Maria is a disability rights activist and artist. She acquired polio at a young age, and has been a wheelchair user most of her life.
In her moving poem titled Dancing in the Rain, Maria recalls her childhood years spent with her younger sister who Maria would often live through vicariously. Read Maria's words to be transported into her world.
Dancing in the Rain
When we were little girls,
you always were my
able-bodiedness by proxy
—the borrowed feet
and climbed, and did things I dreamed of doing
so I experienced them through you.
You were always
the adventurous one,
the one tough enough to try anything,
of my so called adventures, like
walking to the corner store
when you were eight years old
because I wanted us to start
a little store of our own
out of an old nightstand we had rescued.
And I have no clue
what possessed me to want to do this,
but I needed someone to run to the store
and buy loose cigarettes and candy,
which was all I could afford to get,
and would not have been possible
an able-bodied accomplice
willing to commit the crime.
And the crime was not
the purchase of cigarettes
because back then
kids were sold anything even alcohol
-no questions asked.
The real crime was
leaving the house without permission
jumping the fence to get out and come back in
because when we were left alone,
the front gate was locked
as an attempt to protect us girls
from opening the door to strangers
or whatever other dangers
real or imagined
we were forced to believe.
And for the most part, we did.
But even then, you were willing to bend
any story and break any rule
what I wanted.
You were my partner,
my partner in mischief…
in so many things.
And I remember you dancing in the rain
because I had asked if you would
wear a pretty nightgown and take off your shoes
to dance in the rain for me
and then come in and describe
You danced in the rain for me.
I told you to play Hava Nagila in your head
and imagine yourself dancing the way you did
in the living room when we listened to that album
we both loved,
and we weren’t even Jewish.
We just loved Hava Nagila
and I wondered if you could actually experience
You danced in the rain
while I watched from the window…
Your white camisole drenched with my dreams.
Your beautiful long hair
dripping wet, and your arms raised to the heavens
as if you were praying
while you danced.
How beautiful you were,
and how generous
to be willing to live the dreams
of your disabled sister,
and in your six year old words
you came in soaked
and described the magic of the rain,
the magic of the dance.
I knew then you had, indeed, lived
what I had imagined.
We both got in trouble that night
because the rain dance got you really sick,
-sick with a high fever and a cough
and that was enough
to never ask you again
to dance in the rain.
We took other risks instead
like walking to the store without permission
or stealing lotions and creams and inventing
experiments that led to nowhere
besides having to clean up messes
which I would supervise
and although most of the troublemaking
was caused by me,
you always took the blame
even when I wanted to come clean
and tell the truth.
I think in truth, you had simply learned to respond
to negative attention
because it made you feel
like you were getting attention
–something you always seemed to crave.
Something you always felt you lacked.
I guess in so many ways you had
every reason to feel neglected,
every reason to feel
You were the middle child,
sandwiched between a cripple
and the baby of the three
who was cute and quiet and too young to grasp
the dynamics that were
already part of the picture
in our lives.
The three of us grew up
and yet so far apart,
and although we’re adult women now,
with different views and different lives,
as sisters, we will always be there
for each other.
But you and I…
we share a special connection
because you were my
able-bodiedness by proxy,
my walking feet,
and the magic of dancing
in the rain.
Thank you to Maria Palacios for sharing her poetry with AbleThrive. Maria is a poet, author, spoken word performer, public speaker, professional presenter and workshop facilitator, polio survivor and disability rights activist, and a mother of two. Her work is spirited by her own woman experience and embraces and promotes self-acceptance, empowerment, and social justice surrounding people with disabilities, gender and sexuality, teen girls and women, and a wide spectrum of issues as they relate to diversity. Her hopeful message of pride is consistent throughout her raw and often sensual work. Known in the artistic world as The Goddess on Wheels, her multicultural background and passion for onstage performance have come to life through numerous events over the years.