Call this Sunday. Order up two hundred kites shaped in sizes ranging from dragon to sperm whale. Turn up your boom box attached to hip, playing a mash-up of Charlie Parker and Tupac. Gather up your grass stains. Dig toes into flesh of earth, meaty syllables of soil. Stop worrying about what your hair looks like or if there is dirt on your face. You are meant to get messy sometimes. Write a poem on a rock, found beneath a leaf. Turn your handwriting upside down. Throw it into a puddle and if there are none nearby, make one with stored up tear drops, created by the wind. Have an impromptu picnic in your neighborhood park with local fruit purchased at nearby farmer’s market. Stain your fingertips with ink of recycled newspaper. Depending upon how bold you are, make love beneath this hunched-over sun and blanket hiding the limbs of you and your other. The ones nearby will leave you alone, too impressed by your boldness to interrupt. Remain until the air drops causing your sweat marks to shiver. Bike toward the sun’s replacement called: moon. This one is dripping lust. All around it echoes of moans. Offer up your black-and-grey lips to a rainbow. Watch the stain saturate the rest of you. Call this love’s contagion.
This is what was waiting. Behind all those Brooklyn traffic lights and spray-painted stop signs: you. We must be reminded of what hides in order to remember what we have been seeking. Get lost in order to be found. Even when it rains, there is enough sun saved up for you to get tan lines beneath a thunderstorm. Don’t be so afraid of love. As a child, you climbed enough trees to grow splinters from your veins. And when you cut yourself while making meals for others, one could certainly measure the sap stored up in your blood to classify your species. To the ones you matter to most, they call you Major Oak. The one who loves you loudest calls you Sacred Fig. Stop running so much. The roots of your gender are endless. You may need to replace ink with lead during this phase of existence. You are in constant revision. Even when all the lights have turned themselves off, there is enough glow in you to survive a forty-two hour blackout. Remain because the ones who came before this one prepared you to grow up.
This has been the longest relationship I have ever been in. I can celebrate over three decades of this partnership; yet, I’m still trying to come to terms with what we actually have in common. In the morning in my nude, I am reminded by what I have. I am not haunted by all of it. In fact, there are some parts to my body that make me want to take it out to dinner and forego sleep in order to get to know it even better.
We’ve slept beside each other every night for over thirty years. We’ve been joined by another, though these were the times I lost track of its shift. You see, bodies never remain static. They shift in shape and desire. Sometimes, our bodies get loud enough in this displacement that alteration of clothes or vocabulary are not enough.
Initially, when we meet someone, there tends to be that immediate attraction that either let’s you know this is a possible friend or future love interest. Then, there are the ones we meet that remind us to keep walking. We cannot be expected to get along with everybody. When things don’t work out with someone you love, you break up. When things don’t work out with your body, it is far more difficult to walk away.
Recently, I was trying to explain my relationship with my body to my dad. He has seen me poke holes through various piercings, distract my skin in ink with tattoos, and alter my appearance with hair color and wardrobe. He wanted to know why I’ve been so afraid of the word, pretty. I stood beside him in silence trying to understand why he thought this and if he is right. Why might I be fearful of this simple word?
Beyond this adjective, I think about the parts of me that might attract such a word. Often, I am approached due to the boldness of my hair: knotty, red curls. My responses range from thank you to complete silence. Perhaps I shun this word because I prefer that my intellect and poems get approached, rather than the curvature in my hips or the flames in my hair.
As I officially slide into my mid-thirties, I recognize that I have been cheating on my body. I think of other bodies when we are together. At night, when it is just us in bed, if I am not too tired to be intimate with myself, I imagine my shape as something else. Not quite male, but not exactly female either. How to describe this?
Over five months ago, I started wearing a binder. There are many different versions to choose from, but the one I purchased is kind of like an extremely form-fitting tank top, that flattens my breasts and slurs away my curves. I’ve worn sports bras that have a similar effect, but I wanted something that completely smoothes them out. In addition, I have acquired a few more of various lengths and fittings.
My relationship with my breasts has been tumultuous like most love affairs. I desperately wanted them and then once they finally arrived, I eventually wanted nothing to do with them. Over the years, this detachment has grown more and more. Wearing this binder has been an experiment; I wanted to see if it would help the way I viewed my body. Now, I notice the way my button-down shirts, held captive by double-windsor tie and vest fit so smoothly over my paved chest.
Recently, a complete stranger called me handsome. When I was called this, I thought: perhaps this is how I am expected to feel when I am called pretty. Funny how letters pressed together have so much significance to us.
Here comes the possibly confusing part: I do not desire to be male and I do not view myself as transgender. If I must label, though I prefer not to, I see myself as gender non-conforming, genderqueer, and transgressing though consonants (M/F).
When I was fifteen years old, I started treating my body like a tree. I began carving my way in and through my skin, searching for a way out. I soon learned this behavior was called cutting and I also learned I was not the only one. Many years went by and the wounds healed, replaced by scars. As I made my way through adolescence and into young adulthood, reactions from lovers and strangers ranged from looks of pity to obscenely rude accusations and questioning.
Summertime in New Jersey at nineteen. I am filling up my green car, scratched up just like me, and as I pay the guy, he says: Yo, what happened to your arms? Why they all marked up? At an open mic at twenty-seven. A young poet approaches me after exchanging no other words with me throughout the night, grabs my left forearm and says: These markings are so beautiful. Were they part of an art project or performance?
In the beginnings of these self-induced hieroglyphics, my mom suggested vitamin E and other scar-reducing creams. I got angry with her, though now understand that she just wanted to make it easier on me. Humans have a difficult time with scars. They immediately want to know how they got there and then they want to know if there is a chance more might arrive (depending upon circumstance).
I refused the cream because a large part of me wanted to be reminded of these markings and these years of sorrow inside my body. I am no longer a cutter, though have relapsed a few times in recent years. When I look down at my arms and the few ghostly markings on my hips, I think of these lines as words. What was I trying to tell myself? I want to believe that I was digging my way out and toward the innards of not only my gender but the core of my self.
How true is this body? What will it take to fall back in love with it? Have we ever been in love or has it been like an arranged marriage? Would I choose it if I could?
If we all came with our own airbrush machines that the fancy fashion photographers clearly use, I wonder what parts we’d compress away or enhance. Would I leave my scars alone? Would I flatten my breasts out permanently? Would I leave my dimples, otherwise known as skin deformities? How about dead-ends left on every strand of my hair due to forgotten haircuts? Would I want my thin lips to be fuller and my collarbone to be bonier and more dramatic?
We exist in these bodies that grow and shift in ways we accept and in ways that can be deeply confusing and even painful. Some things can be controlled. If that extra weight on your belly overwhelms you, then a few months at the local gym or daily sit-ups may flatten it away. If the skin on your face sags in a way that disturbs your ability to feel pretty, you may choose a face-lift. What isn’t big enough, you can now make bigger. What is not small enough, you can pay someone to take away entirely. No one can really say what isn’t necessary, because no one is inside anyone else’s body but their own.
It’s not that I want to break up with my body. We’ve been through so much that I feel like no one else could possibly understand me in the way that it does.
It survived that faint from the deeply traumatic panic attack at age twenty-seven that left me with several cracked teeth, a scratched up face and nine stitches. It survived mental illness and more suicide attempts than I could possibly keep track of. It survived drug addiction. Deep into the night, it has begged me to remain. My body has allowed me to orgasm even when shadows of sexual trauma have crept its way in. My body has given me more love affairs than one should be warranted in a lifetime. My body has remained even after all the walk-outs (my self included).
However, even after all these years, there are still times like now, where I feel like we are still getting to know each other. I no longer wear dresses or bras with a clasp in the back. I prefer much simpler attire. Sometimes I have to remind it that what I wore last year may no longer feel right against my skin. So, we must unhang, fold and give away what no longer matches how I/we feel inside. It is not too late.
I want to give myself time with this binder just as I gave myself decades in these scars. I’ve learned to come to terms with the discoloration of skin on my body: war wounds from the battle between my body and me. This disconnection I have with my breasts may not be flattened away with assortment of binders. I may need to move forward and make a more permanent choice. My fear of telling others obviously ends here.
The need to speak out has been modeled to me each time I hear a poem or read a story that moved me enough to write or speak up. We all have these bodies that encapsulate all these stories. If we continue to speak up, more languages will form. More and more humans are realizing that they’ve been living in the wrong body and finding ways to rebirth themselves into their truest form. There is absolutely nothing more powerful than that.
(Thank you, Imogen Binnie for breaking my mind open with your transferring language, relocating my thoughts in so many directions with your incredible book: Nebraska. Other gender warriors: Ivan E. Coyote, Dhillon Khosla, Carter Dyer, Kate Bornstein, Tahrah, S Bear Bergman, Dylan Scholinski and the list continues)
Po3try NYC Presents Raining Words: A Spring Poetry Extravaganza @ The Pomegrante Gallery – The Dawning of a New Era in Big Apple Poetry
3Po3try NYC is a ground-breaking alliance between three of New York City’s most prominent poetry influences – great weather for MEDIA: (poetry publishing, events, open mics), Poetry Teachers NYC (poetry workshops, readings, festivals) and The Inspired Word (poetry open mics, slams, showcases).
Our mission: to build like never before strong connections between the poetry performance, publishing, and educational communities; to celebrate unity, diversity, and excellence through poetry; and to revitalize the city’s poetry scene with something strikingly different.
We will produce quarterly all-star showcases (featuring a dynamic mix of NYC’s finest poetry and spoken word, spiced with original music and live art) hosted in the most gorgeous settings around New York City (galleries, gardens, and performance spaces).
Raining Words is 3Po3try NYC’s debut event and will be held on Saturday, April 12 at the Pomegranate Gallery, 137 Greene Street, Manhattan, 6pm-9pm. Doors open at 5:30.
Hosted by Aimee Herman.
General Admission: $10
Reserved Seating: $12
Billy Cancel has recently appeared in Futures Trading, Cricket Online Review, and Counterexample Poetics, and the first two great weather for MEDIA anthologies. His latest body of work Innocent Teeth was published in January 2014 by Hidden House Press. Video poems, membership details, and other aberrations can be found at www.billycancelpoetry.com.
Born in Boston, poet Alessandra Francesca has been inspired by a range of artists, from T.S. Eliot to Humphrey Bogart, and her family feared she would run off to New York since before she could walk. She can be found mumbling poetry to herself on the L train and her work will strike you its raw honesty and lasting poignancy. She lives in Brooklyn.
Amy Leigh Cutler was born in Staten Island, raised near the Catskill Mountains, and lives and writes in New York City. She is the author of Orange Juice and Rooftops and a few chapbooks. Some of her recent work can be found in In Earnest where in 201 she served as artist in residence. Look for her in Jonathan Weiskopf’s For Some Time Now and Wooster Collective’s Graphite, and the great weather for MEDIA anthology The Understanding between Foxes and Light. She tours, facilitates workshops, and is a teaching assistant and MFA candidate in Creative Writing at The New School.
Born, raised, and still residing in Brooklyn, Graham Willner is a pre-school teacher and poet. He says he “braids together semantics and syntax” to “rhythmically, metaphorically, and meaningfully point something out.” He finds himself most influenced by the “simple complexities of being human.”
Megan DiBello founded Poetry Teachers NYC in 2010. She holds a M.F.A from Naropa University, in Writing & Poetics and a B.A. from Marymount Manhattan College. She has been published in Fact-Similie, Flanour Foundry, The Bathroom, & Monkey Puzzle Press. Megan has performed at the White Box Gallery, The Bowery Poetry Club, The HOWL Festival, The Socrates Sculpture Park, The Center of Book Arts, Columbia University, and the DUMBO Arts Festival.
John W. Snyder is a Staten Island poet. His work can be found in Ardent and in the great weather for MEDIA anthology The Understanding between Foxes and Light. When he’s not busy writing, John can be found skipping into oblivion.
The creature that humans call Julie Bentsen is a Surrealist Illustrator from the floating island of Staten. She has studied architecture, engineering, psychology, and ancient religions. She hopes to someday return to her home dimension. In the meantime, she spends her days doing Dream work, for dreams inspire most of her visual expressions. Some say she is in her 30′s, but her actual age and blood type are unknown. She works with pen, ink, oils, metal-working, jewelry design, small-scale sculpture, and nightmare tributes.
Daniel Dissinger is a New York born poet who is currently a second-year Doctoral student at Saint John’s University, where he teaches American Literature as part of his Doctoral Fellowship. He is also an Adjunct Lecturer in the English Department at SUNY College at Old Westbury in New York, where he teaches a wide variety of literature and writing courses, and the creator and Editor of InStereoPress.com, an online audio zine.
Yeti is bass-driven philosophical dream-punk with cute killer harmonies. This New York-based trio reeks of feral femininity, fermenting in the forgotten woods of Staten Island. Their music fuses Sleater-Kinney sensibilities with The Cranberries’ emotional power. Yeti can be found playing at various venues throughout the New York City area, or in very cold, dark, remote caverns from which few have ever returned.
Giga Herbs formed three years ago. It was in a fluorescently lit donut shop or a YMCA sauna that Paul and Steve asked Eric, “If you could picture yourself playing any instrument, what would it be?” His answer was the bass. The band had a guitarist a drummer and a bassist but something was missing. Elsa Josephs’ signature quirky piano sounds migrated from Panama four years ago. When all four of us met and we found out that Elsa had been taught in piano, we had to ask her to play. After jamming a few times we realized we created music together in a fun and natural way. It was in our 3rd or 4th month together that we had the opportunity to rent a practice space for a fair price in the creative part of Staten Island. That’s when everything really took off.
Native New Yorker Danny Matos is a spoken word poet who began performing in the fall of 2012. Since then, he has featured and performed at various venues and schools throughout New York. In 2013, he was the winner of the $1000 Poetry Idol contest and the co-winner of The Inspired Word Poetry Slam Championship. He believes words and expression give us all a purpose bigger than ourselves, as well as foster one of humanity’s most precious needs – a sense of genuine connection to ourselves, each other, and the world at large. He released his first book of poetry late last year, Scratching the Surface.
Saroya Marsh works as a preschool teacher and youth mentor, but has always had a passion for writing. As a spoken word poet, she brings a heartfelt intensity and deep beliefs to the stage, brandishing a saber of light that will penetrate those dark pockets of prejudice, injustice, and hurt, that lay buried deep within each of us. In 2013, she was the co-winner of The Inspired Word Poetry Slam Championship, a finalist in the Poetry Idol contest, and placed runner-up in the Nuyorican Poets Café Grand Slam finals. She has been featured at a slew of venues and college throughout New York and New Jersey, as well as in Pennsylvania and DC. Marsh hopes her poems will spark change. “If you want to leave an impact deep enough for future generations to see,” she says, “start now.
Angelo Daniel Giokas is a hybrid painter and aesthetic voyager from Queens, New York. His raw and unique style is the result of his combination of appropriation, collage, mixed media, and visual poetry. He enjoys exploring the synergistic relationships between images, prints, photographs, and magazines, and works in effort to associate artistic process with product, and insight with magical thinking. Though he graduated Cum Laude from Siena College, his artistry and theories were mostly self-taught. His experience studying intermedia art at University of London, Goldsmiths College was the most enriching and inspirational time in his young career. He is an independent artist who has never having been represented by any gallery. Found out more about his interests at www.artbyangelogiokas.com, and follow his work on Instagram @artbyangelogiokas.
Poet Shane Hanlon is a Long Islander who graduated from Queens College, then served in the Peace Corps. Home now, he’s an atheist searching. He writes in gratitude or to express conflicts as a way of understanding them better. It’s hard to be an idealist in New York City these days.
HOST: Aimee Herman is a performance artist, poet and teacher with an MFA in Creative Writing from Long Island University in Brooklyn, as well as a longtime Inspired Word host. She teaches at Bronx Community College and is a faculty member with Poetry Teachers NYC, offering affordable poetry workshops and creating spaces for other performers to lift their words off the page. She has been published in various journals and anthologies such as:Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Nightboat Books) and The Understanding Between Foxes and Light (great weather for MEDIA). Her full-length book of poems to go without blinking was published in 2012 by BlazeVOX books. She can be found wrapped in caution tape in Brooklyn or at aimeeherman.wordpress.com.
It happens like an unexpected tap on shoulder. You are walking or riding your bike. You are engaging with the outdoors in some way. Perhaps your jacket is unzipped. You left your scarf at home. If you are wearing a hat, it is only because your hair got lost and has been traveling in opposite directions, not to keep your scalp warm. You are lost in the language of clouds that you are either humming toward or meditating with.
You feel a drop. Maybe two. It’s Brooklyn, so that drop could be the wind pushing someone else’s spit against you or a pigeon excreting its breakfast onto you.
Then the drops turn into many and more and faster and harder and there are no more individual clouds. You look up and the sky has unzipped just like your jacket. You are about to turn mad until you realize how beautiful all this is.
This rain becomes your lover for the afternoon, showering your skin with so many kisses, that you grow giddy. Your clothes become a new layer of flesh. You skip, splashing in puddles, pick up leaves that bathe in this spring moisture. Your bones want to push out from beneath its protective layer and play along. This is when you start to dance. Maybe sing. Definitely holler toward the peeking moon.
In the summer, all of this will get even louder and hotter and this free bath will be even better.
For now, this is spring and this rain is meant to wash winter’s footprints away. It is meant to summon the flowers, planted months earlier. Reawaken the trees and hibernating animals and humans.
Looking to soak your tongue in some whiskey? How about immersing yourself in the stories of those who have? Tonight, a gathering of poets and storytellers sharing tales of bar tabs and drunken evenings.
Located at: The Ding Dong Lounge / 929 Columbus Ave @ 106th St. NYC/ 7pm / 21+ / 2 drink minimumFEATURING: Verless Doran Jane LeCroy Vicki Iorio Johnny Cashback George Wallace Aimee Herman Pauline Findley Phillip Giambri Vincent Quatroche Moira T. Smith
Over 8 million humans live here in this land called new york city. It can be difficult to locate another who houses the same concerns as you. Or requires a similar amount of sleep as you do. One whose appetite is comparable to yours. One who votes in the same political party as you or understands the beauty of black ink pens over blue. One who has a similar work ethic. One who kisses as though your mouth unlocks theirs.
You ask around. In search of your other. Everyone keeps telling you to go online. They tell you to set aside some time to answer all of the questions, find a photograph worthy of getting someone’s attention.
Before you have a chance to type in the web address of this most popular dating service, you unplug your matchmaker.
You are a fan of typewriters and clock radios. Your pocket protrudes from your flip phone, which includes no internet or fancy ring tones. So you grab a piece of paper and favorite pen. You think about what you are looking for in a mate. Write down their coordinates. Various adjectives. Gender non-specific, though you prefer they are queer. Hope for a human who owns more books than technological toys. You ink out a list of feelings you might have around them: safe, inspired, lusty, understood, cared for, satiated, full, understood, safe, understood, celebrated, challenged, safe.
You write down some words more than once to remind you how important they are.
You roll this piece of paper up like a religious scroll. Place faded red rubber band from farmer’s market produce around it, to keep it from unraveling. You give these words time to surface.
Patience can be a difficult thing to channel when you are in search of love.
In the meantime, you stay off line. You enter rooms full of humans of varying appetites and politics. You travel. You exit your comfort zone of extreme shyness. You let go of the fear that you will never love again. You read. You listen to music. You make music. You write poems. You eat a lot. You cook. You learn new meals to eat and cook. You locate muses living in various parts of the country in which you live in. You take walks. You ride your bike. You travel over bridges on foot and bike wheel. You nap on benches. You strengthen your body through yoga and weight lifting. You locate the language of your body and give up various words like shame and gender conformity. You give yourself permission to live out loud even if that confuses others because sometimes inconsistent presentations cause others to feel uncomfortable. You masturbate until it feels good. You stop apologizing so much. You prepare yourself to learn the art and act of loving again.
Humans aren’t like parking spaces; we won’t run out. That mate written on that piece of paper is out there. You may have already met them. And after all that preparation, you will be ready this time.
“In the garden of gentle sanity. May you be bombarded by coconuts of wakefulness.” Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
This palm is fibrous, a woody husk hanging on to the instrumental shake of its juice. It grows in order to be eaten. This garden is progressive. It is hairy and hungry for soulmate of medicinal consumption. Annually, one wakes engulfed in the fear of placebo lust. Here, in this perforated part of Brooklyn, lucidity is found nearby between full-figured moon and switchblades of grass.