Friday, July 25, 2008

For Shannon (Sept. 15, 1987 - June 30, 2008)

If we had run into each other on the street, we might not have remembered that we had met briefly, several times at poetry readings, slam competitions, local gatherings for emerging poets and young performers in Austin, TX.
If you had known her, you might be surprised that such a small woman, such a young woman could write with the intensity, beauty, and wisdom of someone who had known this planet many times. You might flinch when you heard her curse, spitting venom and sugar with equal parts grace and fearlessness. You'd be surprised to run into her again, randomly, on the street; later on you'd think to yourself, "Somehow, I remembered her being taller."
I did not know Shannon Leigh well. I just loved her work and admired her strength and her willingness as an artist to push up against the limits of what the world would have allowed her. A white girl spitting hip hop lyrics simply for the love of it; a tiny woman with a throaty, voice who refused to mutter in a world that rewards women for muttering in inarticulate, Minnie Mouse tones.
Her words moved me and now after hearing about her death, and the work that she has left behind, I am deeply grieved. How to end this post, when it feels there are not enough of the right words to honor this woman who built her life on words. When I heard Shannon read, when she shouted with no shame "Fuck me like my skin" in a crowded theater of slam fans, I thought to myself, "Now that's a woman who will say and write whatever the fuck she wants to, feelings and consequences be damned." I know that I have not always done this for myself; many of us don't. We long to write, feel it in our blood, and yet, when it comes time to put pen to page, whether it's a blank computer screen or our journals, we balk. I can't write that! I shouldn't even have thought it. Maybe I can soften it up. My mom's feelings would be so hurt...and so it goes.
I want to live my life, write, and move in this world however I want to, feelings and consequences be damned. There is no time to wait, for a better time, to avoid hurting feelings, for the sake of being nice. The world deserves all that we have to give, our most true and honest selves, while we are on this planet. I believe with all of my heart that Shannon Leigh walked this earth as her truest self, perhaps not perfect, but honest in all of her flaws and beauty. For that I thank her and wish her love and blessings as she crosses over to the other side. She's eternal now and making the heavens shake with her fierceness. Peace, Shannon. Thank you for everything.

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