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
and not knowing what will come up,
what will blossom,
what will bloom. Love
is trying anyway. Love is risk.
Love is 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
… 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.
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.
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.