a choice

July 18th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

not to sensationalize your weight

but it did feel significant that you

were disappearing from the world

in a physical sense like how men

sometimes thin and sinew as they

age just raw muscle and hollow

bones worm-like ready to collapse

in the dirt

so that’s the prologue to the moment

when you let your hands fall from

whatever hopeless gesture you were

making your wrists as birds against

gravity saying what if my life

passes me by

which is the moment i return when i

think that you are actually the bravest

person i know because you looked into

the eyes of this parched existence and

said okay fine

and not to trigger any dysmorphia

but you have filled out since then

like your wrists have a bit of meat

on them i mean i don’t actually super

know what you look like right now

but i picture you dancing around

your apartment like a jackal lean

and wild and flashing teeth in the

sun

i tried to figure out the rhythm of her heart while she slept on my foot

August 24th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

my dog doesn’t like it when i listen to her heartbeat
i don’t really like it either i can’t quite place the rhythm it’s either
six beats one rest or four beats one rest or six / rest / four / rest
every rest i think she has died
i hold my hand to her heart to get the measure of something
and she slowly rolls away
maybe she thinks i will kill her maybe it’s simply a spot too tender
to touch

barely morning still dark
the space between inhale and exhale
i feel the wind between my cheeks
mouth full of summer leaving
song on the radio says isn’t it isn’t it
i find the tender heart of the present the space
between this suffering and that suffering
for one second it’s everything and then it’s gone and i can’t
quite get that beat down again

my dog looks up at me
getting dressed for the early shift all stretched out impossibly
taking up the whole bed she looks at me like stay
how is my look back i have to do these things to pay rent
she blinks slowly just stay
she doesn’t understand anything but the space between suffering i think

yes people are forever writing about what their dogs teach them
and this is my lesson she really is so good and not in the ways
i’ve selfishly shaped her here she is exploring each pocket of the porch
sniffing out bees and lizards and sitting among the flowers and chewing
the wood chips i painstakingly spread thick and wide she goes wherever
her heart takes her until basically until basically i step in

my heart is taking me somewhere somewhere pretty nice i think even though
i might just sleep with my coworker even though the fantasy of him is much
hotter than the reality and i might just have tea with my ex every week so she
can see me as good as healed as not the one who caused her all this pain even
though eventually i’ll cancel our standing plans closing the door yet
again when i feel better because that’s what i’m still getting unstuck from

my dog hates the car like hates it enough that the anti-anxiety meds i stuff in her
mouth just make her lay down not even sleep she pants her heart races
but ten minutes later we are in the woods twenty and we’re at the creek
twelve hours later we’re at the sea and she can spin like a maniac across the sand
never have i seen her bound for joy like when we get to the beach the creek
the forest but i wonder if the suffering is worth it for her
i wonder if dogs kill themselves ever like birds can pluck that one feather above
their heart that makes them bleed out
suddenly i’m wondering if that’s apocryphal

if there’s one chance i get to strip away suffering in this life
the only real chance i have is with my dog
so how am i doing with that and does it have anything to do with what i’ve
stripped away in my own?

i don’t know where we’re going and now i’m the one panting at the window
sticking my face in the breeze and then changing my mind it’s a little too much
we’re going a little too fast for all that and not fast enough how are we still
in this hellbox it’s been seven seconds hours lifetimes and when we arrive
it’s pretty spectacular i have to say even though it’s one space between breaths
one moment in a billion trillion moments where everything feels okay and
like maybe all the suffering was a different life or a dream or just a movie
i saw once and cried at and then we get back in the car even though i’m
screaming and shouting no and i
wonder how many more times can we do this
before it stops being worth it

 

 

for juniper

May 26th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

 

there once was a witch
who time-traveled with nothing but
two black cats in her small bag and
many names for every occasion

and they called her sister

her magic was born of blood dirt piss tears
her magic grew from the ground and rained from the sky
her magic wrote songs in the fire that burned themselves
deep into her flesh

sister she said
how does a cat mourn her brother
does she look through the glass and see him
slinking his way back through the garden
how does a cat mourn her brother
does she reach her maw into her food bowl
and take only half
sister how does a cat mourn her brother
or does she live with him still

the witch said brother how does a sister say goodbye
does she dig your grave with her fingernails
does she whisper your name to the setting sun
does she crawl through the night howling
or does she live with you still

brother she said i would claw my heart open to hold you again
to see you bathing sister under the achillea moon
to listen to you sing wild songs
to feel your magic once more

sisters he said you already know the bowels of grief
and you must not starve its hunger
feed it your heart your words your snot your tarot
feed it your song your ink your blood your breath
feed it until it can live alongside you
and wander with you through the forest
as your shadow

sister our paws will touch as i grow with
every rising and falling sun i will live with you
as your shadow in the light

sister in silence you will hear me
in the moonlight you will see me
in darkness you will feel me
as strong and wild as you are

there once was a witch and from her ribs
she conjured two cats as black as love
they called her sister in this life and the next

they say if you look closely into the thick summer dusk
you can see her walking through the garden
three shadows as one

 

 

understanding violence

November 7th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

the caribou calf call out
the wolves closing in
the mother
has calculated risk &
does not turn back
she understands violence.

calf’s small rubbery tongue
pleading
to the biting air
just as our throats are
gashes in fear

i do not want the wolves to go hungry
i do not want this caribou to die
they close in.

a friend watches with me &
says violence is simply change.

what does the calf think—
the wolf’s mouth wrapping around her back leg,
like my precious dog as she picks up a stick
to be thrown—resign? or greater fear?
does she know she is about to be eaten alive?

please, i pray to the wolf, who hears
nothing, kill her fast.

if we must all exist at the expense of another,
if life relies on the exchange of suffering
please let there be less of it.

i am just trying to understand violence
and why it is the mother of all life.

the pack does not close in fast enough
the calf gains ground, escapes.
luck, unluck: the wolves keep their hunger,
tomorrow another calf will call out
for nothing.

 

It’s the End* and Life Means Nothing

October 13th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

*It’s the end of the anthropocene at least. Humans. Most animals.

Let’s say we have ten more good years. Ten more years to swim in the ocean, to use cellphones, to drink tap water. Even that seems preposterous. The amount of carelessness, neglect, over-extraction, denial—the sheer amount of people in the world—if we make it ten more years, that would be truly astonishing.

No—not astonishing—it would be another decade of treading water in a riptide. Time will beat down the already suffering: the silenced, the ignored, the forgotten so the privileged few could have ten more years—maybe. Borders will continue to close. People will continue to be submerged in scarcity. We will work ceaselessly on all of the wrong things, selling our time to the endlessly churning machine of capitalism. Every physical, necessary resource will unravel. Every intangible, nebulous form of currency (time, digits in a bank account, data on a cloud), will take on a crushing weight.

Life—all life, since the beginning—is at the expense of life. Survival for one group means the peril of another. Some of us will fight this, as we fight this now. We will continue to fight borders and cages and walls and insist on the path of least suffering. It will always take longer. It will always take time and time and time to heal. It will always take less then a second to shatter. I don’t know if we are fighting against our true nature. I don’t know if there is some fundamental human state. I know transformation is always possible. I also know that violence is our ancestry and violence is our progeny.

Some of us—perhaps too few, always too few—will love fiercely and fight against oppression tirelessly, as we do now, as the world burns and drowns, as we hold up memories like negatives to the light, as we see a future beyond this one, one to fear and one to fight for. I will always wonder if freedom is truly possible on this plane, in these bodies. Freedom, for me, is the end of suffering. Not just the individual’s, which I do believe has a proximate possible form, but for all that sustains the individual. Freedom, true freedom at the expense of nothing—is to be unborn. But here we are: born, without our consent or consideration. Born into one body or another, one land or another, one time or another, all of which place us on a continuum of suffering.

So what then? We are, almost certainly, at the end of days, without a unified meaning or purpose. Now what?

Here’s where I find freedom because my path forward is clear. All that remains for me to do is this: lessen suffering. Less and less suffering. There is a ticking clock (although time is, you know, relative) and still so much pain. Animals that spend their cramped, butchered lives tortured and miserable. Humans that spend their whole lives in cages. Parents that tear their children into shreds because they were torn apart as children. People who are systematically disenfranchised and murdered by the state. And the rest that remains: to simultaneously lessen my own suffering, to heal all that I can, to stop the cycle of pain of my ancestors. To do all of this imperfectly: sometimes hastily, sometimes without full understanding of the consequences.

But this is what I can commit.

  1. To be my own parent, to be my own child.
  2. To love my parents, to talk to them, learn from them, share with them, to not shy away from their suffering.
  3. Same for my friends. Same for my community. Same for the world, for every life I can fit into my heart.
  4. To lessen my dependence on any product that causes animals or humans suffering, i.e. factory farms, exploited labor, deforestation.
  5. To experience wonder in all things. The history of all things, the life cycle, the specificity, the nuance, the connection.
  6. To be unafraid of money because, for my particular circumstances, I have access to enough. I am lucky. I am incredibly, undeservedly lucky. I can use this to uplift and care for others. This includes going to school for trauma healing therapy. Take out those loans. If the world ends in ten years, the joke’s on the bank.
  7. To write and create: processing information, experience so as not to get caught in it and dragged by it. To transform, envision and honor the subject matter.
  8. To adjust my learned discomfort, push beyond what I think I can do. For me, this primarily means pushing beyond any assumptions and socialization based on my race, gender and class; to ceaselessly fight for, envision, and build the liberation of all. To always share my resources even in the midst of scarcity. To always question my feelings of deserving and righteousness for they often are born of ego and fear. And to always strive to give away as much as I receive for there is no reason to build an individual material legacy. This is the end.
  9. To pursue any small or great desire I have because why not. My entire universe of experience will die with me. And there is so little time left.

So why not:

  1. Get as close as I can to a whale, a blue whale, to touch her, to swim alongside her.
  2. Self-publish whatever I want.
  3. Live by the ocean, close enough to walk to.
  4. Foster children, always have a rescue dog, always have a home that I can share with those that need it.
  5. Eat pastries.
  6. Go to Lebanon, Morocco, Madagascar, Botswana, Hawaii, Japan.
  7. Spend time in boats, canoes, pirogues.
  8. Visit parks, gardens, waterfalls, canyons, caves, forests.
  9. Read everything.
  10. Watch TV because whatever it’s good and I love it.
  11. Continue to watch the same movies over and over.
  12. Listen to more Beyoncé.
  13. Dress in drag.
  14. Go everywhere possible with Hen.

 

despite

September 2nd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

when i was a child

my father told me marilyn monroe was beautiful

despite a small brown circle above her lip

 

when i was older

my father showed me pictures of the women he went on dates with

thick cakes of make up

dyed and thinning blonde hair

 

my father told me stories of the women he went on dates with:

vain cruel insecure

 

when i was a child

we had many large photographs of marilyn monroe

including one above the couch

where i sat beneath her

where his dates sat beneath her

we became a thumb

caught in the frame

 

people ask: was she really even that beautiful?

people ask: or did [they] decide who was beautiful and who was not?

 

people say: [someone else] is much more beautiful

 

i have no interest in individual beauty

either everyone is beautiful or no one is

beauty is so often cruel

beauty is always cruel

 

i hope i am beautiful

i look in the mirror and i don’t see it

i see a thumb caught in the frame

 

i say i love myself and the despite gets swallowed

despite: hair

despite: nose

despite: skin

[she was beautiful despite]

 

my father wrote a book on empowering women

my father came from a shattered cruel woman

thick cakes of make up

dyed and thinning blonde hair

 

i hope i am beautiful one day

one day i hope to look in the mirror

and see the ocean instead

 

one day i will look in the mirror and see

something big and beautiful

and cruel

 

137 Second Ave (and Riddle Way), Manasquan, NJ 732-223-2976

December 10th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


1.

I don’t pay attention to the roads but I still know the way. It is my own map I follow: leave Thursday evening, as the sun sets. Pack the car quickly, bring no snacks, no coffee. Sit in the front seat and watch the whole world slide beneath me, listen for the click-click, click-click as the tires find the bridge with metal stripes. Repeat the names of the towns I pass through, say them with love and wonder, each one is a gift, bringing me closer to where I’m heading. Perth Amboy. South Amboy. Red Bank, Little Silver, Long Branch. Asbury Park. Belmar. Say them like a poem, as if their proximity and placement has meaning, has design. Say their names over and over, each one a bead to pass through my fingers. When you see the budweiser warehouse, make a right and sit up in my seat because we’re close. Let the orange lights pass over my face, a fiery bird reflected in the water. Take a left after the bridge, and another left at how loud my heart is. And there it is, and there it is. What do you say to me? Every single time, what do you say to me?

You’re safe now. This is where you’ll be safe.

2.

I’m talking about the house and the house is you. You are where I return to in my mind. I picture myself at the kitchen sink, washing dishes, overhearing the neighbors discussing the parties they will go to. Their voices float in and mean nothing. Their voices, the faucet running, the flag hitting the pole: these are your silence. After I finish the dishes, I lay down on the couch. There are two couches mirroring each other, pistachio and sinking. I picture myself lying down on the couch against the wall, watching the street through the screen door. People are walking to the beach, the soft siren of their voices are part of the silence too, the metal beach chairs scraping the concrete, the rub of a float against skin. Lying here on this couch, in the sounds of silence, I could be here forever. Every time I return to you in memory I lose you: something on the wall fades away, the feeling of the wood floor under my feet is disappearing.

3.

Your smells are small noises and you are music with them. The wet wood of the outdoor shower, the heat of the garden, the lavender, the hose, the wicker, the carpet. The stale smell of linen in the lofts and the smell of the ocean breeze through the open window. I walk through you and each room’s smell tells a story. Here we sleep late: the mustiness, the only room with air-conditioning, the painted wood, the glued plastic fruit to the dresser. Here we tell secrets: storage behind a tropical print curtain, an open window to the roof, and when I’m older, the smell of sex with strange friends under blankets. Here we dream: the moon, the sun, the stars falling all over the walls, the tin tea set, the warm sterile smell of the stereo. Even now, when I catch those same smells in different places—a Tennessee creek, a thick honeysuckle rain—the whole song plays and the song is you.

4.

All I have of your body now is what I’ve collected of you in pieces, in every shell and sea glass, in every corner of sand. I’ve salvaged you, in photographs, in paintings that once hung on your walls, bedsheets that once covered you, in all of the blue I’ve found, I’ve salvaged you. I gather and gather them closer because the thinking is this: if I press them to my life, to my skin hard enough I will become you. I will lose shape and become you: salt, wood, water, memory. Because without you, I am unknowable.

5.

I am not one for loving walls. I am not one for loving fences. But this is how you were born. And this is how the story goes: there was once a tree that spit and now it is the porch. There was once a spitting tree here, next to the outdoor shower, you see: this stump here, a stump to hang the hose on, to shave our young legs on. You were born as walls and fences and doors and windows, to run my fingers along, to climb out of, to lift up and push through. And how do I build you now? Words are not walls. Memories bleed and disappear.

6.

This is how I come home to you: I step into the bright light at the back of my mind. Every time I return to the kitchen window and I become your silence. No, I think it’s too short this way. I go back further. To the train, the smell of the leather seats. The train is surrendering me to you. Here I recite the names until I get to yours, I walk down Main Street, past the canal we named Lagoon. At Second Ave, I make a left. The ocean wraps itself inside of me, I carry the whole of it. Cross Riddle Way, along the sidewalk I am convinced is stained brown from a rumor I once heard. Then I reach you. Here you are: a small grey house, with puzzle-piece shutters, blue trim (the same color I will paint my room, much later, to crawl inside of you again). I go around back and find the key on top of the windchime. I remove the glass of porch screens because the ocean is large and we must invite all of it in. Open the back door: my mother is not here but she is in every inch of you. Since she was twenty, she has been building you, painting you in every color and design, no part of you has gone untouched. Love is painting everything you have. Painting the bathroom to look like a jungle, painting the cabinet to look like the world, the brick walls painted white. The moon is painted outside the wall of my parents room. The wall falls away, it is a lake, the moon over a lake and looking at the moon and the lake through ferns, a fake palm tree that she has place in front of the lake and the moon and the ferns. There is a lizard painted on the floor, running from the kitchen, and a spider creeping toward the back door. A painted bear and a tiger playing a horn, the tiger forever playing a horn, the bear reaching up its tongue to taste the music. On the driftwood wall of the outdoor shower, two turquoise seagulls flying over forever with R + D above their wings. I have given a home to those seagulls on the knuckle of my thumb. Because eventually the paint peeled away. I remember peeling the paint away. My parents divorced and I made a home for the seagulls in ink on my thumb. It is my favorite tattoo because it is a call to you.

8.

Twenty-eight years of me have been opening your doors. The train door the car door the front door the porch door the shower door the cabinet door the bedroom door the shutter door the shed door the screen door the front door. My memory of you is a door, that’s all it is.


gender thoughts

July 27th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

 

i feel sad re: gender today. i am reading the fire been here by venus di’khadijah selenite. she writes powerfully and beautiful and honestly. it is making me think a lot about recently coming out as agender to a few close friends and my mom.

i feel sad re: my gender, that it took me so long to realize that it wasn’t the gender assigned to me. i feel sad that i can’t be seen in the way i am. i also feel angry that most people will assume i am a woman. i want to do drastic things to confuse people, to give them reason to doubt their assumptions.

i also feel sad that i am likely returning this same harm to the people around me because gender assumptions happen instantaneously. it is unfair of me to assume anyone’s gender and yet my mind also tells me when i am safe and when i am not. i am not safe around many cismen. so i am caught in that.

when i first discovered that i am agender, i was so excited and relieved. and i still feel that excitement and relief. but i also feel sad today. i feel sad that it took me this long to figure it out and i am also realizing that this identity requires a lot of fight to claim space. meanwhile my sabotage-brain tells me that i am being dramatic, this isn’t a real thing, you don’t have any right to this space.

that’s it for now.

 

 

i write and i write and i write and this is barely what i am trying to say

July 23rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

 

i am trying to say that we did nothing to deserve what we have.

i am trying to say that there is nothing to protect except fear.

i am trying to say that this is ending very badly.

 

 

and the moon is you

May 29th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

 
to hide and reveal, to cover the moon with
a dime. to tuck, and conceal.

think: ragdoll
think: flesh and clothes
red nails and testosterone

you’re the ghost of a dream
more moon than a set sun

and soon: bound, twisting
in satellite.

zoom out: a steady glow
beat to a summer’s night.

 

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