Fives logo – a stylised number five

with Kay Ulanday Barrett

Something that makes you smile

  • Watching a teeny pudgy puppy fumble about and bumble on the sidewalk. They were still figuring out the mechanics of their body and I think I feel that way all the time, but it’s far less cute.
  • When you are simply commuting outside, carrying on your day, in a city or any place really, and you see two perceivably queer or trans non-binary people exchanging “the look.” The i clocked you, you are family. This code is a code I have great respect for coming from the midwest, where genders and cultural engagement may not have different consequences than big big cities. We have had to learn, especially People of Color, how to do an acknowledgment in public is a kindred sharing. It’s a smirk sometimes, or other moments maybe, it’s a casual compliment about something someone is wearing. Either way, it always feels to me like we are handing out gems to each other in the blandest of worlds. Sometimes knowing this happens is like food for me, knowing that we exchange these moments when all kinds of various bodies are supposed to be dust or ignored, here we are shucking compliments to each other and not competing, but making even the most minute attempt to witness someone.
  • Anytime I witness a new poem in a shaky set of hands at an open-mic or show I curate. There’s that understanding that we are watching someone on the precipice of a new thing, a creature that is just starting to breathe or just finding its way in sound and structure.
  • When I get the privilege of putting my toes in a body of water and be a part of some stillness. Not everybody can get access to bodies of water, sand isn’t the most accessible without pathways and getting to water if you have a mobility device of various kinds can be an ordeal whether you are considering an ocean or river.

A confession

  • I likely read queer comic/superhero fanfic as much as I read poetry or fiction. What I am saying is that it is a dedicated and significant amount. LOL.
  • I am really tired of discussing how ableism is all over. All over poetry. All over events. All over social justice spaces. Just embedded in the language we use. Everybody be radical in the poem, but not thoughtful about what bodies can get to where.

The last thing you wrote

gripping at a cavity of your chest turns into
don’t you dare cry in front of strangers

gripping at your larynx turns into
your mama didn’t cross oceans to waste all that saltwater

Your favourite city

Well. Here we are. I cannot choose. Chicago is my heart. New York City is my growth. San Fabian is my roots. There has to be a city that is accessible for me and my communities, I would choose that one. One without stairs, with curb cuts, with transportation that runs on time.

What you’d place in a time capsule

I am impressed at the possibility of someone finding something like this so far in the future. The earth is still habitable? Oh, okay, let’s go with that premise (what is hope?!). Question: Is this for my communities or descendants or for strangers? Who gets to receive this care package matters. I mean, if it’s all food people, I would leave favorite recipes. In general, I suppose: The smell of garlic and onions sautéed in a pan. Several bags of flamin’ hot cheetos (no shame), all my journals, my canes, pens, notebooks (lined & unlined). The first poem my mom and I wrote together in Tagalog. A DVD boxset of all the Studio Ghibli movies, a well seasoned cast iron skillet. Bottles of ginger tea tincture called salabat that works in harmony with Vicks Vapo Rub (props to the magical wonders of Vicks!), but can be its own shining star. Several photos of my friends and I, all Sick and Disabled Queer & Trans People of Color, because we exist or existed (Ha! Proof!). Any musical instrument or every Prince album, a suggested list of boring or hazardous things that humanity has done with its primary title being "Things to consider in order to survive." The taste of grilled kalbi, wrapped in white rice made just right, and the perfect bite of kimchi.

Kay Ulanday Barrett, aka @brownroundboi, is a poet, performer, and educator, navigating life as a disabled pilipinx amerikan transgender queer in the U.S. They are a 3x Pushcart Prize nominee and has received fellowships from Lambda Literary Review, VONA/Voices, The Home School, and Drunken Boat. Their contributions are found in Asian American Literary Review, PBS News Hour, NYLON, The Margins, Lambda Literary Review, RaceForward, Foglifter, The Deaf Poets Society, Poor Magazine, Fusion.net, Trans Bodies/Trans Selves, Winter Tangerine, Apogee, Entropy, Colorlines, Everyday Feminism, The Huffington Post, The Advocate, and Bitch Magazine. When The Chant Comes (Topside Heliotrope, 2016) is their first collection of poetry.