14 ways of looking at New York

  1. Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year. Fall is New York’s very best season. Let me always visit New York in the fall.
  2. There are so few dogs in New York City. This makes me inexplicably sad.
  3. I can’t write about New York without talking about New York as an ex-lover, as a former sanctuary that now is only causes pain when I think about it.
    a) It is easier for me to be in a relationship with NYC when I’m alone. My favorite times here were wandering the city alone, engaging, observing; the smells, the energy, when my attention is really devoted to the city. Maybe I am monogamous with cities. Maybe I should live in a city that has no soul such that I can have richer human connection.
    b) Sometimes it feels like NYC is the root of all of my bad decisions, all of the ghosts that haunt me.
    c) … Something as of yet unarticulatable.

  4. I ache for the past, but I don’t miss the drama.
  5. I miss New York City. I could live here. Could I live here? It’s not as scary as I remember. Except the fear, destruction, dysfunction are lurking under the surface, I know they are.
  6. And then I walk around a corner and the entire wall of some high-end sunglasses store is a motherfucking SHARK that is about to attack and I will never survive here. And I can’t even take a picture because your phone is dead and this wouldn’t translate.
  7. The bar for what behavior is “crazy” seems so much lower. “Well, that dog [on the subway] looks well fed, even if it is wearing a superman halloween costume (though it’s well past halloween) and has a pacifier around it’s neck. That homeless woman muttering to herself whom it’s attached to probably treats it okay.”
  8. The cliche of it all. Cabs honking in Times Square, traffic stopped in the intersection as the light changes. A thick male Jersey accent yells: “Shaaaat Aaaap! Knaaak it aaaff!” And everyone around me laughs. “That was perfect!” a woman with a Long Island accent next to me quips.
  9. I think I should only go to musicals alone. They make me cry and cry and cry. They are always, always worth the money. I never regret it.
  10. When the exit is at the opposite end of the train platform, I feel like an amateur.
  11. When someone passes me, walking faster than I am, on the subway platform or sidewalk, I feel like an amateur.
  12. I love New York. I’m not sure I realized it.
  13. I hate New York. I could never afford to live here again.
  14. Maybe if I lived here again, I wouldn’t be trying to figure out all those things I figured out the first time: gender orientation butch/femme lust/longing how to fight how to fuck how to heal how to survive. Maybe the next time I’ll have a vision for how NY and I could collaborate, and I wouldn’t become this hollowed out version of myself, waiting for a strong wind to blow down the Hudson and reanimate me.

Vortex Poem, Or: What I learned these last 15 years of studying embodiment

Most of the time, my body has the answer. My own body, this vessel, this corporeal flesh with pulses and nerves and bone, these muscles that move me around and enable me to jump and reach and grasp and squat and pump. This unexplainable, inimitable machine that lets me experience the world through my senses, that gives my brain input about taste and smell and texture.

I’ve learned that there are many more senses than the five we tend to focus on: taste touch smell sight sound. There’s also thermoception, the ability to tell temperature. And magnetoception to sense the magnetic fields around us. And nociception—how our bodies sense pain.

If I can just find silence deep enough so that I can listen to what the synapses and blood cells are saying, I have found that my body has the answer. Sit still, she sometimes whispers to me. Or, Get up and move and move and move. Don’t stop. Keep going. Or, Goddamn, you need more root vegetables in your mouth. Make it happen.

The process of transformation is so minute, and so slow. I want it on a time-lapse like an bud opening into a huge white lily and then wilting to drip pollen all over the table. Maybe then we’d actually see how the light inside starts to seep through all the cracks, we’d see the ways that lightening strikes the same place over and over. Maybe it would make me laugh and laugh. Maybe I would feel that itch in my bones like when I am too tired to sleep but my body is overspun and needs dreams to recharge.

So I don’t really know how to explain to you what happened when I went into my first 3-day long weekend workshop when I was twenty, and how that paved a way to the path I’m on right now. I don’t know how to explain how hard it was to save $300 from my $60-week personal assistant job that usually covered my groceries but barely, and that I saved it anyway, and saved up every year after that, to make sure that I got to go back to that space. That space where there were women of all ages (these were all-women’s workshops, before there were queer options offered) took their clothes off and talked about their relationships to their bodies, the trauma and pleasure and amazing things that they have done, like birth and nurse babies, or how they create transcendent orgasmic experiences. I found a circle of women, and while I dabbled in studying wicca and feminism, and I knew hypothetically intellectually the power of women’s circles, I hadn’t actually experienced them until then.

And now I still go back. I crave the clarity that comes in circle, that feeling like I am sitting on top of a volcano and it is filling me from the bottom up, spilling out of the crown of my head and I am part of all that is. I crave the power that is generated by a group—so different and impossible to recreate when alone. We have so much energy in our bodies, so much power and potential that only needs the right outlet to plug into so it can be released, so it can be used to light up an entire city block.

I don’t just go back, though—now I spend a significant amount of my time studying how these circles work and how to lead and how to create the circumstance where the container of the circle is strong. I don’t just show up as a facilitator or an assistant, I create it for days before and close it for days after, spending time in meditation and in masturbation gathering and cultivating my own energy to try to form some temple out of thin air.

Maybe it’s hard to believe, from this point of view, but I have not always been able to ask for what I want. I have not always been able to take and allow and accept and give and receive in the beautiful ways that felt soul-nourishing like diving into the perfect clear mountain lake with shiny colorful soft pebbles at the bottom. At first it was just murky cloudy water, grey like the color of a sky when it can’t decide whether or not to rain. But everything got clearer as my connection to my body got stronger. I can feel more, I can tell what I want, I can tell when I’m hungry or when I’m thirsty, I can tell when I need touch and what kind of touch would be the most satisfying, I can tell when my arms get thick and my shoulders get tight that I just want to bust out my flogger and wail on someone for as long as they’ll let me. I can tell when I crave piercing skin or sliding in slow or being filled as thick and swollen as I can take.

The transformation, that’s the part that’s hard to put my finger on. I can tell you about the before and after, though. I can tell you how scary it used to be to tell a lover that I wanted something else, more, different, in bed. I remember listening to women in workshops talk about what they wanted and who they were and their growing edges, and I wanted what they had, I wanted to be that, to know what they knew. I didn’t know how to become someone who knew what I wanted, but I saw the next stone, the next step in the path, the next light down the way, and I followed and listened and followed, and when a sign post came up that said, Pssst, something useful is down that way, I took it seriously. I invested time and money and energy. I carved out the space, because I needed it, I needed a new way to be me in the world, a way that was less apologetic and desperate, that was more whole and holy and aligned and attuned.

Maybe that’s what I wanted most of all: the state of being so attuned to someone else that I’d feel psychic, or transparent, like all my thoughts were swirling around me in some sort of deconstructed vortex poem. That kind of physical attunement when our cells know each other, where our pulses swell and release at the same rhythm, where our blood pressure matches because we spent so much time with our hearts pumping next to each other. And I wanted that skill, that ability to dive so deep into someone else’s body.

I wanted to learn trust my body to tell me secrets like a conch shell. It’s not like that’s ever done, check, figured it out, it’s more like a work in progress, a pathway I strengthen every day. But at least now, I know what it is, what it possibly could be.

“I wish I could show you … the astonishing light of your own being.”

astonishing

I read so many things about queer folks and trans folks and genderqueer folks about dating and sex and how the person you love doesn’t love you anymore and how you really want the new binder or surgery or just ran out of your HRT dose or how your heart is breaking or how fucking good your sex was last night or how lucky you are to be in love or how hard long distance relationships are or how abusive M/s and D/s can be or how much you crave something other than what you have or how you’re being overlooked for some good thing yet again. Every day I read the internet, read read read the internet, my Tumblr feed full of college students and poets and dirty pictures, my Facebook feed full of my most favorite people in the world and at least 2,000 people I’ve only met once and had some sort of desire to connect with deeper, I read Twitter and all of your briefest of thoughts about what’s going on in the world.

(I don’t read RSS anymore. Do you? It seems the overabundance of social media has replaced following specific blogs and reading everything they write. I am much more inclined to see what link ten of my friends has shared and click through to read that article, regardless of the source. We are in the internet age of the group blog, where things go viral, where good writing has so little place on blogging platforms but rather blogs are built with bullet-pointed bolded subheading lists, bite-sized revelations we can easily quote. Little nuggets of truth and wisdom. I don’t know what to do with my “real” writing in the online blog world that only values (virals) those. And see, I do it too, only listing my bite-sized social media readings, not any significant articles. So interesting, how morning habits evolve.)

I think about you, my people, my tribe, my lineage, my students, my friends, my lovers, all the time. I read through what you’re saying and I want to sit down with you, I want to say: Hello, how are you. What’s going on for you today? How is your heart? Are you going to make it to the next holiday, your next birthday, with more dove-grace and courage than the last one? Are you building anew the ways to remake yourself? Are you gathering tools so this world doesn’t crush you?

I guess I am. Sometimes I think that’s all I ever do. And while it’s you I am reading, your words and thoughts and heartaches between the lines, your hard-ons and dripping soaking through pleasures, your mouths open yawning gaping hungry, your words screaming hoping for someone to listen, really it is that inner kid of mine that I am looking for, listening for, my fourteen year old self who was shattered by the process of coming into an adulthood with no models, no context, for what I was becoming.

So I read all of you, but really I am listening for the ghost of her, and I see her everywhere.

All that is to say that when I read your words, this Hafiz quote always comes to my mind: “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”

I wish there was some way I could show you the astonishing light of your own being. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish I could show myself that, too, on my bad days, on the days when I am betrayed or betrayer and struggle to live with what I know I’ve done. It’s all projection, you’re all mirrors for what I am trying to tell myself, I know that. And I know the struggles. I know it’s not that easy. I feel it too. I straddle the worlds and some mornings cannot get out of bed for the softness of the sheets and the purring cat and the empty space next to me. I am no stranger to having one’s chemistry betray one’s ambition, I know how it feels for one’s body to be the thing standing in the way of everything else.

But still: there is light. I know there is. (There has to be.)

And when I can see it … oh, it is, it truly is nothing but astonishing.

Where I Come From

1.
mother of northern lights
magic beacons that dance across
the sky. me, four years old,
eight years old, nine ten eleven,
fourteen and bleary and in
the middle of some intense
dream-panic about my grown
future how will I ever
what would it mean
I don’t understand how
sheets pulled back, boots
thrust into my hands
before I can even
understand that I am now
awake, she says look
up. look at the sky

2.
mother of tidepools
she was the one who taught me
to overturn the flattest, widest
rocks to see what was underneath.
always a world, a tube worm
that makes a home grain by
grain of sand, a limpet
like a little hat, a barnacle,
a blenny. there are as many names
for sand hoppers as there are
hoppers themselves. starfish
like the deeper waters—sun stars,
count the legs, brittle stars,
delicate as their name. and
katy chitons, elusive like
the popular girl who never comes
to my birthday party, but
every once in a while if you
look hard enough, she’s looking
back.

3.
mother of temperate rainforest
mother of goat’s beard
mother of sitka spruce
mother of western hemlock
mother of nurse logs, nurturing seedlings
mother of douglas fir
mother of where christmas trees come from
mother of sensible rain boots and mud
mother of old growth
mother of conifers
mother of a canopy
mother of black bears
mother of glacial erratics
mother of muskeg
mother of karst
mother of the roadless expanse
mother of the tongass

4.
mother of fields of wildflowers
chocolate lily and fireweed
wild iris and lupine
dogwood and buttercup
bleeding heart and tiger lily
fiddlehead and wild chive
columbine and beach pea
cow parsnip and cotton grass
dandelion and forget me not
foxglove and parnassus
queen ann’s lace
fern leaf gold thread
shooting star
yarrow

5.
mother of hiding
attention brought too many
coat hangers. too much rage-filled skin
downslope river was barely comfort
when attention stretched icy hands
to find where you had tucked yourself.

it was better to be invisible

6.
mother of owl pellets
baked for hours in the oven
until they are so dry they fall
open to reveal bones of shrews
who once ran away from their
mothers in the middle of
the night with only the full
moon guide through the forest

7.
mother of music
of harmonies and guitar
every morning, NPR
from the alarm still playing
for the snake or the dishes
when she leaves the house
hands too small for guitar,
so she picked up the mandolin
in another version where she
was not so terrified of the energy
that comes from attention
she would have been a back-up singer,
on tour with the big boys,
caretaking and harmonizing
until coming back home
listening to pacific ocean
waves for hours, lapping
away at mountains

8.
mother of the first day of school
lunches and lunches
and lunches and lunches
long past when I was left
to fend for myself for
all the other meals. always
meeting my teachers, always
saying, I don’t care about
the grades, as long as you’re
doing your best. “best”
is often way more than
what I wanted to do, but
was always what I wished
I was doing.

9.
mother of bats
two. stored in her freezer
and they tour annually
to the classrooms of the
elementary schools, look
this is a bat’s wing, this
is how big its skull is.
don’t dig too deep in there
for the orange juice, she warns.
you don’t want to unwrap something
by accident. a creature too
hard to bury when the ground is
frozen, waiting for the spring
for a proper grave. but the bats
are special, because if
reincarnation is real (and
she thinks it is just as
possible as it is not possible),
she wants to come back as a
fruit bat, the only
vegetarian mammal who flies.

10.
mother of snakes
on the new york city subway,
she pinches her fingertip
like she has a hangnail,
but it’s a snake tooth,
embedded. edwina the snake
bit me, she says, and
pulls back the sticky
plastic case of her ipod,
carefully places the tooth,
and pulls the cover back
over it.

11.
mother of the flume
long and flat and as babies,
one of us was always losing
something over the side.
ravines and mudslides
when the winter runoff
started to thaw. only
two boards wide
when I was a kid, when
gym class assigned a
round-trip run, too bad
if you don’t make it back
before the lunch bell,
you’ll just be late.
twenty years ago they
added two more, and
railings. she still
goes up there every day,
with her camera and
her baseball hat,
running up the mountain.

12.
mother of pebbles
we could sit for hours
listening to the waves
coming in, the occasional
boat or car speeding by,
not even shifting from
that one spot, and still
our hands never ran out
of rocks to sift through.
smoothest baby mountains,
worried away by the sea.
everything crumbles.
she likes the egg-shapes,
I like the flat ones
that fit in my palm
my pocket, the perfect place
for my thumb when I need some
ground. she says it’s because
there is no earth in my
astrological chart. I think
I like to have something
to do with my hands. she’s
always wanted the perfect
quartz all-white egg shape,
just less than palm size,
with one black stripe.
she’s still looking.

IMG_1393

What It Means To Love You

Good morning, boy

An adventure for which I
have been preparing, long before
we met. A practice in honesty
with myself and others. A crow
bar opening my ribcage wider
than I thought it’d go. A pill I swallow
to make all the colors brighter.
A zipline I can’t let go of for fear
of plummeting back to where
I’ve already been. A breakfast
in bed, lazy, perfect on a weekend.
A heartbeat to which I can count out
a 4/4 rhythm and always
carry a bass line. A harmony.
A tune I can almost make out of
a song I know so well but can’t
quite remember. A return to
myself. An exercise in becoming
supernova without exploding.
A crazy idea that just might work.
An adoration. A prayer with my whole
body, starting at my lips. A midnight
candlelight canopy garden of treasure.
A menagerie custom made for me.
A secret I hesitate to share because
I want to cherish it enough for the
whole world. A promise, but I’m not
yet sure for what. An anchor in my
marrow. A pen full of ink and not
enough paper. The slick oil of finger-
prints on glass. A smooth river stone
large enough to balance on one
foot. Lit birthday candles that won’t
blow out. A hike into the shady forest
with a picnic and a fairy tale. Your skin
shined with sweat. A relief. A tribute.
An ache that fills me more than any
ache should. A symphony of leaves.
A choir of hiding places. A quilt from
old tee shirts. Look, that’s from my
first concert. You saw that same tour,
but we didn’t know yet
what that meant, either.

Treehouse Poem

soundtrack for this poem

Once upon a time there was a boy who lived in sunny states like California and Texas and his beating heart of leather and gold, so big he had to be a lover with dimples and a dog. He liked berries heavy and ripe on the vine in the spring, bursting juice in his mouth. He liked to remember the shape of faces, hands, with his pen. He liked to feel the edges of his body thrown up against something solid.

Meanwhile, there was a poet who lived in northern states of Alaska and New York and their pine treehouse of aching fists. They were bursting open with gift and overspilling with a fountain of voice. They liked bergamot and the boy’s skin and tall mountains and sandwiches and smooth flat beach stones and getting fucked by the planet.

Their gravity together is undeniable. They make fingerpaintings of their inner visions on each other’s insoles, on each other’s tongues. They try on their places, their callings, in the haven of hotel room walls. Their pulses become synched.

On days in the north like this where the birds are flocking and the sky is clear, on days where the boy’s car is clean and ready for the yellow dotted line and return, there is little more than a single pane of glass between them. An arbitrary distance of separation, because the moonbeam pulled like taffy stretched between their chests keeps them imperceptibly drawn to the other’s orbital motion. The string between them keeps them ready to snap like rubber bands, ready to pounce like predators, ready to take their leather and gold hearts and suspend them on a chain to hang from the ceiling of their treehouse. They pull the ladder up and take it apart to use the rope, but put it back together anytime they needed kale or whiskey or tacos. Their bed is scraps of paper and scattered recordings of bliss and scars.

Happily ever after is many, many moments, strung together in lines of text and pressed leaves and sketches, and worn like a crown.

The Beautiful Permission

The grass under our feet (as much as

your dimples) was responsible for offering

sacrifice, so we could slide smile, court

coy glances, and balance tenacity over



roots, rocks, sloping curves. We circled

each other, noticing, observing, that way

we do. Negotiation peeled off slowly

from my heartbeat heist as a ripe



cream moon cracked open dark. You

whispered, whimpered; my pen tore

through slick paper as soon as it could,

desperate for the inky release. How



could I know your upturned mouth

and skin would split open in me

such grace, such monstrous want,

such a taste for marrow? I keep



my own hungers in check, for fear

I will devour too much, open too wide

overstep, explode—myself or others.

What could happen, you asked. What



would you do? If only I had the beautiful

permission, perhaps I would find out.

Perhaps I will, when your heart is placed

under mine, under a bursting sky, again.

Why A Wrestler Will Beat A Boxer Every Time

Because my instinct is to punch

to keep arm’s length

while yours is to hug close

which for a boxer means safety

and for a wrestler means takedown.

I have no technique for body

slams, no low center of gravity,

my strength is my arms shoulders

wrists knuckles, my strength in my

fearless slams against a wall. See—

even there—I am too careful

with my skeleton to have ever sought

a singlet, a blue plastic mat, and

I use walls instead, ropes, gloves.

But I let you tackle me, buck-eyed

in Santa Monica ferris wheel lights

in front of the crash of ocean that

slowly, slowly laps away stone

mountains, even though the first

sideways takedown whiplashed

my neck and I never learned

how to fall, because somehow

I knew how you’d hold me

against your heart

(after the fourth time)

and how I’d let you.

How things start to melt open

After the poem “The Last Time I Slept in This Bed” by Sara Peters

If you’ve ever ripped apart your own body
in order to find the missing sugar cubes
you are certain you once stored
in your throat, you know what it feels like
to stay too long in a bed that no longer
comforts and enshrines you in a velvet
black sleep, allowing your individual
download and collective restart.

Once you find the point of entry,
pray it open until it is a gaping maw,
a cavern as wide as the world, that could
fit all of your broken hearts in just
one glimmer of rainbow. A silver needle
can stitch that right up. Every scar
on the right side of your body, every
stretch mark on your left. You have
no reason to stay, unless you are
secretly tied to the moon and unable
to stop her shine from creeping
toward your wrists when the velvet curls.

It is not an original practice to wallow
in grief, to become stuck thigh-deep
in tar wearing cement boots. Don’t
smash your own feet with sledgehammers
to move on. Maybe instead just insert
the tip of the parasol, let it sink
until you can work it deep
under the surface of all that has you
held back, and open it. You can use it
as the easiest magic carpet. You can bet
that spring will come as the world turns,
as she always has, for the entirety
of this planet’s thoroughest days.

Your Body Remembers

Your body remembers
how to split open a peach
on the seam
with your teeth. With
your determination
and another slice of whiskey.
Cleaved palm heart
like a matricide, nothing
the silence and side-eye
can ever overcome. Ever
is a long time. More
like to be for now,
as the universe spins
her giant eye
of centrifugal force
like a tilt-a-whirl. None
of us fall off. None
of us split open
until we are forced
to. For some reason
we value our innocence,
our intact virginity.
But there is a method
of pottery mending
that fills all cracks
and breaks and repairs
with solid gold
,
and proves then
that by breaking a thing,
one makes it even more
beautiful
than before. On a good day,
healing
could be like this. We
could be even
stronger
at the broken places.

Your body remembers
back before your feet
touched the floor
when you sat down,
after your first hairs
began to grow, what
it felt like to sit
down after the first
curious penetration.
Like a gap that
wouldn’t close.
Innocence is unnecessary
for worth, wisdom, and
wiles. Scars are required.
All those risks and
failings. Finding
homes, nesting
in our rafters,
making us try harder,
do it again, better
this time. Your body
knows what to offer.
Knows where your
place of power lives.
Knows how to exchange
breath with the earth.
Knows how to pray. Not
like a night hawk stalking
a shrew but like
the holiest of holy wells
and a thousand-year trek
of your people
that allows you
to reach one
perfect pocket-worn pebble
out over the very center
of the mystery, and
let go.

Making Peace #14

Doors Openings

In my last apartment, none
of the doors shut completely. I
hung hand towels over the tops

to make the seal tight enough not
to open with just the slightest
push. In this new apartment,

the doors all latch firm shut, but
I keep crashing into them, throwing
my shoulder into the wood, touching

them with my toe, a small kick,
an elbow, a slight push, expecting
them to open. Though the truth is,

they would all open, eagerly,
with trembling pleasure, if ever
I uttered the softest request.

What It Means

1.
To Love You

An adventure for which I
have been preparing, long before
we met. A practice in honesty
with myself and others. A crow
bar opening my ribcage wider
than I thought it’d go. A pill I swallow
to make all the colors brighter.
A zipline I can’t let go of for fear
of plummeting back to where
I’ve already been. A breakfast
in bed, lazy, perfect on a weekend.
A heartbeat to which I can count out
a 4/4 rhythm and always
carry a bass line. A harmony.
A tune I can almost make out of
a song I know so well but can’t
quite remember. A return to
myself. An exercise in becoming
supernova without exploding.
A crazy idea that just might work.
An adoration. A prayer with my whole
body, starting at my lips. A midnight
candlelight canopy garden of treasure.
A menagerie custom made for me.
A secret I hesitate to share because
I want to cherish it enough for the
whole world. A promise, but I’m not
yet sure for what. An anchor in my
marrow. A pen full of ink and not
enough paper. The slick oil of finger-
prints on glass. A smooth river stone
large enough to balance on one
foot. Lit birthday candles that won’t
blow out. A hike into the shady forest
with a picnic and a fairy tale. Your skin
shined with sweat. A relief. A tribute.
An ache that fills me more than any
ache should. A symphony of leaves.
A choir of hiding places. A quilt from
old tee shirts. Look, that’s from my
first concert. You saw that same tour,
but we didn’t know yet
what that meant, either.

Video Poems: “Gender Architecture” and “The Right One”

At the Northern Exposure kink conference in Anchorage earlier this month, Sarha, our 2013 IMsL and one of the producers of the contest, asked if I’d like to do a short performance set during her weekend finale, the seven deadly sins dinner.

I was lucky enough to land on “lust.” So after a salad (course of envy), halibut, perfect creamed potatoes, and asparagus, the strawberries with melted chocolate came out, and they called me up to the stage.

“Gender Architecture”

“The Right One”

These poems are actually kind of … well, old. I wrote them early on when I was living in Seattle, which was probably at least ten years ago now. They’re both on my spoken word album For the Record which was released in 2005 (and is online through bandcamp if you want to listen to it or buy it). The first piece, “Gender Architecture,” is also known as “the boots piece,” and there are some parts of my theories about gender that I’m not sure I still agree with exactly … no, it’s not that I disagree, maybe it’s just that I wouldn’t put it that way, at this point. The second piece is still one of my favorites to perform, especially because of the way the beginning starts, where it’s made to sound like I’m just still casually talking to the audience but then I launch into the poem. It’s kind of a surprise that way. And when the audience energy is good, it’s so, so sexy.

I’d really like to do more spoken word. Adding that to the list, and trying to strip away other things that aren’t as satisfying.

Cornea (My Father’s Eyes)

My mom received a letter
from the person who
got my dad’s eyes

after he died.
My assumption is that
flesh has no opinion
of its own, so
they don’t now look
at Chinese food all-you-
can-eat buffets and salivate
taking a few extra General
Tso’s chickens, just because
my father did.
I assume also that

the wildflowers
everyone tends to call weeds
did not become their favorite,
did not become that
which scatter the hill
outside this person’s kitchen
window, did not become
part of the visual jokes
of forgetting. So what

will happen? What’s it like
to see through another’s
eyes? And if we meet,
if we cross each other
unknowingly on the streets
of my small hometown,
will there be a confusing
moment of recognition, when
they look at my brown hair
brown eyes slightly expanded
waistline femur bones just
a little too long and I’ll
write them off as curious
about my unconventional

presentation but they’ll
get a flash of a six year old’s
birthday party, a velveteen
green dress with white
tights and polka dots, a cake
in the shape of a hot
air balloon, and they’ll
shake it off, isn’t that
funny. I won’t see them, but
will you recognize me, even
just a little?

Love Is Trying Anyway

Love is generous. Love is incomparable.
Love is not quantifiable, but
we put numbers and words to it anyway,
because that is our nature, to strive
to express the unexpressable. Love
is letting go. Love is holding
gently. Love is allowance, gratitude,
cheerleading. Love is fluidity, not
rigidity. Love is dishing and sharing
excitement. Love is knowing
no one person is your everything. Love
is persistence and patience and
reassurance. Love is sincere apologies
and fucking up and knowing
you have the space to fuck it up again,
and knowing you have even more space
and support and tools and skills
to try harder. Love is lonely, sometimes,
because you have room to be alone. Love
is smothering, sometimes, because
you have desire to be close. Love is
coming together and going apart
a thousand times a day. Love is learning
to recognize the difference. Love is
asking for what you want. Love is
practicing to be bold and courageous,
sometimes, when we can. Love is
curled under the covers when
refuge is needed. Love is gross
and body fluids and waste and
old moldy salsa jars in the fridge.
Love is the light through the east
window just right on a winter afternoon.
Love is wrestling with deep contradictory
truths. Love is feeling the fear
and doing it anyway. Love is reconciling
daily, sometimes hourly. Love is a golden
bubble bath and a white washcloth
that smells like jasmine. Love is
making a special trip to the store
for eggs and cheese and root beer
and coming back to find no one home.
Love is checking in twice. Love is not
having to explain every feeling or
misunderstanding. Love is planting
a garden
and not knowing what will come up,
what will blossom,
what will bloom. Love
is trying anyway. Love is risk.
Love is undefend,
undefend, undefend.
Love is asking yourself if this
is an act of war or an act of
god. Love is self-soothing
and taking on the world, sometimes
for more than just yourself.
Love is crying alone. Love
is determination. Love is possible—
it has to be,
I chose to believe that it is.

To Do While Grieving List

1. Shower ever day. Even if you have to cry through it.

2. Put on clean clothes, even if they aren’t your favorites. Or do laundry, and wear only your favorites.

3. Behave well toward Kristen. She loves you, you love her, even if you are numb and can’t remember.

4. Write. Because it heals you. Because you can’t do anything else. Because it makes the most sense. Because it is your deepest practice, your deepest craft.

4a. Take a class, make some art, take up time.

5. Run. When you want to get away from yourself and these emotions, get them out of your body. Go back to boxing class. Take out the anger on something else.

6. Grow the fuck up. Behave like an adult. Stop the self-pity. Stop the over-indulgence of your feelings. Stop taking yourself so seriously.

7. Read. Read poetry if you can’t get into long things. Read indulgently. Read grief memoirs and buddhist philosophy and ttantra and open up to healing. Ask yourself, what do I need to do to heal today. Read more.

8. Work. Set reminders in your phone for appointment times because you can’t keep track of time. Calendar everything. Make work a priority. Finish projects. Make art. Focus on this, if nothing else.

8a. Don’t publish over-indulgent blog posts that attempt to tell the “whole story” and draw some conclusion. Write poetry. Write about feelings. Write about love and sex and grief and loss and abandonment, how scary it is to watch Kristen bloom, and how much it matters to let her. Learn what over-indulgent blog posts look like, so that when you do write them, you don’t hit “publish.”

9. Go outside. Feel the earth. Drink water.

10. Pray. You are not alone, even though you feel you are. Faith is when you see no hope, and you do it anyway. Times like this are why we practice. Lean on your practices. Everything is temporary.

11. Behave well toward yourself. Take care of your body. Eat well. Nourish. Buy a fancy new soap so showers suck less. Make a list of your favorite foods, then eat them. Start watching a new TV series when you can’t be in your brain anymore. Be alone when you need to be. Practice impeccable self-care. Forgive everyone, and maybe yourself most of all.

How To Unlearn Patterns

I am a series of
stories and stories and stories
I tell myself and others
secret truths and whole-hearted lies
until they are more me
than the skin I wear. Some
stories are collectively lost, looking
for a home. Some stories leap
with fists locked tight enough
to fuck, some stories weep
and unravel the fabric of my
baby blankets. I am desperate
for meaning. Something bigger
than my wild and precious, stupid
little life. Some context for my
bleeding throbbing heart and cunt
and dick. Some balm for
this ache of mortality, of perfect
imperfection. Take me on as your
protege, graveyard; take me on as your
benefactor, temple. I seek to build
monuments to and out of love. I seek
to make meaning. I seek to make
movements. I seek to sit still, to smile,
to blink, to put pen to paper, to tell all.
Shh, listen. My story has gone out
to play.

The Beat of a Second Heart

I’ve started crying on airplanes. It used to be ginger ale, now it’s wine. I probably should have eaten more than a bagel, should have had more for dinner last night than a whiskey flight and a kiss, but now I am crying and beginning to hear the beat of a second heart in my chest.

I am exhausted. I’d like to sleep for a year. By which I mean, I’d like to turn down my consciousness in order to have some rest. My rest has not been deep enough, has not penetrated my bones. Too much has happened in the past year. I opened up my chest from the back and wings sprang out, and now I cannot wear my shirts or binders or coats or old patterns anymore. Nothing fits. I am running, running to catch up with myself, when really I’m supposed to be flying. Why else would I have these new tools?

But sometimes my pen won’t move. I love and love and love, aching to make sense, make meaning, make love with my every movement, and sometimes all I can do is collapse because I’m overfull and not full enough. An underactive nervous system prone to depression and shutting down, a blank page. Still I ache and move and nourish and detox and meditate. Still I feel this pulsing in my chest, faint like something coming from within the walls, this second heart beating and every once in a while blinking a tiny little light like a pulsar star. I want to build. To do something with all of this love and throbbing energy and heat and pure life force I am lucky enough to have. I hope to never forget to be grateful for every breath of air I magically take in, every moment of reception, penetration, release, surrender, power. I can’t help but course it all through my every vein.

I am starting to cry on airplanes. It is a place I can rest, so high above my email inbox and big loves (I count five) and the ground floor surface of earth’s crust. I am lightheaded up here, stripped of the daily needs of the world, and when I drop down under my days I find this ache. This exhaustion. This ongoing fear of misunderstanding. This curse of a body, of mortality, of injustice. I haven’t reconciled. I miss the clarity and discovery of youth, of innocence. I’d like to make sense of so many things, like how the black holes grow within us and what it could ever take to fill them, like how stone can trickle away through consistent gentle water, like why humans destroy each other from the inside out. I can’t seem to find meaning in wars, but still I engage, sometimes late at night with the ones I love most. Sometimes silently stowing my own cocks in empty boxes unworthy. Sometimes desperate sorrow. Sometimes the silent blank faith of the line without the next word.

The first day I had wings, it was awkward and inconsistent. The second day I toppled over, top heavy. The third day my errands were effortless.

I guess that’s all I want. Less effort, more sweetness. Less struggle, more radical empathy. To cry because it feels good to release, above, hurdling through the sky, the taste of wine on my tongue.

A Dozen Years

Murder, or regret.

That’s how the majority of pop culture refers to abortion. I have noticed this distinct lack of range depiction, not just because I was a women studies major for whom reproductive justice was a constant teaching and learning, but also because I had an abortion in the year 2000.

I was twenty. Unlike what Ani sang, mine wasn’t a “relatively easy tragedy,” it was just relatively easy.

I worked at Microsoft at the time, and my insurance covered it. I made the appointment from the phone in our lobby, which was the most private space, filled with large indoor house plants someone would come around and water twice a week. Plants so generic in an office building that they become wallpaper after the daily/yearly commute.

I remember I had to buzz into the clinic and identify myself. I remember that they wouldn’t allow anyone in the room for the procedure. That the partner (the guy) in the waiting room may be coercive, and as such the women who came in for such procedures were asked the same questions in and out of their escort’s presence. I remember the room was the same as a room for pelvic exams, with the same landscape poster on the ceiling, but for the machine they wheeled in on a cart. I remember it didn’t hurt much, just a click click whirr and then over. I remember I bled for days, but the bleeding was such a relief.

I had been full for weeks. Never so aware of my uterus. I mean, think about it: can you feel your organs? My college girlfriend could feel her kidneys, because she had a kidney infection that put her in the emergency room, and she probably still can. I can still feel my uterus, still remember that rubber ball-sized solid object lodged in my pelvis that showed up without my asking, without my request.

I was trying to leave him at the time, my ex boyfriend. We’d been together five years. I was trying to leave him because I was queer and that was easier than to leave him because he was abusive. Mostly he was abusive because he suspected I was queer, which I’d told him was true since we met on the internet when I was 14 and my interest in ladies was a turn-on, but five years later was a threat.

I wrote a poem about this abortion, a heavy-handed lyrical thing that I won’t share because it’s bad writing, though not because I disagree with anything I wrote. The one line I remember, without looking it up, is “this is how sure I had to be in order to be the me I was meeting in dreams.” Getting pregnant meant I needed to be that much more sure that I was queer. This is how hard it’ll be, the universe told me, to stop being heterosexual. You can have this partner and this baby, if you want it. Are you sure?

Yes. I was that sure.

The cells they removed from me were more an infection than a child, more an unwanted mutation than a new life. It was not murder and I do not regret it. It was a decision that took me on a path here, and musing about the idea that I could have a twelve year old right now is as useful or relevant to my life as musing where I’d be if I’d married my first girlfriend or gotten into a different college or not quit that job.

I make a thousand decisions daily and they have brought me here, where most days I am wildly happy in my queer, kinky, working artist, open, exploratory life.

School Boy Valentine

I’m a school boy, in between
unsure of my body’s edges under
my skin, sliding a valentine

between the slots in your locker.
You are the valentine. Or
you are the one who watches

as I cut out hearts from red
construction paper. I’m the one

the teachers ask to stay and talk,
not because I’m bad at school
but because I wear too much

black. You’re the one who sees
full color spectrum in the sparkle

in my eyes, who waits for me
on the merry-go-round after band.
We spend nights in the cemetery,

halfway between our houses, trying
not to let unfinished spirits take

over before we start our own
lives. You kiss me in the dark hall

by the locker rooms. My pink
slip falls from my hand to the floor.

Thinking About Bowls

… among other things. I have much to say about my experience at the erotic energy intensive, but as my heart & body & mind sorts through everything, here’s a poem I wrote on the plane.

Pulse

The bowl of the Jemez Valley
sinks the circle to center. We
dip our unclothed bodies into
the hot pools, hearts cracking
open like the sky after mid-
afternoon thunder storms
saunter in to nourish the thirsty
ground of the high desert. Skin
shows wear, blush, want—
we take turns holding ourselves
under water, letting our bodies sink
and surface. Ant colonies construct
the shifting ground under our feet.
The hummingbirds arrive when we
offer them sugar water, offering
themselves as medicine in return.
We fly in the kitchen, sit like
boulders in the zendo, grow
wings through holding, fill our bowls,
dip our fingers in to clean them.
I attempt re-mothering, I am Daddy,
I watch, shining light inward
down from my comfortable purple
easy chair. I discover an inner
engagement, ready to wed;
act it out in ten minute experiments
while wheelbarrows win, rain
falls, voices are replaced. Our
climaxes are our own responsibilities.
We dazzle in the evenings under
the milky way, emptying and refilling
our hungry open bowls.

Unsolicited Advice to a New Butch (aka The Butch Poem)

There is more to you than this identity. It makes everything make more sense, and without it you might be lost, but with it you are only ever on one path. You contain more multitudes than that.

Dance. Cook. Read. Make peace with your body. Look at the stars.

Don’t make everything about you. Willingly admit you are wrong, even if sometimes you know you are right. Eagerly say “I’m sorry.” Easily say “I love you,” but learn to recognize your own worth. Keep the borders of your kingdom well-watched and flexible. Keep your muscles flexible. Climb mountains. Pick wild flowers, even though they wilt. Because they wilt. Don’t let people make you wilt. That’s doesn’t have to have anything do with you. Listen to their stories. Remember that we yell because we do not feel heard.

Make a list of ways you feel heard.

Learn how to partner dance so you can make your partner look beautiful, spinning and open-mouth laughing on the dance floor. Cook. Read. Make peace with your body.

Elevate the discussions over brunch with your buddies and use them to try out your date outfits. Downgrade your tee shirts to workouts and loungewear and upgrade your presentation. Make a list of places you can wear your very best suit that are not weddings or funerals. If you don’t have a suit, invest in a suit. There’s a reason it’s a classic. It’s okay to get it at a thrift store. It’s okay to stop shopping at thrift stores now that you know how to use money. Practice rocking a tie on special occasions. Make a list of special occasions. Thursdays can count as special occasions.

Remember that your lover craves your skin and friction and kisses not despite but because of your masculinity.

Dance. Practice cooking at least one impressive date meal and, if you like watching them put something you made in their mouth, teach yourself more. Read. Make peace with your body.   

Get a traffic cop vest, because you are stuck directing and deflecting in the middle of the intersection between male and female, and though the fifty-car pileups have mostly ceased, though they have cleaned the rubble from the ditches, though the seasons have faded the bloodstains on the concrete, you are still there, in the middle, while a pickup truck brushes past close enough to touch the hairs on your calf and a Mazda full of machismo is threatening you from the window.

Know you can survive this. Your body crosses borders most of them never question.

Dance. Cook. Read books like Stone Butch Blues and Dagger and Butch is a Noun and learn where you came from. Learn who else is out there in the world with you. Suspend your own stories and practice seeing another’s perspective. Make peace with your body.

Learn to recognize femmes, even if you don’t date them. They recognize you. When a girl on the subway gives you The Eyes, she’s a femme. When the only straight girl in the dyke bar says she likes your tie, she’s a femme. When your waitress jumps in on your conversation with your buddies to ask “so what’s a good drag king troupe?”, she’s a femme.

But two femmes in bed are not just waiting for a butch to come along (necessarily), so don’t laugh when someone tells misogynistic jokes in bad taste. Be a gentleman. Practice the art of consensual chivalry, always be on time, and remember: it’s better to have a cock and not need it than to need a cock and not have it. Always be prepared. 

When the girl you thought you’d spend your life with leaves you, know you can survive this. Pour the whiskey down the drain, keep your stovetop spotless, and delete her number from your phone. Move your best friend up to her speed dial spot and call just to say hi. Cultivate your friendships before your breakups so you are not alone.

You are becoming more like yourself than you’ve ever been. Trust in your own deepest experience. Trust in your own evolutions.

Dance. Cook. Read. Make peace with the supposed conflict between your breasts, your inner folds, your monthly bleeding, and your cufflinks, your swagger, your monthly boy-cut #4 and the razor-shave on your neck. You possess this innate ability to contemplate apparent opposites and hold them both; to dance with two seemingly contradictory things simultaneously—a talent most people can never perfect. But you can. And you are not alone. These mentors, this legacy, this lineage, this heritage, this style—this is where you fit, this is where you are not dismissed, this is where you finally get kissed exactly how you’ve always wished.

This is the process of blooming into whatever multitudes you are at the core of your being.

Look at the stars. Remind yourself how small we all are, how big your life is, how many paths you are exploring. You can do more than survive this—you can thrive in this.

Tachycardia

this is how I want you:

slow. deliberate. measured. languorous. torpid
bordering on excruciating, with kisses that
keep you counting the millimeters between
our mouths (six, four, three), counting
the breaths it takes before my hands
move from waist to shoulders up your
back (five), counting the heartbeats elapsed
to wrap my fingers around your upper arms,
tighten my grip, and press you back against
the wall (124 with occasional tachycardia). you

remember what it feels like to be overtaken,
don’t you, to become supple in my arms, to
struggle until you can do nothing but give over,
become empty for me to fill you everywhere.
because I know that’s what you want, that’s
how you forget yourself, that’s how I forget
myself too, perfect moments of being wrapped
inside you, safe, enveloped, protected, a return
to some place quiet and sacred where the red
burgundy sooths all with muscle and strength.

I will make marks on my wrist so I can measure
how far inside you I can reach, today, tomorrow,
now I can feel the underside of your heart, the
cellar door of it, I will pen the walls with beauty
beauty beauty until it radiates out of your pores,
graffiti seeping from inside. I’ve felt your fingers
thrumming my own atria, those upper chambers
of my heart with their glass doors and misting
humidifiers and weeping plants, I think you know

what it is you cultivate in my chest when your
knees go weak, when you sink your eyes
away from mine and slide back to check if I am
still holding you. I am, I am, my arms never leave
that curve of your shoulders, your hip, the way
you crush against me when I open wide, making
room for every inch of your skin against mine. you
quicken my heartbeats, not something I am used to,
but this means I can be stronger, pump more blood,
stay up even later, fucking and loving till dawn.

Gloaming

I want you in the gloaming, in the grey
light of near-dusk, anxious to fade
the brightness of morning, midday,
the tragedy of sunset back into the
dim tones where we no longer strain

to see. I want to trace lines on your
skin until I find my fingers touching
paper, want to grip your hair until
it is all fallen. No twilight trysts,
though we do continue on through midnight,

through constellations, through antique
blue at five am before the sun remembers
itself an idea again. I want you without
shadow, without sun, without brilliance,
without cover, without cost, and there

we will soil crisp sheets, turn sugar
and heat into salted caramels, discover
the perfect angle of shoulder that becomes
landscape. I’m no cartographer, but I could
be; I long for a protractor, walking stick,

compass, to explore hidden openings to wet
caves I never knew I fit inside. Your eyes
glow willing in the gloaming. Your fingers
on my forearm, the grey light is pause,
poised, darkening, as fireflies begin

to rise from the ground. As we spin away
from the sun I want you, still, not reaching
or retracting, simply motionless with
anticipation, one singular breath at a time.

Partially inspired by Alice Elliot Dark’s beautiful story “In The Gloaming,” partially by the song Living in Twilight by the Weepies which I’ve been listening to on repeat for many days.

My Father’s Son

The GoatWhen I saw him in September we camped in his family’s cabin. My grandfather built it with his own two hands and gave it to his children; now his own two legs, the prosthetics he got after both were amputated below the knee from diabetes, are the legs of the cabin’s kitchen table.

My two younger sisters and I slept in the cabin’s only room on pillows and dusty weathered couches as Dad woke and stoked the fire. Mornings at the lake are chilly, even at the peak of heat in August when the summer has been baking the water to its depths and swimming is the best. I watched him add kindling and logs and sometimes dozed off. He spread another blanket over me. When I woke I saw a forlorn gaze in his eyes I’ve never seen. What was he thinking? Was he wondering how his oldest daughter evolved into this boy? This big-city dapper masculinity that is too faggy to fit in with him and his brothers and all my older boy cousins as they discuss elaborately the latest football game, the way they fixed their trailers and trucks, what they caught when out fishing, how to clean the geoduck, how to make a perfect sausage-and-egg breakfast for ten, how to put on a wedding, how to give away the bride.

Dad, are you wondering how I got here? How I went from that tree-climbing skinned-knee ragamuffin girl to this prettyboy? From that girl who worked through her teens in your sports card shop, flirting with the boys as my girlfriends came in to seek sanctuary from the juvenile delinquent park hangout across the street when their feelings were hurt, when someone dumped them (again), when they got caught smoking, when they were being sent tomorrow to rehab or summer camp or anorexia camp or gay camp or bible camp.

I never was your tomboy daughter, never got in fights with the boys in the neighborhood, never stood up to the bullies of my younger sisters. I was the artistic one, moody, on my own. Studying my peers as we metamorphosed into our adult bodies.

We used to go on drives sometimes. After dinner restless, this was when neither of us wanted to be home, neither could stomach my mother’s depression. We’d go on drives and this was when you first told me, “I want to open up a store, right there maybe,” pointing at the empty corner lot that used to be a restaurant bar, at the mall on the wharf. “But my dream space,” he whispered, leaning in, “is right by Foodland.”

That was back when we shared our dreams with each other.

It was on one of those drives, too, where he saw a little silver Saab for sale and said, “that’s the kind of car I want to buy you.” I was fourteen and wouldn’t have a license for nearly ten more years. I couldn’t see myself as a driver, just as I couldn’t see myself as a grown woman, a wife, a mother, a panic that plagued my teens.

Recently on a road trip I saw a blue 1970s GTO and remembered some photos from my mom’s college album. “Hard top, 1964,” my dad emailed back. “Midnight blue, the original muscle car. I got it up to 100 easy on the road out to the cabin. I called the car my “Goat.””

Once, I told a lover that I was considering taking T. She had a string of baby trannys, she knew how to break us in over her knee. “You won’t turn into Cary Grant,” she warned me, and stopped at a photo of my father in the hallway. “You’ll turn into him. Look. Is that what you’re thinking you’ll be?”

I didn’t grow up in my father’s footsteps, but suddenly I’ve found myself standing in his shoes.

And now, fifteen years later, he moved his store right next to Foodland, the only grocery store downtown. A prime spot for retail. He has all but retired from the environmental engineering business upon which our family was built and now sorts sports cards, comics, coins from his father’s collection, from when the store opens at noon – so he can sleep in – to six pm, every day except Monday. “I’ve worked enough Mondays for a lifetime,” I’ve heard him say.

Now, fifteen years later, I don’t drive much; I take the subway and taxis but I still miss the stick shift in my hand and the dance of the pedals, just like you taught me. Now fifteen years later I can imagine myself as my father’s grown daughter, this “man” I’ve become, your son.

Three daughters and your wife, our mother, all in one house for nearly half of your life. Did you ever wish you had a son, Dad?

I wonder what he’s thinking, as this fire, his fire, warms our morning. He smiles at me with a look I’ve never seen.

“I sleep just like that,” he says. “With my arm over my eyes. You look just like me.”

ask and you shall receive

Thanks for all the comments & requests on the whispers, after poem – I’m glad to provide the audio of me reading the piece. Download it here: whispers, after mp3.

I’m most definitely not a recording engineer, and I get pretty impatient with the edits, so it’s messier than I’d like it to be. But I’m trying not to let my perfectionism about my spoken word get in the way. Thanks for the request, Viviane – happy to oblige.

whispers, after

I recorded audio for this piece, download the mp3 if you’d like to hear me read it.

“I really like the way you fuck me.”

“I’m not fishing, really, I don’t mean it like that – I’m genuinely curious – what do you like?”

It’s slow. Soft and slow, a slow steady build which means I am ready for more before you give it to me: a rarity, precious, because I open so rarely.

A desperation in my pelvis, my cunt, to be filled, to be broken down, to be taken apart into molecules and slowly put back together.

Then there’s that feeling of opening. Desperate, again, a desperate opening, something becoming wide and hungry.

And it’s all so slow and steady. So rock-steady, so solid. Makes my heart burst in my chest and I want to cry out, beg, ask for more, please, please, more, deeper, harder, faster, more, make me feel. I try to bite my tongue, here in this space, try not to let the desperation show. It seeps through the cracks of my eyelids and fingertips anyway. I know it is not hidden. I cannot quite access it with my voice, yet.

Instead, this is what my voice does: whimpers. Moaning with every exhale because my body is at such a vibration that the mere passage of air through my lungs and throat and vocal chords and mouth will exert sound. I cannot stay quiet. Oh oh oh at the very least and then there’s low hums of sound like ohhmmm and I remember what my yoga teacher used to say about the sound of the universe spinning and I feel my heart in orbit. I feel my atoms in orbit and I’m distilled down to the very sources of me, pooling on this bed, this floor, leaning against this wall, wherever, and you’re watching my eyes and I can feel the way you look through me, into me, and I think, this is what it feels like to be seen and it’s beautiful.

I like the way you surprise me with dominance, with force, with a sting or slap or bite. I love the rings of teeth marks on my biceps and inner thighs, the marks you’ve left, they’re fading now and I wish they wouldn’t, I wish they would always be there, wish for layers and layers of these bruises in different shades of yellow and blue and purple and the tender pink not yet deepened into black. I wish I could point to each one and remember the many days it took you to put them there. One a day for a week. For a month. A new way to tell time, a calendar on my arm.

It is not a threat to my masculinity that you wear a cock. That you fuck me with it. It has been, it could be, but you make me feel so boyish, despite your palmfulls of my breasts and twists of my nipples and the ways you say “oh I love the curves of your body,” and I know you mean the femininity, my hips, the way my ribcage gently tapers, my round full breasts I hide with binding and jog bras and button-downs.

Despite this – or maybe because of this, maybe precisely because you acknowledge my very female body, maybe precisely because you see me, really see me, really witness my soft underbelly, the vulnerable girl side of me that I have worked so hard to overturn, override, you see me and acknowledge me, too, actually speak about my body – despite this, you play with my masculinity with such respect and reverence, and it lives in such a solid place in me now, that it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t contradict, it only affirms what I am already knowing in my body: the ways you witness, then acknowledge, then rejoice, in me.

This is how she sleeps

Gently. With curves of her curled
like ferns nestled in wet moss.
A delicate fingertip like baby’s
breath, like a bluebell, like
a forget-me-not dangling

nearby. I memorized her breath.
The cadence, the rhythm. I
memorized her heartbeats, how
many pulses it took for her to turn
over, ask again in that language

of muscle for my warm thigh, my
open palm, my surrender into
the crook of her arm. She likes
the pillows. She likes the upper
hand where she can wake first,

start the coffee, start the morning.
This is the ritual of sharing a day
from start to finish, and I want to
replace her old red toothbrush, know
her schedule tomorrow, hear her mind

winding down before she – miracle! –
falls asleep in my bed yet again.

against the door frame

I’m still in Seattle for one more day … meanwhile, here is a great piece from tongue-tied blue. Thank you!

against the door frame

space holding wonderland
my tongue tied blue
trying to out-dream in the front of my head
the suspicious lizard stem at the rear
the skull fulcrums, spins there

on my left hand i smell her still
her coming flash powder burned
brilliant into my breasts
my belly, my thighs, my ears
my heart
my kidneys are still astonished

the lizard licks her lips
her eyes and
the sweat that ran down

i never knew i could be
so rapt wide-eyed, secret door
surprise present
gratefully me

an aspiration

Sex Without Love
Sharon Olds

How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other’s bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health—just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.

quarterlife crisis decisions

“It is our decisions
who make make us who we are,”
she used to say to me. Sometimes
that is all we have. The ability
to decide. To choose.

Even with all the social
inequities, we all still
get the same basic things,
in this life here on this planet:
our brains,
our bodies,
and time.

It is what we decide to do
that makes all the difference.

So what am I doing here?
What am I going to decide
to do with my time? What
are the particular ways
that I would like my mind
to grow and change
and evolve and work?
I do have some ideas,
but it seems like – that
age-old cliche – life
gets in the way.

I need focus. Laser-beam
steady focus, pointed precise
direction, precision. I’m not sure
how to gain or maintain that when
everything seems related to what
I want to do, where I want to go.
I’m not sure how to cut things out
when I so enjoy every aspect, the
book group, the writing group, the
drinks with friends, the parties,
the concerts – then of course there’s
the practical parts, the health,
exercise, eating right, taking care
of my body, then there’s money,
there’s my “career” –

all of this hanging in the balance
and I have to decide
decide
decide
what to cancel, what to prioritze
what to celebrate, what to remove
from this delicate balance

This I believe

My poem “Me in a Nutshell” was recently published through NPR’s website This I Believe. The poem idea was inspired by a few other poets, namely Alix Olsen and Staceyann Chin, both of whom have poems where they use the repetition of “I believe” as a way to discuss their own values, personality, and approach to life & the world. I started collecting little snippets of sayings and philosophies and writing them all down in one place, and after a few years of letting these ideas stew, this poem came out.

Me in a Nutshell

I believe love is the closest we get to divinity
I believe in waiting patiently on the corner for the light to change
I believe in being kind

I believe that as birds fly, and fish swim, humans create;
it is our ‘natural’ mode of operation
I believe the opposite of war is not peace, it’s creation
I believe creative expression is a way to get to know
what we don’t know
that we already know

I believe in finding common ground and elevating the discussion
in wanting what I have and giving what I need
I believe in asking myself how it is that I will come alive
because that is what the world needs

Read the rest of the poem over at This I Believe. (Thanks to Louise Crawford, who saw me read this poem & encouraged me to submit it!)

hemlock

I am delicate. This tough guise
comes along with the collared shirts –
briefs – jackets in mud puddles –
but it is only a performance.

Do not mistake it for the same gauge
of pressure it takes to bruise
the skin of my heart. Purple

gives way to red gives way to pink.
Even the strong language I take in
too deep because I have no wall up
between me and you. I have no wall

up but you can’t tell how transparent
I am when I have cried, when I have
asked a question, turned a door handle

so you did not have to. I want to take
care of you. I want to take care of
myself, so invisibly that you won’t notice,
then take care of you. But that is not

realistic. I know. I am sensitive,
affected by all the madness marching
around me. I cannot get away from it

some days. Some days I am eaten alive
by the bees in the hive, some days I am
the hive through which everything flows.
I carry around words like brutal and

punished in a notebook and touch the
letters when I need a reminder of
the damage that can be done, can not

be undone. Phrases yielded like
knives. I refuse to use my words
as weapons, though I could, I could
cause hurt, could leave scars. Instead

I choose to swallow, don’t let it out,
don’t let things go, there is no way
to know what the words will become

once they leave my tongue. Possibly
dandelions, possibly stinging nettles,
possibly a poisonous cup of hemlock.
I drink it all down myself instead:

then there can be no misinterpretation.

four chambered heart

I have said you give me
wings

I have said
though I have been collecting
feathers, downy
and sweet, flight and contour
and semiplume feathers,
bristle and filoplume
feathers, it was you
who gave me the map,
the blueprint, for the verb
to soar, to take off
and land, to catch a ray
of wind
and float.

I have said
you take me to such peaks,
take me to the apex
of mountains,
looking earthward
toward valleys
where everything
is exact,
organized,
acquiescent
I could continue

with hollow bones and unfolding
migration flying, nesting,
cracking open, a four-chambered
heart, ruby breasted flocks,
hovering
perching
But I was raised not
to believe

in pride. I don’t know
what it’s like for others
to take credit
for my efforts,
no matter how much
my triumph was aided
by your maps, your
supple caresses, your
careful slices of leather
cut around the outlines
of my feet
for my landing.

This flight is my
victory

And while you are calling
to me from the clifftop, yelling
claims to my own ascending
moments, the air is so clear
and still
all I can hear
is the pulsing
cadence
of my
own
wings.

what happens when a friendship ends

You tell me, look in the mirror
all you’ll see is betrayal
but the words
aren’t yours to give. The reflection
shows no bones labeled betrayal

nothing close – the only label
with B is beauty and that comes
straight from the sternum. I once
dreamed a horse, a dappled grey

on the beach in early morning golden
light, luminous, galloping, look , I say,
look a horse, coming like a click-clack
echo in a subway tunnel, that’s not a horse

you say, that’s a bird, see the wings?
The mandible, the crown, the
coverts of the wings – I thought I
knew you. Thought our realities were

concentric overlapping circles the way
we had inside jokes in the first
hour. Once you have sucked the silver
threaded foundations of me up and out

through the trepanned hole I allowed
you to drill into my forehead, where
will that leave me? Where will that
leave you? You told me we were circles,

but you are not – in fact, I am not
either, I am a sphere, an opaque crystal
ball, I can tell your fortune, read
your palm, your tea leaves, your

seven years of bad luck from that mirror
you smashed and said I did it. The betrayal
wasn’t mine. The horse will prove that,
when it is not a bird after all, it’s long

long legs leaping over sand dunes
like it’s avoiding puddles in the Village,
the tangled mess you left behind.
Unimportant, no time for that now,

here is the dappled grey, ready
and saddled, and I will
get on that high horse,
get on that wingéd high horse,

and ride.

based on this piece of art, and a recent complicated situation.

the trowel

we spent all weekend
digging clams at ocean shores
on the oregon coast
sand between our toes

you forgot to get dressed

I watched you belly-down
on the bed
staring at the TV so
unselfconscious
I wanted to feel
the full fist of you again

staring out at the open ocean
so flat
so seamless
I’m hiding from you in here
in this chair
this lampshade
hotel grade
I haven’t forgotten

the things you promised
to desire when the fire
went out, the beach
went dry, the waves
stopped coming and
coming

I laid my open palms
on the table
took the metal pail
from the porch
and began
with a trowel
prying open
the clamshells
one
by one

Ginkgo Biloba

The first time I kiss her, it is
June. Under a hazy lazy sky
the sun is yawning its descent.
Under the ginko tree that grows,

has been growing, outside her
apartment for decades, a hundred
years, more. How many lovers’
first kisses has she seen,
how many breakups, how many babies

pappoosed, welcomed to the world?
Green paper leaves the shape
of fans tossing the wild to the wind,
winding strings of silkworms around

tree trunks, slick bark the shade of
the sky before it rains. And her eyes
are the sky after. The pavement after.
My heart is red construction paper
that could blow away with another

exhale, if only her lips would come
close enough. Closer.