This I believe

August 4, 2007  |  poetry  |  No Comments

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!)

a tiny revelation

July 26, 2007  |  poetry  |  7 Comments

I want this to be special
I want this to be totally unique
and meaningful
and singular.
But really,
it was only love.

And this is only a broken heart.

hemlock

July 19, 2007  |  poetry  |  No Comments

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

July 19, 2007  |  poetry  |  2 Comments

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

July 19, 2007  |  poetry  |  No Comments

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

July 11, 2007  |  poetry  |  No Comments

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

June 25, 2007  |  poetry  |  1 Comment

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.

PvC was a blast!

June 22, 2007  |  poetry  |  No Comments

The Poetry vs Comedy show was such a fabulous time. I performed two of my favorite (and gayest) pieces, and made it to the final round against Kelli Dunham where we both had to improv on “clam(s).” Um, what?

So I wrote this:

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

… and I actually kinda like it. Apparently the judges did too, ’cause I won! Thanks judges, and thanks Carolyn (the fabulous MC) and Cheryl, the producer. But like Carolyn says, remember, it doesn’t matter who the winner is, ’cause we’re all losers here.

Check the PvC blog for more tidbits.

the very idea of a bird

June 13, 2007  |  poetry  |  No Comments

quote from a poet friend who is also very into birds …

The very idea of a bird is a symbol and a suggestion to the poet. A bird seems to be at the top of the scale, so vehement and intense his life. . . . The beautiful vagabonds, endowed with every grace, masters of all climes, and knowing no bounds — how many human aspirations are realised in their free, holiday-lives — and how many suggestions to the poet in their flight and song!

John Burroughs (1837 – 1921), Birds and Poets, 1887

How to Survive Your First Year in New York City

June 7, 2007  |  poetry  |  5 Comments

(work in progress) 

I Summer

Immediately in the city everything is just as hard as you’ve always heard it is: the disgusting humid summers. Finding an apartment. Getting a job. Locating friends. But the subways become easy, once you get the hang of it, and Manhattan is comprehensible, once you orient yourself. Be careful not to over-orient: you will change.

Invest in an air-conditioner. August will be brutal.

Distract yourself by going to every Brooklyn roof party you can find. Ask everyone for their New York survival tips. One boy with great hair says “a solid pair of skater shoes” ‘cause they’re so durable to the constant new relationship of your feet to concrete. A German girl who’s lived here ten years says, “an expensive, fancy pair of headphones” that she puts on before she leaves the house and takes off only when she gets to where she’s going. An older woman from the West Coast says “nature shows” remind her of the earth and essential oils give her that sense memory. A young queer boy says “a day bag, a perfect day bag,” with pockets for all the survival tools you need for the city: book, notebook, pens, subway map, Manhattan map, metro card, water bottle, wallet, hand sanitizer, tissues, smokes, cell.

Search everywhere for these tools. Your search will teach you the city. Do not stop until you find them.

II Fall

When the leaves start to become undone and summer’s oppression begins to unravel and the tourists leave, go to the park. Buy a skateboard or roller blades or a bike or a Frisbee. Borrow a dog.  Promenade the West Village with a pretty girl, any pretty girl. Fall in love, that’ll help.  Best if she knows the city better than you and can take you to her favorite Mexican restaurant, dive bar, dance club.

This is good. Keep yourself occupied. But be careful not to get too comfortable in her world: you won’t be there long. Do not assume you will get to keep anything from her, other than the memories. You are still making your own New York. Join some organizations, make some friends, make some art, take up time. There is so much to be done here.

Keep trying to figure out what you’re doing here. Once you figure out what you’re doing here, you will know how long it will take to do it, and then you’ll know when you can leave. But you won’t know until you know. And it always takes longer than you think.

III Winter

By the time the first snow falls, you will have an idea of what your own New York looks like. Re-read Colson Whitehead’s The Colossus of New York and remember that it is only after your favorite Thai restaurant becomes a coffee shop that the city will begin to show you its ghost.

This is a good thing. But winter is a hard time here, and you will loose two of the four of the following: your job, your apartment, your community, or love. It is hard to hold more than two for very long in this city. Watch the New Yorkers, they have these four balls in the air constantly but rarely touch more than two at a time.

You may loose the girl. The one whose hair swirls, whose breath you feel all the way to your toes. This will hurt. That’s okay. Feel it.

The girl you want isn’t in New York anyway, the girl you want would never live in New York. She’s too tender, sensitive to the overstimulation, just like you. But you can take it, for a little while. You can learn to put the armor on, and then take it off again.

This is how New York makes you strong.

IV Spring

When you’ve finally given up on the trees, they will start greening again. It is time for a few more things to hop into place. Your sister will become your roommate and you will learn so much about your childhood. You will begin to watch and understand how what you take into your body effects you. You get a friend, a best friend, suddenly, an instant connection, someone you call when something big happens, someone who is usually free for beers at the pub on the weekends.

This city may exhaust you, but you will never exhaust it.