead of protecting
me.

I don’t talk to my dad much.
I know one day I’ll regret it.
I know one day he’ll be gone
and I’ll be left with all my words
hanging with a question mark
at the end of every memory.

Sometimes I think
about reaching out to my dad.
I want the indigenous roots of his words
to get tangled with mine
in a father/daughter dance
where our poems become
testimonials of forgiveness,
affirmations of eternal love
the way daughters wish our fathers could be
and how we construct them in our minds
in the absence of their love.

I wish
I could just pick up the phone
and call my dad,
and maybe one day I will…I think
I’m always afraid to have nothing to say
or end up having a conversation
that will make me regret calling him.
I guess I have become too much like him
in my inability to face some truths.

It’s easier to just caress the spine of his books
and keep inventing him as the dad
I wish he’d been
the same way he invented having two daughters
instead of three.

I said it didn’t hurt…
but I guess it did.
I guess
it did.

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Maria R. Palacios

 

 

 

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