if I’d just let someone carry me up the 4 steps. Easier
for chivalry to lift a body then watch my feet
scrape over the bricks, how my hands search
for the missing railing.

if her allergens would keep to themselves.
God forbid you have to be mindful
of dairy or cross contamination.
Of strobe lights or fragrance.
God forbid you ever worry
about the size and symbols
of a bathroom stall.

If only “helpfulness” would get your staring,
your slack-jawed excuses to quiet. At best,

it earns you my side eye; perhaps even
a verbal slap from the “community.”
At worst, the bar fight of my patience
against your ignorance. Why do you insist

you are an ally, when your best attempt is a sign
that says Don’t trip the artist. Remember she has trouble
getting back up, and we don’t want to be liable

for any type of seizure. Don’t feed the artist.
If she swells up and chokes, we couldn’t
call it stage fright. Wasn’t that creative?
How I didn’t even “out” them, how I glossed
up the shame.

NATALIE ILLUM is a poet, disability activist and singer living in Washington DC. She is a 2017 Jenny McKean Moore Poetry Fellow, as well as a non-fiction editor for The Deaf Poets Society Literary Journal. She is a founded board member of mothertongue, a women’s open mic that lasted 15 years. She competed on the National Poetry Slam circuit and is the 2013 Beltway Grand Slam Champion. Her work has appeared in various publications, and on NPR’s Snap Judgement. Natalie has an MFA from American University, and teaches workshops across the country. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter as @poetryrox.