How hard is it to admit we have “something”?

My second toe beside the widest one is longer than the others. Should I admit this and to whom?

For those who view my nudity for the first time, should I give them a heads up on my body hair? Perhaps a map to guide them where to find each part intentionally hidden.

I (used to) have a drug problem that is in remission now. Should I mention this too?

I stole a few times and can fill an entire auditorium with my lies. Should I announce this?

My favorite food used to be fruit-roll-ups. Do you really need to know this?

When I was two weeks past sixteen years old, birthday balloons still floating to the top of my childhood bedroom, I tried to kill myself (not the first time, nor the last).

At that time, I was not aware that sadness was a disease because it is not always visible on people like rosacea, trichotillomania or genital warts.

I look around at all the scars around me, on others, on my limbs, scars we gargle with, scars we balance on, scars we use as floatation devices, scars we shape into SOS messages.

If we could connect all these scars like a rope leading us away from the ghosts, perhaps we’d find a way out of this pain. And it is pain.

How to show mental pain. If it is not visible, you must be lying or crazy and are(n’t) they the same.

I have secrets. You think you know my secrets but I’ve got some more hiding behind the ones you think you know. I’m going to laminate each one into a trading card and see how many matches I can make. Show me what you’ve got.

I need to dig my eyes into other parts of this earth to find the ones who look more like me. Not like redhead me. Not like homo me. Not like agnostic leaning toward atheist me. Not like someone to compare my cellulite with or even the odd moles or beauty marks that have yet to be categorized. Not someone to tell me how worse off their childhood was/is.

I’m just searching for my scar sisters/brothers/humans. And we are going to have to talk about it because the scariest ones are those that cannot be seen.

I think I have an illness. It isn’t visible. I have no sores; my hair isn’t thinning; and although my appetite fluctuates, it’s unrelated.

I do not believe it is contagious, just cellular.

Let’s start talking about it more. Stretch out maps to include the paths that are too small to notice (or take). I’m reaching out.

the earth cannot be followed, just indented.

Deep inside the smallest imprint, search for fur. Or cells that can be traced back to a memory which can only be found in a footprint. Each day, I am amazed at what sticks to my toes…the summary of an entire day:

dirt from garden stepping or Prospect Park
filth from sneakers left behind in the cracks and silently haunting the wooden floorboards of my bedroom
calluses are my favorite: it reminds me I have walked enough

On Wednesday, in my section of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, garbage decorates the curbside in blue bags and black bags and white bags. Like magic, they are picked up, crushed into smaller bits and turned into ghosts of consumed particles.

What if we ran out of places to throw things out. Would we eat less? Consume half our daily needs?

Note: We are running out of room for bodies. Go set yourself on fire because available earth is less than it was for wooden boxes and gravestones. How peaceful is death when flames force all elements of cells away?

How to plan an exit?

My fear of heights keep me far away from fire escapes and I can’t help but think of the young man in my old building who fell many floors down after stumbling off the escape. My first impression of him was a body wrapped in hard plastic to keep his bones steady.

I am not permitted anywhere near Jewish cemeteries, unless as a visitor. My experimented skin with permanent hieroglyphics excludes me as a welcome resident. So maybe I’ll let my skin flake off like phyllo dough and decorate the paths I travel on through bike and feet.

How difficult is it to expire and still be green and earth conscious?

how to commit to being alive

Gluttonous mice terrorize my shelves of packaged food and I am grappling with how to respond. These Brooklyn rodents seem to have a penchant for dehydrated hot chocolate and organic granola bars. They wanted nothing to do with my bag of spices, nor did they prefer the box of quinoa. I am trying…I am trying to settle into this lifestyle of New York and it is a lifestyle. Suddenly, I find myself making lists of necessities. What do I need right now and if these mice played instruments or cooked ratatouille, I might feel differently towards their war on my kitchen.

What is needed to survive through a day?

Today my breaths are perforated and severed and panic pushes my skin in awkward directions. Do mice get anxiety attacks? Do they feel remorse post-binge?

Here is what I want:
I want to be surrounded by faces who carry books, rather than humans addicted to Facebook.
Is it too late to grow distinguished?
I want to be well-dressed. Instead, I am just…well…dressed.

I notice a woman in the subway in white linen, firmly pressed dress with calves carved like museum statues. None of her hair flies away from her scalp and her pale slate eyeshadow matches her shoes.

I notice a grey suit hemmed perfectly at each end wearing a man like a newly reconnected lover. I want to be the one who someone whispers about and thinks: “Well done, sir.”

Or maybe we are noticing the wrong things. Or could it be that we are announcing inaccurate feelings or observations.

[How do you want me to react?
Are you looking?
Look at me.
Otherwise what’s the point?

Is anything experienced in private anymore?

I am researching lands where I can indent its dirt with my weight. Clog my pores with earthwormed-soil and feast on gardens breathing out seeded surprises. (I think) my skin is rotting here.

My dad always says it is wrong to kill an animal when it is living in its natural habitat. Don’t bother a spider if it is just tip-toeing (sans toes) over leaves and locks of grass. However, if it begins to crawl the walls of a house from the inside, it is fair game. No excessive violence; in fact, my father has been known to trap the critters in jars and let them back out. I always wonder if they snicker to themselves as they turn right back around and head back in…

In this moment, men are spraying the crevices of my tiny shared apartment with some kind of poison, which is having an odd effect on my ability to keep my eyes open. (or, that early morning sunset stealing my hours of sleep may be to blame). Am I safe from their teethmarks or will this just become a mere intermission from their foraging.

Today, I need to climb out of my window and attach each limb to a tree branch. I want splinters to open me up and force me to commit to life.

And once I make that commitment, must I stick to it?

An intriguing poet with magical and invisible wings says to me: “Don’t stop existing, ok?”

But I wanted to say, “Even in existence, we tend to cease to exist.”

We suck on reality shows like they are medicinal lollipops; while mice shake up our “routine” more than some man out for vengeance with a gun and a hit list. I’m not sure of the politics of these mice. If they were pro-choice, would I like them more? If they believed in same sex marriage all across the world, would I buy them their own package of hot chocolate mix?

I am really not sure about making such a commitment. The only things I can commit to at this time is hair color and my addiction to coffee. Life is too broad and uncertain.

Now, I walk out of home, trying to let go of the chemicals of poison, and conversate with the farmer’s at their weekly market. Spread myself out on a patch of grass with another and bask in sun, NY Times, fresh fruit. I’m not sure about tomorrow, but I can commit to today.

you are made to leave but never do

When does a root first arrive and what is its blood type.
Speak on the unfairness of graves and governmental restrictions.
Who does this earth really belong to.
What hasn’t been noticed yet.
There is no freedom from war.
Horses were replaced by rubber and aluminum.
Is your music religious.
Pasts get lost unless they are hooked to leashes.
Birds may be painted but not fingernails or walls.
I used to be a lightening bug but now I am a neon smudge against suburban sidewalk.

I am singing for the first time and I do not need to be trapped beneath layers of conditioner and green tea soap on my body in the bathtub. I am sewing the seams of ripped poems and savoring the sound of new language from this decade merge with my younger self. Maybe I don’t need that stage to tell you what I’m like. Want to gather up this mess? Bring a flare gun, some candles, a map of your favorite place to dream about, bring some tea, lemon cake and a blanket. I’ll supply the moon and my mouth.

recalled planet

In 2006, we removed it. Built giant fishhooks and extended them into the sky. Then we pulled this planet out of its rotation. Pluto was no longer part of the gang.

Did we humiliate it further when we called it “dwarf planet” or “minor”? Stripped its name and called it a number? 134340

On land, there is a woman. She twirls pens into her skin like inked ballerinas and calls her body this planet.

I weeped when they took Pluto away. Wore a large white pin against my breast for weeks, which declared:

This woman who walks the earth has perforation plaguing her skin. She is a thunderstorm of beauty. She carries luggage in her pockets. A lifetime of wardrobe changes, notes, address adjustments, toiletries. When her hands dig into the corners of sewed hems, there is no certainty of what she might find.

see body as an arena of trauma victims
see body as a storm-watch warning in effect
see body as a parking ticket
see body as a paralyzed petal dropped to the ground from rooftop garden
see body as a fixed-gear bicycle
see body as an aroma of sewage and buffet grease
see body as this planet….evoked of power, pulled from rotation, stripped of history
see body as a dialogue between past and present with occasional interruptions from future

This woman walks across a bridge wearing black tar fabric over musculature/ This woman waters limbs so that they grow long enough to push Pluto back into its prominent spot, erases numbers and revises them back into a word/ Maybe she renames this planet/ Maybe she calls it by her name/ Maybe she glues thousands of maps together/ carving poems into the infrastructure of state lines and border crossings and/ calls it the formula of existence.

drowning(what is this water made of)

What if we were given the opportunity to choose our own diagnosis?

As a kid, I devoured books like Encyclopedia Brown, Anastasia Krupnik and Choose Your Own Adventures. The ability to go to page twelve if I want Becky to dive beneath the shark-filled waters to see if the treasure is there amazed me.

What if life could be this way?

If you want to leave all your community behind, head north for the girl who held your heart once, go to page 102.

If you are ready to go back to school and learn something that might get you a better job, go to page 70.

Ready for travel? Grab your passport and turn to page 212.

Diagnoses are similar. Some people would rather not know. They prefer heading through the entire book of themselves without interruption. Without skipping pages. Without peeking into what is to come. More specifically, they would rather not know if something grows in their body.

silence the sick and it will go away

What type of adventure am I choosing? I think I’d like to turn to page 47 and fall in love. After a few pages seeped in that, kind of like a comfortable drown, I will go back 32 pages, quit my job and take a bus trip across the country. At a rest stop, I’ll turn to page 93, where I will walk 1.3 miles to the nearest cafe, ask the woman behind the counter if I could work there and start existing for several weeks as a local. Then, I finger page 111 where I say goodbye and buy a ticket to a foreign city I’ve never been to and only speak about 12 words in their language. Here, I learn a new trade, volunteer my time and labor for free housing, write poems and humble myself through the art of missing Brooklyn’s amenities. Turn to page 303. I find religion in my soul through meditation and sworn off Internet connection. Skip to page 419 and I get married. I contemplate page 660. Rather, I peek a little at it’s projection of baby and normalcy. Then, I fall backwards onto page 123. All it says is:

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hope for. (Epicurus)

I don’t go back to page 1 or even 115. However, I decide to stay where I am and gather up my love for the present.

This borough of graffiti’d breaths and there are pigeons everywhere far more curious than I am. And what about the sunrise caught as bike wheels bring me closer to the rash of color on the sky. There are the flowers that grow in tiny gardens beside concrete stoops and bodegas at every corner selling all the oddities I might need in one place. The Museum of Modern Art. Enough farmer’s markets to keep my vegetable bin continually filled up. The surprising friendships I’ve made. Enough stages to keep my poems occupied…………..

If I took the death and water out of drown, it would turn into submersion in and inhalation of. I’d like to try this out for awhile. Complete submersion. Inhalation of New York. Maybe I’ll exhale out a book or right now I’d settle on a twenty-four hour fit of smiles. My curiosity wants me to skip some pages, but I’m going to slow down. Curb my impatience. See what waits for me as I allow it just to happen.

please don’t tell

Does the angle between two walls create:
a) an uncomfortable place to lean
b) a morose shadow
c) a happy ending

On a Saturday, I am joined by a woman wearing blue hips. She speaks in clicks and swirls of pen ink. Her laughter is a meal I savor all evening.

In a museum, we wander. There is a room with thick floss creating boxes of mazed claustrophobia. Ticket holders pause in the darkness. I notice a man; I notice my discomfort being blind in a room of his gender. The rope bends, pulls up and to the sides.

Does the artist want us to panic? Does the artist want us to focus on shape shifting? Is the artist watching?

Tour guide with long, blond hair and purchased smile tells us to stare into the red neon blinking exhibit.

This will take away your memory, she says.
Good thing, I blurt. I’m ready to start over.

I stare, refusing any blinks to interrupt. There is burning in my retinas, but I push through it. I have a lot of memories to extinguish.

In the evening, we come across a bar with no sign, with no mention, with a huge waiting list. Only in New York would a bar exist that has a secret entrance in a telephone booth built into a hot dog shop.

Over three hours later, we receive a call that it is our turn to enter. I wonder what exists in this place. Will there be men or women walking around naked, slurping expensive shots of liquor off each other’s curved parts?

I can recall various places I’ve been where images such as this filled the room. A man in pink tutu wearing dog leash and bruises, asking to be whipped. Women with lipstick all over their bodies from other women’s lipstick sticking to them. Piles and piles of condoms.

We enter the bar.


Safe sex paraphernalia?

Women walking around carrying cheese platters?
(I was hungry; no)

It was really just a bar.

Men in fancy suits or button down shirts that looked newly pressed and steamed.

Women wearing cleavage and smiles.

Then, a redhead wearing bandana on neck, striped shirt with black vest. Converse. Some visible knots in hair. Scars replacing bling.

I’m not supposed to tell because that is what the bar advertised.


There is taxidermy everywhere. My beautiful friend keeps getting accosted by a stuffed grizzly wearing a hat and several rows of sharp teeth.

Where the walls meet, there are tables of people, gathering stories or alcoholic buzzes. I feel envious for the dead animals nailed up.

They don’t have to wait on a list or order overpriced drinks (though impressively made with locally grown herbs).

They don’t need to worry if anyone will notice the ink stain on right pocket of jean shorts.

They definitely don’t have to feel distracted by the fear that deodorant protection ran away two hours ago and any sudden movements may offend.

They just get to remain there, regardless of social class or ability to match shoes to shirt.

Please don’t tell but I think I fell in love with New York City a little more on this day. With all of its secrets and odd quirks. New York City is kind of like me.

happy ending or….an uncomfortable place to lean?

that time.

There was that first encounter with a honeysuckle. Beyond my backyard in small suburban New Jersey. My appetite was choosier then, yet when she told me it was edible, I let my tongue extend through my parted lips, and dig at its yellow powder. I really wanted it to taste like honey like sweetness like strawberry pie interrupted with brown sugar. Instead, it was more like a subtle whisper of nothingness. She smiled at me with painted mouth, dyed from the golden dust. I wanted to kiss her then because that is what friends do. They kiss each other. They compare hip size and knock all their teeth together to create a thunderstorm of bruising. The only thing I kissed that day was the flower.

There was that time a severed tree pressed its anger into me. Lunch was on its way toward completion on deserted patch of earth where water grew nearby. I tripped into its splintered curve and felt my blood awaken and pour out. There was that woman who rescued my fear of injury; she taught me about fascia. Held me as I limped. There is something about having skin tear that makes you want to marry another.

femalia as a symptom

when all else fails, eat lead.
boils in water may be used as a murder weapon.
her vagina is detachable therefore nothing is left to rob.
russian man has breath of wood chips.
lobsters exchange colour from maroon to cherry post plunge.
day begins when air wafts against lungs like a flying bruise.

illustration by phoebe gloeckner

gender is the symptom.
black butterfly interrupted by yellow is the image.
convince existence to remain one more day is the treatment.

I could purchase runners: the expensive kind, the kind that kids wait for overnight in folding chairs and sleeping bags so that when the store opens they are the first ones to touch them.

I could replace my ink-stained backpack with one slightly more durable, big enough to house my notebook and two pens, extra clothes, an atlas, trail mix.

I could fall in love again and not push it away like an intruder.

I could have a baby, search for a woman with sperm or try to grow some of my own and impregnante myself.

Is there a way to peel off the first fifteen layers of my skin and make room for something else to grow there?

I could move to Canada.

I could eat ice cream for breakfast because that is what my body truly craves.

I could give away all my things so that I don’t have to put them away anymore.

I could unplug myself and see what persistently remains alive.

What would happen if I started walking, forced myself to get lost, cross state lines and comfort zones and begin life in a place where no one knows what a scar means.

I could swallow seeds, water myself until my body is covered in crops, feed the world from my harvested bones.

I could stop making lists and just allow the day to arrive.

I could give up on monogamy with another and begin a solitary love affair with my brain.

The manifestation of this grammatical feminine is not found in any of my parts/ Every inch of me is detachable, including these thoughts/ Neutered mind allows room for retranslation of life.living/ Questions are androgynous/ Words are without genitals/ Love is just an angle to faint against.

shell shocked

Inside the ocean,within its constant movements, there is magic. Toes dig into crushed shells, algae and seaweed and perhaps the occasional fish, rocks and human waste: band-aids, cigarette carcasses, wrappers, plastic

I have aged out of Sunday newspaper comic strips and Saturday morning cartoons. I don’t even own a television anymore.

I have moved beyond dolls and playgrounds, though without a child I’m not even permitted to play on swingsets alone (due to pedophiles).

I have removed all my piercings, remain addicted only to coffee now, and no longer feel enticed to engage in evenings of debauchery (minus special occasions).


though decades gather, I still get lost on beaches, searching for shells, rocks and (if I’m really lucky) sea glass.

In purple bikini top and borrowed swim trunks, I kept adding to my hearty handful of varying-sized shells. Many were cracked, some disintegrated into my clumsy fingers, while others were remnants of something much larger once. I may have found three to four complete ones, though the smaller bits are just as illuminating and miraculous.

What is it about these shells that captivate me far more than jewelry, shoes, or baubles of any sort. They are homes. Homes to animals and housed by the ocean.

Am I a home? Home to my bones and housed by this earth?

Essentially, we humans are shells: variously hued, shaped in rippled skin that shakes and alters. We never stay still in these shapes. We’ve sharp angles and some of us are bigger than others, while some of us are/feel crushed…a former version of what we once were.

We can be found, if looked for.
Regardless, we exist.

And on this beach where shells, sand and ocean can be found, there are families. I take note of the French Canadians walking past, the lesbian couple visiting from upstate New York with matching haircuts, cargo pants, and t-shirts advertising what town we are in.

A man from Ottawa says, “I think I may take my shirt off and show off my frame.”

I paint a thick coating of sunscreen all over my skin, while I watch ladies pass me by wearing over-cooked flesh, freckled and burnt. I worry about their health; I worry about their worry.

For four days, I leave Brooklyn behind and wonder what waits for me. As I age, I ask myself what matters, what is needed, and what/who I want to grow old with. My staples in life have dwindled down to: coffee, books, notebook, extra fine black ink pilot pens, and places to walk which excite poems out of me. I’ve entertained thoughts of joining a commune (still researching these options) or filling up my favorite blue/green backpack with enough essentials and hiking my way toward a new land.

What/who is worth remaining for?

The shells I plucked from the ocean and sand wait for me to admire them once again in old jelly jar. I’m not quite ready to untwist that jar and let their scent out.

Perhaps I need to untwist myself first, allow for some real time, so the magic stuffed deep, deep inside can travel its way out of me.