an aftermath of color

What is found outside are car alarms collapsing into sound. An eerily glimpse of sunlight and bird chirp and shadow casting of branch against small rooftop and leaf shimmy and church bell.

What is also found are the wanderings of water with no other place to go than haunt the tunnels and potholed streets and unconscious tree stumps.

When light is taken away, what is left. What may be plucked from the darkness.

*shapes of candle flickers
*tracing laughter with tongue and fingertips
*making love or masking love or marking loath
*sleep
*words stuck onto unseen walls with spit and torn books for when the light arrives again

* * *

Sirens have been consistent throughout this storm. All this wind. All this name-dropping. Sandy. Sandy. Sandy. When will the humans be allowed underground again, Sandy. Where did the homeless ones go if you’ve added to that number and the shelters are full. Where are we putting them, Sandy? Everyone keeps talking about the food they are cooking, the food they are eating, the food they are stuffing up their full bodies and I wonder how many welcome mats no longer have a porch to nap on. And I wonder how many photographs got washed away.

A woman in Staten Island gives birth as the death toll rises to 50. A new baby fits inside the palm of a young mother’s hand while funerals are planned with no way of getting there.

People wander streets mourning the dead, mourning the corpses left in the street, held captive by police tape.

Say a prayer. One you’ve never practiced before. One you’ve been saving for a time like this. Say it twice. Keep saying it. Stick it into the ground like a rooted seed. Wait for it to grow into something. Like a new house. Or a sturdy bridge. Or a roof. Or a fourth wall. Or a staircase. Or a walkway back to the city that never sleeps that may need a nap after all this…

wind advisory for a tree

Gather your flashlights, candles, batteries, blankets.
Gather your bottles of wine, bottles of pills, push bottles away from windows.

Find enough water to fill your bathtub.

Stay away from your windows.
Stay away from the water.
Stay away from the wires blowing, pulling, sparking.

Publicize all your photos.
Illuminate your suffering.
Compare life to an apocalypse.

As we stay inside our various-sized homes during a hurricane, many of us worry over very different things.

Some may be fearful over losing electricity, internet, the ability to watch the neon haunt of their television screen.

Some may be worried for their babies, children, dogs too fearful to pee outside in this.

There are those that are worried over their property, flooded basements, drowned cars, inability to get to their manicure appointment in the morning.

On day two (or three, if you count the prepping of fear), what I worry about is a tree. The one outside my window with roots of burnt brown and tips of red, green, orange, yellow. Branches so skinny, you could not imagine enough power to withstand this wind. And yet…and yet….there may be strength found even in the gaunt.

Last night, I watched the wind gain power. 30 mph towards 40 and 50. In some areas, it reached 80 miles per hour. This tree, too grandiose to be named, blew closer to my window. There were moments I felt I could touch it, had I opened my window. Had I ignored the rules to leave everything closed and locked.

It bent and swayed. Some leaves were pulled off. Some drowned in the flooding below. Some leapt toward the green fence below and survived the water.

I can locate with my eyes a long branch reaching in various directions. It did not survive. At least twelve people in New York did not survive this. More than fifty homes in New York did not survive this. What does it mean to survive this?

As I write, I watch the sky exchange color palette of grey white white to blue white blue. Clouds are pressed firmly against each other and dancing toward another direction. Who is leading? Cumulo-nimbus or cirro-stratus? And now the blue is getting upstaged by the grey and the wind bullies the tree, pressing it toward the ground. The wind wants the steal this tree’s lunch money. The wind wants to pickpocket wallets out of homes. This wind cannot be trusted.

What does it mean to survive all this?

dear poets…

Last night, I watched a black leather-drenched, badass poet sign her poetry book with red-soaked lips. No need for pens, ink, signature. The poems were enough and her mouth, scrunched at the corners, created a shape never studied in mathematics, but should have been.

Last night, a poet no longer needed the microphone. He pushed his arms away from his body like the ocean rejecting the earth. Like clouds in need of a time-out from the sky. He became a one-act play, feature film, ballad, bounty of images.

Last night, I gathered up the histories climbed inside me like invisible spider webs. A haunt. A congestion of tangles. Threw open memories on a flat stage in the east village in a bar, dark enough to hide my shakes, my roots, my cicatricial forearms.

Last night, a poet read his query letter, screamed out the human tabs of money owed. Walked around with tin can full of coins. Do you want to give or receive? Do you want to give or receive? Do you want to give or receive? Poets scooped fingers together for change, handed out dollars saved up for booze and words. Poems can be made from linked wallets, emptied out, used as floatation devices to sail us into another stanza.

Last night, I dug toes and heels against pavement. Walked briskly from one bar to another for poetry pub crawl hosted by a man who hides poems behind his hypothalamus like cryptic whispers. Screamed HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a stranger celebrating the number of rings in his barking flesh. Screamed POEMS like ripped off warning labels against trees, against trumpet player named Demetrius, against strangers on a break from beer-slugging, against the evening, against myself.

Last night, I felt a part of something. I felt parted by something. I felt like maybe I was something. Felt like personified graffiti: real loud and impressively bold. Felt like a ghost chopping up bloody language with the precision of a top chef. Felt like maybe Poe was out there listening as we gathered by one of his haunts. Felt like maybe even Bukowski was looking down on me, offering me a beer spiked with imagery from the sky.

It is Halloween…or the days before…and humans reconstruct costumes into categories ranging from ghoulish Statue of Liberty to Edgar Alan Ho.

You should have dressed up in a costume tonight.
I am, I said.
Oh…what are you?
A girl.

””’

What is it like to be a poet in New York City?

Like a stout infantfish, width of a pencil (.33 cm) swimming in the Pacific

Like a unidentified container of leftover supper that could be really delicious and surprisingly filling, but its lack of label is too curious and in turn, becomes neglected, untouched and therefore, moldy.

Like the trailer to a really good movie that everyone wants to see. (The movie not the trailer)

Like a rainbow in the sky after a brutal rainstorm. If noticed, it is exquisitely romantic and unexpectedly inspiring. However, a sky often goes unnoticed and cannot compete with cell phone screens…

Like there is no other place to be. To smooth out crumpled words into a microphone or into someone’s eardrum.

Like telling the truth amidst a lifetime of lying.

an ode to Allan Stewart Konigsberg

On New York Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, I notice a film crew. It is sometime between 9:30 am and 9:45. I am wearing sleep between my eyes even though I’ve showered and coffee’d. My legs are parted and I am straddling a heavy beast of metal, gears, rust and squeaks called Heleanore the bicycle. I slowed down because I always do when I see a wardrobe truck, table of catered food, and a slur of wiring and lights. I am thinking about work, the exhaustion of being a worker and…then…I…see…

There were two main things on my list to do before I die:

In March, 2012, BlazeVOX books published my full-length book of poems, to go without blinking

…and on 25 October, 2012, I crossed #2 off my list: meeting seeing Woody Allen.

Somewhere on that residential street, you can find my heart– that literal pumping muscle– in a pile of yellow, orange and red leaves because I am quite sure it leapt out of my body.

I. Just. Stared. Got. Off. My. Bike. And. Watched. Him.

I thought about what I could say so that I wouldn’t be seen as just another “fan”. Instead, a future friend or someone he might call on Sunday to drink coffee with and talk about our favorite NY Times articles. I’m not looking to run away with him or have a romantic tryst. I’d just like to share a peanut butter sandwich on pumpernickel bread, maybe a Dr Brown’s root beer soda and some stories.

If I wasn’t on my way to work, I’d have remained in that spot all day. Instead, I breathed him in, waited for him to look over (which I am quite sure he did!!!) and notice the frizzy-haired redhead. Then I shakily biked off.

As I ride the 5 train toward the Bronx, I reflect on what I would have liked to have said to him…..

Hi. Hello. Welcome back to Brooklyn. I live here. Well, I live about six blocks away. What made you choose this area to film? How is your health? I mean, you look great. I was just wondering. I really enjoyed To Rome, With Love, though I must admit that my top three favorites in order are Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Play It Again, Sam. I didn’t think you were filming in New York anymore. Where is your favorite place in New York to eat? Does Soon-Yi call you Woody or Allan or Stewart or…? What are you reading right now? Do you like peanut butter sandwiches? How do you spend your Sundays? Women who I’ve attempted to flirt with have said I look like you. Perhaps they didn’t mean it as a compliment, but I was flattered. How do you balance marriage and kids with your creative life? I make everyone I fall in love with watch Annie Hall with me and they usually love it just as much as I do. Do you still talk to Diane Keaton? Have you read her new book? Do you think I look like you? I write poems. Do you ever read poetry? What is your biggest regret? Are you a morose character? I think about death all the time even when I’m in the throes of an orgasm. Where do you feel most inspired? My dad met his idol, Milton Berle, on an airplane and it wasn’t such a positive experience. Do you idolize anyone? Is there anything you’re afraid to speak out loud? How often do you cry? You always get the girl in your movies; I always lose the girl in real life. How non-fiction is your fiction? Can I give you a poem? Can I make you a sandwich? Can we have lunch together? Do you really not want to be part of a club that would have you as a member? Yeah. Me either.

talk about the time you woke up this morning

I lost someone several years ago. This isn’t the type of loss where you forget where they’ve moved to or no longer have their phone number or got into a ridiculous fight and no longer speak to one another.

This was was the kind of loss that cannot be found.

Fidgeon and I met at Christopher Park in the west village where many poems were written and drugs were scored. I’d sit on the same bench with whatever notebook I was writing in at the time and watched the people arriving and remaining. He was there the first time and most of the times. Through him, I met Justin from Jersey who got clean in jail but wasn’t quite clean anymore. Through him, I met Martin, an old hustler. I met Debbie, covered in bed bugs from the shelters. I met the man with several large nose rings. But it was always Fidgeon I came back to.

After we met, I wrote a poem about him. It wasn’t something I aimed to do, the words arrived.

getting my bearings downtown on christopher street

jesus wants to save his forearm from something that might get him another bullet hole or stab wound willing his pale freckled skin to break away so he sits there/ frozen / awaiting his resurrection/ as the arm lifts brandy to lips speaking to me/ and all I can hear is the sound of pigeons chased away…

I gave this poem to him, captured in thin purple chapbook several months later. He could not believe a poem had been written about him. For him. In his white, ribbed tank top and short sleeved shirt dangling from his back pocket, he jumped around the park shouting:

I got a poem published! This poet wrote about me! I have a poem! I’m in a poem!

Fidgeon couldn’t read well, so he asked me to read it to him. His eyes, the color of ocean strained of human waste, watched me sound out each word.

I kept going back. He’d tell me about his ex-wife who he still loved and hated simultaneously. His son, who was forever tattooed on his shoulder blades. He never asked me for money. And when I was there, he protected me. If Justin or someone whose name I hadn’t learned came up to me (“Can I be in a poem too?”), he’d push them away. He liked full access to the poet. To me. And I gave him my full attention because I knew him best. I knew he was trying hard to stop drinking, even though he later died from it.

Fidgeon did not know much about me. As years went by, my own behaviors were not so dissimilar to those who frequented this park. The difference was I was going to University or had an apartment to return to and a family who still called and a savings account.

Almost three years ago, on a wintery day in mid-January, I learned of Fidgeon’s death from the man with many nose rings. I cried for this man whose last name I never learned.

I haven’t lost many loved ones in my life. I’ve let go of a lot of people as I’ve gotten older. It’s difficult for me to maintain friendships. I’m hardened. I’ve got walls that even lovers haven’t been able to break through.

Now, Fidgeon’s photograph is taped to the window in my bedroom. He floats. Often, when I wake, it feels like a choice. Sometimes, I waver. Sometimes I still go back to Christopher Park and just wish I could see him one more time to let him know what he really meant to me.

So, there was this morning when I woke up. After that time I tried to slice away my lineage. After the night where I passed out from illegal substances. After that time I entered into a world I should never have been a part of. After that time and that time and that time and there was that time…

Sometimes, it is just because I set my alarm clock and I don’t want to disappoint it by pressing snooze over and over again.

Sometimes it is because of that cup of coffee.

Sometimes it is after glimpsing an orange-squeezed sunrise and how can I sleep that away?

I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow morning. I can only talk about this one. And today, I am waking up for him.

there is a subway between my legs

My vagina has been recalled. I’m having a difficult time finding a box big enough or deep enough to send it back. How many stamps will it need? Should I include a post-it of instructions. How to treat it. I want to know if it will be discarded or distributed as recycled paraphernalia.

My cunt is a Basquiat graffiti tag…

I was recently asked to draw it. What does it look like and should I be thinking of shapes like diamonds or triangles rather than New York skyscrapers and underground trains. It’s been awhile since I used a mirror down there and it was tiny and borrowed and barely allowed me enough of a reflection to see far in.

My pussy is an incorrect charge on a credit card slip.

I think I was supposed to draw a flower like O’Keeffe or something drenched in pink like genitals doused in Pepto Bismol. I used a black pen. There is no need for colour. I want to imagine it like a silent movie in black and white and grey tones. Perhaps it is accompanied with a score by Phillip Glass or Yann Tiersen. It is barely friendly, more like a wallflower.

My vagina is an octopus with eight opinions.

And do I need to be connected to it and should I have a bond undisturbed by the ghostly fingerprints ruining its posture.

“I’m not quite sure we are on the same page body (sometimes). I need some time alone. I want to walk around today undisturbed. I am looking to try out some other options. I need you to be okay with this. I don’t want to pretend. Today…today…today I just want something else to be there in your place.”

My cunt is a hibernating bear defying routine. It is a reduced price sale item. Call it pummelo or clementine. Call it an elephant manuscript.

This does not have to be about gender. This does not need a doctor’s slip. Don’t post this. Don’t ask me what I mean when I ask you to call it a thistle blister. Today, you are a 3 train heading uptown. You’re mussed and written on. There are too many men in here. I kick them out. There are crying babies; I kindly ask them to leave. Anyone else still on, I push out too. Now, you are an empty train. My vagina is an empty train. I like it that way.

light sensitive daguerreotypes and the warning of corrosion

“bone ash is good for roses” ….Frank Simone

Dear _______________,

I need to tell you that things are going to change. I need to tell you that your hair will get brighter; your habits will grow more expensive and disruptive; your reason for coming to Brooklyn will become replaced by poor decisions. I need to tell you that you are going to fall literally. You are going to sit in a movie theatre next to a woman with hair darker than midnight pavement. Then, you will head to your favorite _____ bar, which will close down two years after you fall in front of it. You will walk inside and she will order you a pint of something locally brewed. You won’t feel right. You will tell her you need to walk outside for some air. You will feel dizzy and panicked. This is the moment you fall, face parallel to the concrete. You won’t remember calling out her name as your chin, opened up and bloody, frightens everyone that stands above you as spectators. You will wait in the ER for over an hour, forego plastic surgery on your chin to save time, and receive nine stitches. You will spend the next two weeks trying to convince everyone that your fall had nothing to do with being drunk (you hadn’t taken a sip yet). You will explain that you got lost inside a moment of _____. You won’t explain that it had to do with your _____ trying to _____ again and the stress of _____ about how you ________. Because of this fall, you will have to go to the dentist. This will cost a lot because you have no insurance. You will have to go to the dentist because you will notice with your tongue that your tooth is cracked and when you are bored, you will reach your fingers far back there and try pulling it out. Suddenly, you will have a piece of your tooth in your palm and then you will become obsessed with running your tongue over the remaining part. It is rigid and sharp. You will start to worry that more things are wrong in your mouth, so you finally make an appointment. When you get there, you will explain your fear of dentists, doctors and anyone trying to inspect your _____. The dentist is a woman; this makes things easier. However, she will tell you that you need a root canal. This procedure is extremely painful and expensive. It will take you a year to pay off that bill. I need to tell you that you are going to receive text messages from _______. This person is going to contact you on your birthday when you are doing your best to stay out of trouble by attending an open mic so you can read your poetry. ______ is going to ask for ______ in exchange for _____. You are going to consider this. (I’m not sure you are ready to hear why.) You will ignore _____ this time. You are going to try to ______ on New Year’s Eve two months before you turn _____. It will snow. You will be staying at your _______’s house while she is away. You will have a lot of _____, hoarded and saved. You will order Chinese food. You will watch two Woody Allen movies. You will write a note to your family that you later rip up because writing a _____ will seem too romantic and narcissistic. You will finish all the _____ and _____ yourself. You will wake up the next morning with a _____, _____ and red, with _____ all over your _____. You will tell no one of this. I need to tell you that things are going to change. You will buy a box of _____ but never open it. You will start obsessing over _____ and _____. You will take more showers. You will memorize the scent of _____. Are you ready for this? Are you sure? You will become ______. You will grow into a seasoned liar. You will gather most of your income from ______. You will use a lot of this money to make a move to _____. I know this is unexpected. I know the idea of leaving New York seems tragic. You will impulsively apply to _____ at _____ to finally finish your ______ degree. You will get in. You will feel like this is a sign to remove yourself from the trauma you created in Brooklyn. You will use all the saved up _____ stacked up neatly in _____ and this will get you there. You will clean yourself up, staying away from _____ for almost 7 _____; then, you will _____ again in ______. You will become ______ once again and find yourself ______. I need to tell you that things will never be the same. Your body will never recover. You will become diagnosed with ______. You will fall in love with the best ______ you’ve ever breathed against. You will tell _______ what you’ve done. You will worry you passed your _______ onto _____. You will find relief when ______. Unfortunately, you will lose _____ too. Perhaps you shouldn’t be reading this. Perhaps this is too much to fathom. Perhaps there is no such thing as warnings, only condolences.

(x/o)
______.

I want to go to Columbia (University)

Notice the redhead. She’s bundled in thrift, some buttons exiled from jacket, hair unsteady.

She stares a lot. Notice her notice the buildings, which look presidential. They are tall and white with pillars and windows so clean you could fall out of them. The grass is the color of pea pods. There are no bald spots. Three young men play soccer on a patch designated for outdoor sports. One of them is barefoot. They all wear Columbia University sewed onto their clothes.

Notice the redhead trying to infiltrate affluent society. Notice her check her wallet for $61,549 possibly hidden inside. Notice her lift out several dollars, equalling eight. Notice her shoulders shrug.

The redhead walks into Dulany Hall. Tries to appear smarter or richer or like the kind of person who might apply and get accepted into Columbia University. A woman behind a desk stops her.

Can I help you?

Yes, do I need a student ID to sit in here or…

It’s $15 to sit here.

Her hazel eyes widen into porcelain platters. So, I would have to pay $15 and also pay for my food?

Most people just swipe their card. They have a meal plan. It’s taken out of that, speaks the woman.

Notice the redhead walk away.

She wants a coffee. It is almost 7pm, but the caffeine won’t prohibit her from sleeping later. She walks into a small cafe and wonders if the barista behind the counter goes to Columbia too. After she orders a cafe au lait, she notices an odd blue contraption called DipJar, an electronic tip jar for credit cards. Dip card in. One dollar is sucked out. Magic. She wonders if everyone here walks around with stacks of credit cards in their wallets…

Redhead walks back to Columbia, where she drinks her $2 coffee and watches young kids (belonging to Professors?) circle around on their pink-exploded bicycles. Notice the redhead conjure up ways to stay. Notice the redhead feel remorse for her own (most recent) alma mater, which she would not want to advertise anywhere near her body.

Notice the air quality here; it feels filtered. Notice how happy everyone looks here. Notice the gangs of intelligence slurred into bodies. Notice the redhead thinking of ways she can stay.

how native is your tongue

Two small Hispanic men walk onto the 2 train with a guitar and accordion. Their faces turn into spotlights beaming happiness, as their fingers begin pressing keys and plucking strings.

I have no idea what they are singing about, but it doesn’t matter. It is 9:28 am and I am being serenaded on my way to work in one of the most beautiful languages: Spanish.

I have fallen in love with Spanish tongues, slurring curled letters into my ears. When I speak, I don’t always pay attention to where my teeth go or if my tongue touches them or if my lips grow into a tiny circle instead of a pushed back parallelogram.

When I am on the subway, my metro card turns into a passport and I become a world traveler. I hear Portugese and Mandarin. I hear Patois and Hebrew. I hear slang and hybrid variations. I wonder if I stayed on long enough, if I could learn enough to call myself trilingual.

I have swallowed a lot of almosts. I almost learned how to properly play clarinet (though I really wanted to learn drums). I almost went to culinary school. I almost got married. I almost lost my life a few times. I almost went to Germany. I almost memorized a poem. I almost fainted the other day. I almost left Brooklyn (again).

In high school, I almost learned Spanish, but I was too preoccupied with trying to die and learning how to understand the directional pattern of my awkwardly growing body and some stuff about my mom and … and … and …

I’d like to practice my tongue roll. I’d like to learn how to read Neruda’s original work, without its English translation. I’d like to sit on the 2 train toward work and not only hear these men singing, but understand them as well.

I’d like to be bilingual.

what has not arrived has arrived

What has arrived in me can only be defined as a loose poem. A sawed off slice of petrified wood announcing the arrival of stunted time. A promiscuous sleep. A bitten tongue due to acidic underbite of regret.

I have been carrying around a letter I wrote in my wallet for almost four months now. The sweat in July from my thighs moistened it. After a monsoon in August, it grew wet and stuck. Its pages grew delicate. Several days later, it dried, but now its corners crumble and some words dripped away. It’s for a woman who climbed into my pocket in the late Spring. A woman too tall to see the tops of trees; she converses with the missing pieces bitten out of the sky. She is mermaid-thin. She is mermaid-beautiful. She is a mermaid. Some things are easier admitted on paper, pressed into envelopes, interrupted by a stamp and mailed away. Some things are easier mailed away. In her letter to me, she studied the anatomy of her torso sucked dry by another the way one might devour a heavily marinated sparerib. Gobbled down in a good kind of way. In my letter to her, I tell her all my secrets or the one that matters most. The kind of secret that interrupts dinner parties and sexual encounters. I tell her what I’ve done and what has not arrived yet…….

*
marriage.
[back-ordered] love.
tranquility.
translation.
a baby.
forgiveness.
a heal.
a rest.
death.
life.

a let go. . . . .

*
My skin flakes off in fearful glances. Where did I come from? Why do I arrive like this?

*

I announce to a decoupaged dancer that I am contemplating a travel. I announce to a decoupaged dancer that I am worried that the sick stuffed beneath the fourth and twelfth layers of my skin–which has been lurking for years–is oozing out of me.

*
And then someone sends me a sunset. And then I drink a cup of coffee and burn away the bad thoughts corroding my throat. And then I write a poem. And then I kick a woman out of my bed. And then I isolate isolate isolate. And then I cry kernels of my childhood into steroid-enhanced boulders. And then I eat some more. And then I purge. And then I hum a song I made up while bike riding. And then I forgive myself. And then I change my mind.