The First Time With A Girl

she asks
if I want to come over to her house
after class
and she will make us lunch.

after a week of flirting
hands brushing thighs under the table
testing ripeness, testing tenderness
leaning close to whisper things like
what page were we on again
learning the smell of her shampoo
the millimeter thinness of her hair,
I blink at her — can you just
do that? invite someone over?
her boyfriend won’t be home until 3,
she says, but he knows she’s bi, they’re poly,
he knows she wants a girlfriend, too

I’ll be honest, I’d written her off
as straight: but the purple streak in her hair
and short painted nails said femme,
and she flirted back
as much as anyone ever had

she used to sit behind me. I noticed her
because I noticed every girl in class,
trying out my brand new gaydar
at every chance, to make sure it worked.
I overheard her say, it’s my birthday,
but clearly the dumb boy she was talking to
didn’t hear, because the only proper
response to that statement is, of course,
happy birthday, but he didn’t say it.

I did. it’s my birthday too, I said,
and she pinned me with her gaze,
looked straight at me. after that,
she sat next to me in the second row
on the far right, offering her knee, her thigh
brushing my arm with her fingers

my tongue is so swollen, I can barely reply.
yes, I say. I got my tongue pierced, I say,
but I can’t pronounce the r’s. I brought a smoothie
for lunch — but I’d love to see your place
.

her couch was white
her boyfriend came home early
my swollen mouth could barely
form words, ached for more
flexibility, to be able to extend
the tip of my tongue
past my teeth
but I didn’t care

I’d waited so long to do this
to know for certain for sure
for confirmation
that every throbbing kiss was a relief,
a relief, a deep truth surfaced,
a secret no longer unknown.

A Poem for the Closing of Workshops

Published in Erotix: Literary Journal of Somatics, forthcoming in August 2018

We have traveled. Alone and with each other, down deep and up high, from black and white to Technicolor: we are Dorothy in sparkling red shoes who have had the answer all along.

We started as the Ouroboros and we have travelled, have become the scales and spine and beating heart who discovers and devours our own tail, root to crown, recycling, ad infinitum. We complete the circle. We know how we come together to cauldron our stones and thick scented herbs and blue sea glass and red aching scars. We pour our every fluid into the center of the toroid. We are the body, our own body and the body of the circle.

We have become the Alchemist and we have travelled. We have put together our rucksack of tools and took part of the magic, drank of the passionate potion of our pheromonal feast. We made bone from feather, we made heart from stone. We found the scars and massaged until they slip-slided into skin. We bottled the essence of body plus courage plus desire plus prayer.

And now we are closing the circle. Stitching ourselves back up, stepping out into the life flow from this place of stillness and refuge.

When we leave here: again, we will travel, but this time back to whatever we left. Take a breath now into this feeling of the center of the body. Hold it. Lock it to the back of the heart. In the center of the merry-go-round, the tornado, the wheel, the toroid, and the self is the place of stability. On the rim, we are flung. But we have found stillness and we can return.

When we leave here: touch water. Go sit on the edge of the ocean and remember the jagged mountains and green-black kelp and monstrous sharks still under the flat surface. Go find a cobalt waterfall and enter it hand-first, enter it head-first, remember what it feels like to be a body that something rushes against and into. Go find a river that spends half the year as ice and ask how it freezes and thaws and freezes and thaws over and over.

When we leave here: know that with expansion comes contraction. It is the story of the universe, the oldest story, the one even before the sacred whores and healers, the one before the magic rush of one palm on the ground and one palm to the sky. It is a story even the water knows. What we take in may cut to the quick. Be cautious around toxicity, screens, urgency. Expect the contraction, and tend to the baby-green shoots that have dared put their root down and just begun to stretch the surface open.

When we leave here: reach out. We journeyed together and we can look again at each other with blinking eyes and say yes, that happened. Yes, our siren screams of pleasure brought the nourishing rains to soak the soil. Yes, fingers ankles collarbone hips. Yes, hello again beloved.

When we leave here: tell your story. Tell your story. Tell the story where we are the hero of our own journey, where our quest is one of continually knowing the self, now and now and now. Leave alone the stories of others, gorgeous and shimmering as they are, lodged as crystals in our open places. They are for our memories, our witness, and we leave them in the circle. Tell your story. Tell it slant. Tell it complete. But always keep a little for yourself.

It is time now to invoke our individuation, to come back into our own completeness. To carry what we have made together, a love note tucked between heart and ribcage. Together, we have traveled. And now together, we are going home.

Protected: four: mental power

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What I Read (For Cheryl)

Cheryl’s memorial was yesterday. More than two hundred people attended, brought food, and comforted each other, and fifteen people read some of their own thoughts and some of Cheryl’s work.

I hosted the event. It was the hardest reading I’ve ever done. I felt like I called on more of my tantra and energy/space holding abilities more than I used my reading host skills, though both of course were present. In putting together the line-up, I thought a lot about how much Cheryl has taught me about hosting readings, stage presence, how to order it, how to keep it moving, what to say and how to banter between readers. I learned so much in such a short time, she really knew what she was doing.

I had a pretty strict script so as not to babble, which, if you’ve ever seen me host a reading, you know I can tend to do. So here’s the part that I read.

Hello everyone. Thank you for being here at Dixon Place to celebrate Cheryl B.

We’re all here because we knew Cheryl, because she touched us in some way. Some of Cheryl’s accomplishments are listed in the chapbook/program, but we all know that she was widely anthologized, created three reading series in New York City in the last ten years, and performed all over the US, UK and Canada.

I’ve known Cheryl since I moved to New York in 2005. She was one of the first people I met in the literary performance circles. We kept being booked for the same readings, and eventually became friendly, then friends. She read at my chapbook release party in 2007, we started working together in 2009, and then started a reading series, Sideshow: the Queer Literary Carnival, together in 2010. I was there throughout her diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma last November, through the chemo treatment, which I even accompanied her to (once), and through her hospitalization.

What has struck me consistently in thinking about which story to tell about Cheryl here has been the transformation which happened after she was diagnosed. Cheryl had a dark, cynical sense of humor, and was private, often feeling alienated. But when she truly needed help from her friends and her larger community, you all—we—surprised her by offering up our support, our pies, our cars for rides, our wallets for Fresh Direct gift cards, our time, and our prayers.

I saw how much it meant to her that everyone rallied, throwing spelling bee fundraisers, offering research, and sending emails of support. Cheryl opened up and took in that love in a way that I’d never seen her do before.

Kelli told me that at the end, when she and Cheryl were doing some woo-woo aspirations that clearly were Kelli’s idea, Cheryl chose to say “I am thankful for my community,” and she didn’t even roll her eyes.

More than anything else, I’m so glad this event is an opportunity to get all of us together, all of us who loved and cared for Cheryl, and who love and care for Kelli, to look around the room and acknowledge what a community ourpouring of love looks like.

Tonight, you’ll hear some of her work read by some artists, writers, and friends, from Cheryl’s brother, and a few videos of Cheryl herself.

— Readers —

Thank you to all the readers for coming and being here today.

I’d like to conclude by reading one of my favorite poems, which has been a comfort to me lately. You’ll notice it’s not in Cheryl’s style, but I’d like to offer it up as a prayer, in whatever way that means to you.

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Thank you all for being here. Thank you Dixon Place, thank you to the volunteers who helped us set up and will help us clean up, thank you United Stages and Kathleen Warnock for the beautiful program/chapbooks. Thanks to Genne and Bevin for helping to coordinate this event, thank you Kelli for your beautiful heart and friendship, to all of us.

There is a new writer’s fund set up in Cheryl’s name through the Astraea Foundation; you can donate on your way out. When there are more events to raise funds for the Cheryl B. Fund, you can find out about them on wtfcancerdiaries.com.

You are also welcome to take a book from Cheryl’s collection, we have a donation hat next to it if you’d like to contribute.

And please remember to support each other, tonight and ongoing.

Thank you for being here.

Protected: … I would say

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