texture of a mushroom

“Who were these kids? What right had they to be born into a world where they were taught to look endlessly into themselves to ask how the texture of a mushroom made them feel? To ask themselves, and not be told, whether they were boys or girls? You eat what’s there or you starve.”

–Kim Fu, “For Today I am a Boy”

After reading the unique and beautifully written book, “For Today I am a Boy”, I found my thoughts stretched in directions I was not expecting. I inhale gender and exhale gender. And inhale. And exhale. I think about procedures and practices. I think about posture and the differences between how I am perceived and how I perceive myself.

I acknowledge the wince I feel in my bones each time I am called Miss or Ma’am. I am trying to exist beyond the borders of pronouns and just walk along as human.

Throughout the book, I recognized the ways in which gender is not always chosen. It can be hidden. It can become shameful. It can become the drawer of unmentionables that becomes like a haunt. The word transgender (as far as I can recall) is never used in this novel. And it doesn’t need to be. It’s aroma is there the entire time. What moved me the most is how community just naturally forms, which shapes our comfort level allowing these drawers to slowly open and let limbs rummage a bit.

For some, gender is not a second thought. It just is. All these options that we have (which are growing) are not necessary for some. For others, it has become like spending a lifetime (or what feels like such) for the right word and finally finding it.

Upcoming Creative Writing Workshop. Sign Up NOW!!

Writing Out the Bones of Poetry: Experimental Writing with Aimee Herman

September 13-14, 12pm-2pm

Shetler Studios
244 W 54th St #12, New York, NY 10019

$100.00

SIGN UP

In this two day workshop, we will create experiments on the page through spills, cut-ups (inspired by William S. Burroughs) and various prompts leading us out of conventional language and into hybrid dialects. Where is the urgency of your words? How often do you color outside of the lines with your poetics. We will stretch out the margins and encourage each other to break out of our habits. This class will also offer students the opportunity to practice reading their creations out loud. What is the dialect of your performance? How do you want to be heard? This workshop will include peer discussion and feedback. There will be an optional trip after class on Sunday to Parkside Lounge for great weather for MEDIA’s open mic.

whose body is this.

I am working on an academic-ish paper on the ways language holds its breath as though it is waiting to identify itself within the moment of exhale. As though it is building and marinating within its bones until it is ready to announce its sexuality and gender. Basically, how language becomes us and how we embody language.

I am still…….coming out. 

I realize this with each poem, each sneeze, each incorrect labeling of who I am by a stranger and one who (thinks they) know me.

I am still…….coming out.

I am careful with my pronouns of others, knowing how frustrated I feel when someone calls me miss or ma’am or pretty or words than are not necessarily a pronoun but they are gendered; in 2014, I believe we need to start thinking of humans as more than just gender markings. We cannot be placed into pink and blue boxes anymore.

I am still…….coming out.

There is a human who regularly holds my hand who reminds me that my body is like a carousel that is turning and making music and sometimes my shape changes and that’s ok and if tomorrow I call myself something else, I will still be loved.

I am still…….coming out.

I don’t need to understand all of this. I just need to keep moving along the path of picking it apart as though it really is music. And even if all the chords remain the same, if I experiment with the strumming pattern, suddenly I have a new song. Suddenly, I have many songs on and in this body.

I am still…….coming out.

There are so many ellipses inside us that sometimes we forget to be okay with this continuation of body. We long for that end.

Some of us feel ready for the period, while others need to investigate longer, commit to a few trial runs or test out different elixirs in order to feel closer to what all of this is called.

I am still…….coming out. I am still arriving at my clarified footnote. Take your time while working on yours.

why (do) we walk away

It is late. The inside of my mouth is tired. I wait for the 6 train at the Broadway/Lafayette stop on a Thursday. My body feels like it is holding onto too many things; I agree.

The train arrives and I watch a crowd of people get off.

This is an active station, I think to myself.

I don’t question why so many people are getting off; I just feel immediate gratitude that there will definitely be a place for me to sit after a long, long day of standing.

I get on and notice I am one of four people. I inhale. This is a part of living in New York City. We are surrounded by smells, which often chase people off trains or toward the other side of the street. When I moved away for three and a half years, I missed these smells. Now, I realize I have become one of the many who bolt.

I look to my right and immediately notice a human who I’ve seen before. He is large is every direction. Even his hair is looming. He wears a makeshift cloak and has bundles of hair on his face. Like a tantrum of fur. He is not wearing shoes and he is speaking to himself. This last fact is no longer strange since so many people wear contraptions in their ears and are singing along or talking to the noise. However, he didn’t appear to be wearing anything.

There were no smells. He was just a human without feet protection trying to get somewhere.

If this were fiction, I might write that I sat beside him and asked him how he spent his day. If he was hungry? Would he like the rest of my cantaloupe that I got from the farmers market yesterday. I’d tell him it’s so ripe that it will melt in your mouth, so let it slide down. Maybe we’d laugh about how slippery it is, as though each piece was trying to escape our mouths. Maybe I’d tell him how cool all his facial hair is and he’d compliment me on my tie.

The thing is, this is non-fiction. So, I have to be honest and say that his presence scared me a little. At one point, he started banging his feet against the subway floor and bellowing. His hairy face made him appear like a lion. He wasn’t saying anything mean or even translatable; yet I felt like I needed to move.

At the first stop, I got off and switched trains. I watched two other people follow and switch. When I sat down, I noticed a human laughing with his friend and pointing to the other train car. Whispering about this other.

I realized I was no better than this person making fun of another. I walked away and abandoned this person just because he was loud. Just because he was using his feet to create sound. Later on when I switched trains to the 4, I spent the rest of my ride with an extremely loud proselytizer. He was far more scary, reminding everyone on the train who was waiting for us if we made the wrong decisions. 666, he kept saying.

That man with the roar on the 6 train was simply existing. He did not smell, yet even if he did, I know I’ve had days where the heat caused my skin to haunt unpleasantly through its aroma. Social class does not always relate to our scents, nor does kindness or mental state.

That man with no shoes on the 6 train was a six year old once. Maybe he was great at math and had a best friend he climbed trees with. Maybe he was married once. Maybe he is kind.

Why do we walk away so quickly from those who look different than us?

Real fear is real. If he was calling out hate or clutching on to a weapon, then he should be abandoned. But that man with a lion’s roar on the 6 train was just trying to get somewhere. He was harming no one. Perhaps that howl was his way of saying hello.

I will never know.

dear…

We live exactly one and a half miles from each other and I have just mailed my one-hundred and seventh letter to him. It is a twenty-eight minute walk between our apartments in Brooklyn and an eight to ten minute bike ride depending upon the strength of my bones at the time. We see each other almost every day and even with these face-to-face encounters, these letters have continued to remain between us.

I have been a dedicated letter writer for over a decade. I often make my own cards to further personalize the experience and my slightly obsessive need for organization causes me to keep track of every letter to each recipient by marking the date next to their address on a tiny piece of paper I keep with me at all times. Some of the people I write to are close friends, others are ones I’ve met only a handful of times but appreciate the exchange of words through the mail. I never expect a letter back; I write in order to give away my language.

As a writer, I recognize that words are exchanged between people all the time, though often the medium is through glass screen of computer or telephone. We rarely give away our actual handwriting or take the time to slip our words into envelopes that we must lick closed with pre-purchased Forever stamp in right corner.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a love affair through the mail.

The first time was with a beautiful Canadian I met at university in Boulder, Colorado. We met fourteen days before the end of the Spring semester and in those two weeks, we learned as much as we could about each other. She taught me the proper way to cut a mango and in the evenings, we’d stroll beneath the moon with Malbec in mugs, walk her dog and teach each other our histories. She had to go back to her home to work in the summer months and I went back to Brooklyn to do the same. As we neared the moment of leaving each other, she asked me to be her pen pal. I barely hesitated before exclaiming, Yes! During the course of that entire summer, I wrote her forty-two letters. Some would be on receipts from cafes I drank coffee in. There were letters written on tree bark, found amongst the grass of Prospect Park. One letter was just a collection of flowers I had picked during a walk, shrunken and dried by the time it reached her in western British Columbia. In turn, she mailed me pea pods picked off a tree at the camp she was working at. She wrote on postcards and on the backs of photographs. There were some letters that reeked of her salt, sweating off her skin from the hot summer sun.

When we finally saw each other again in person at the end of August, I found myself deeply in love with her. We had shared so much of our days and the words were like curled threads sewing us closer together. I exchanged more words with her on paper than in person, but this created an ease between us. We began dating, eventually moved in together and though the letters stopped, we never ran out of words. Little post-its left as love notes replaced paper pushed into envelopes.

Fast forward a few years and distance found us again. Three hours time difference. A border crossing. Two thousand, four hundred and forty nine miles between us (give or take). She went back to Victoria, B.C. to work toward her master’s degree and I went back to Brooklyn to do the same. The letters started back up, but our vigorous schedules yielded fewer words between us. We introduced other modes of communication such as Skype, though poor Internet connections often led to frustrations or fights. After about seven months, we broke up. I still sent her the occasional letter, but then that fluttered away. I realized I needed to mourn the loss of that love and let go of our letter exchange.

Fast forward once more and I find myself with a stack of stamps once again. On a Sunday in March, I stood in a fancy east village bar with paper-over-linen tablecloths, polished chandeliers and over-priced drinks. I noticed him the moment he entered the room in burgundy converse, suspenders hugging t-shirt, jeans and baseball cap. My previous methods of flirting usually existed within silent treatments. If I’m interested, I’ll usually ignore the person. Needless to say, I don’t have very much luck with this strategy.

It was an evening of poetry, music and performance art. As I took the stage, I looked over at him to see if he was paying attention. I thought: this is my chance to impress him. I’m rubbish at articulating myself, but on the stage, I find my words through my poems. I couldn’t tell if he was listening or not and by the end of the night, when I hoped to find my courage to ask him for his number, he had already left.

Several days later, I get a text message from a friend that Burgundy Shoes wanted my phone number. An hour later, I received a message on my phone from him asking me out for coffee and the next evening we met at a bar in Williamsburg at a friend’s music show. Before the loud music began, as we awkwardly shared words and drank non-alcoholic beer, I tried to gauge his level of interest in me. During one point of the evening, I stood beside him with my hand so close to his, I could feel the heat pulse off his knuckles. Unfortunately, two shy people equaled an evening of G-rated body language.

As our friend gathered up his things, Burgundy Shoes and I waited. We soon realized we were standing beside a photo booth. He slipped himself inside the tight space and inserted money into the slot beneath the bench. Another friend pushed me in and before I had a chance to get nervous being so close to him, the camera began snapping photos of us.

Photo number one: We are looking at the screen, smiles wider than a four-lane highway.

Photo number two: I am looking at him. My unruly curls hide my face, but his begins to turn from smile to serious gaze.

Photo number three: I move in closer. If photographs came with their own caption, this one might read: I am about to kiss you.

Photo number four: Our mouths finally mash together as though they had been training for decades for this moment.

We, along with our friends, made our way from one part of Brooklyn to another on a bus leading us to a different bar where Burgundy Shoes and I kissed with parched tongues, pressing our bodies together as though they knew each other for years. At two in the morning, we reluctantly decided to make our way back to our respective homes. We held hands and kissed at every stop sign and red light. When we reached the point where he needed to turn left, we said goodnight.

A week into our collision, I received a text message from Burgundy Shoes that requested my address. I had mentioned my love of mail and he wanted to send me some. Five months later and we are still exchanging letters, often daily. Sometimes, he reads me the letters in person. One Sunday, he hand-delivered one so that I could get magical Sunday post.

I found myself falling in love with this romantic, kind human through his black-inked words. I was hesitant to allow myself to feel these feelings again, having been broken-hearted several times before and not sure if I could risk doing it again. But love is thick and bold enough to keep reeling us in, even though it so often ends in heartache. It is beyond a drug; it is like a second set of lungs breathing for us. The air becomes flavored. Every noise is like a harmonized symphony—even the car honks and door slams sound like a top-forty tune.

When we end one love affair, there is a moment of readjustment. What is necessary to leave behind and what is learned? Memories stop being about the people we are with and more about the person we were when we were with them.

My desires are evolving. Who I find myself attracted to is shifting and widening. Burgundy Shoes makes it safe for me to share my reluctance for parts of my body and I celebrate the constant changes growing on his skin.

We also have a shared fondness for napping against trees. He is just as much in love with the moon and its various shapes and methods of glow as I am. He is the Brooklyn hippie I have been searching for.

Through our letters, we have grown closer in a short amount of time because every day is stuffed onto these pages and mailed out.

Love is inconsistent and scary. It is in constant rough draft mode, revising itself through cross-outs and drafts. My pen pal and I do our best not to lose track of the uniqueness of this relationship. We’ve since started notebooks where we place more of our words inside, swapping them back and forth. One of which is a tiny black book we fill with our fantasies. Words are loud and can be far more forthcoming when mailed out because one must wait. One must channel patience as postal workers diligently gather up carefully addressed envelope from blue box toward the one it is meant for. As a society, we have grown restless, often unable to wait days for things. We send out our words and expect an immediate response. Sometimes love needs to linger in the air before it is delivered to the one it grows for.

 

Tonight! A Celebration of a brand new anthology

Great Weather for Media presents the first of its NYC book launch events for its brand spanking new anthology located at Parkside Lounge located at 317 E. Houston St. NYC  7-9 pm    (21+)

I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand is a fearless, dynamic collection of contemporary poetry and short fiction by established and emerging writers from across the United States and beyond. The anthology also includes an interview with John Sinclair – the legendary jazz/blues poet, former manager of the MC5, radio host, and activist.

Tonight’s line-up will feature Eric Alter, Tessa Lou Fix, Maria Gregorio, Aimee Herman, Joseph A.W. Quintela, Joe Roarty, John W. Snyder, and Luke Wiget

Hosted by the incredible David Lawton

 

Big Words!!! Reading tonight!

I’m so excited to be featured at the great reading series, Big Words, Etc.! They’re back from a summer hiatus & sending it off with a great lineup & theme — I Love New York!

Come on over to Brooklyn…..take the F train to Bergen and head on in to 61 Local located at 61 Bergen St in Brooklyn. The reading is from 6-9pm.

There’s a $5 suggested donation to help pay for the beautiful space, but please feel free to donate what you can! The remaining proceeds will be donated to 826NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills.

Featured readers:
Stacie Evans
Aimee Herman
Devin Kelly
Dennis Norris
Thomas Pryor
& Cooper Wilhelm