how to be (or not to be) an adult

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I purchase a small hot chocolate in the Bronx for one dollar from a kind man who appears like a giant, elevated in his metal food truck. Our first conversation sounded like this:

“May I have a hot chocolate please?”
“You want sugar?”
“Oh, no thanks. Do you have soy milk?”
“Skim milk?”
“Just milk.”
“Ok…I’ll have that. Thanks.”

When he handed me the small paper cup, wrapped up in napkins, he said, “Soy milk? In the Bronx?” And he laughed.

Two months later, and we have developed sweet banter like this:

“No milk today, please.”
“Straight up?”
“Off the rocks?”
“You got it.”

Yesterday, I ordered my one dollar hot chocolate on a particularly cold day. I once again asked for no milk. “I need it extra hot,” I said. “It’s so cold out today.”

“You teach kids around here?” he asked.
“Yes, but they’re adults.”
“You’re only an adult if you’re married,” he said. “And have kids.”
I laughed. “Oh, then I’m nowhere near being an adult. I may never be one.”

As I walked away, wrapping my fingers, reddened from the cold, around the paper cup, I thought about this definition.

Adult = Married + Children

As I get older, I notice my womb calling out to me.
You gonna fill this? it whispers.

I’ve never had any pressure from my parents to marry, maybe because I’m a homo.
Maybe because I’ve never really gone the traditional route.
I don’t think anyone expects me to have children.

So, there’s ticking in my womb and suddenly New York says I can legally get married. I will probably forego the marriage part, but maybe one day I’ll adopt a baby or some sperm.

Can I still be considered an adult if I only partake in one of the requirements? And if I do neither, what am I?

As a kid, I thought adults were people who paid bills.
I do this.

The thing is, there is no one definition.
Just like: there is no one way to be a woman or a man or a human.

I’ll keep drinking my hot chocolates, falling in love, playing with other people’s children and paying my bills. I’m not sure these encapsulate adulthood, but I know they are signs of just living.

An evening with carrots and collaboration

Last night, I savored time with Poets. We took over a bar where one wall hid behind old books and the other had local artists’s paintings and photography climbing every inch. The room was dark, lit by the swirl of red in wine glasses and flicker of miniature flame from tea light candles. We mingled and marched our words all over each other.

The wall of art represented the diversity of young minds. A photographer reveals the eloquence of graffiti interrupted by a man walking his large dog. A mixed-media artist splices images of a woman with vibrant colors and a camera lens peeking out of her panties. And then my eyes grow wide when I notice….

Two carrots intertwined like lovers.

Most of the artists were present and when I asked about this one, I learned he was from out of town and wasn’t able to attend this event. An hour later, however, he arrives.

A young man with tiny hairs erratically smeared on his lower face comes up to me. He is shy and I let go of my own shyness to allow room for his to spread out.

“I was told you like my painting. I really liked your poem,” he said.

Earlier, I had performed with two phenomenal minds: a true activist and a Poet/Professor. With many of our poems staged in the palms on our hands, we moved back and forth in an unplanned but smooth rhythm, splicing our poems into each other. I would read a line or stanza and one of them would interject with their own. It was honest and moving to be a part of.

“Well, thank you,” I said to Shy Artist. “Umm…I really like your work, especially that painting of carrots.”

He smiled, but only with half of his mouth. The rest was still a bit timid. “Cause of your hair?”

I believe he was relating the bright orange of the carrots to the bright red of my hair.

“No, I have a thing for vegetables. I go to the farmer’s market very Saturday.”

“Which one?”

“Grand Army Plaza.”

He continued to tell me that he felt uncomfortable taking full responsibility for his art. There were other factors.

“You have a muse.” I stated this more as an assertion rather than a question.

“No, well, sometimes.” He explained that it’s everything around him that helps him to create.

I completely understand. My poems come out of affairs, out of weather disruptions, out of so many things outside of myself that I, too, was starting to wonder if maybe I couldn’t take responsibility for my craft either.

Later on in the evening, a dark haired beauty with cherry-cordial-drenched lips played piano while two poets played out their improvisational relationship to the beat of her keys.

An Irishman who is now a Brooklyn local played guitar and we all drank our chosen beverages, toasting to an evening of shared creativity.

* * *

If ‘you’ asked me what I really want to do, I’d say THIS. Being around other egoless Poets and Artists, talking about existence and literature. Being part of a movement, a collective of minds. Last night was the beginning of something. A declaration. A call out to those in need of an inexpensive space to experiment with language, art, thoughts. It was and is the beginning of Poetry Teachers NYC.

Stand still long enough.

Like a sedated snail, I attempt to take all of this in. Recently, I acquired a photograph of the largest sequoia located in Sequoia National Park in Visalia, California. Although captured in a picture, I still stretched my neck out to take all of it in. Just imagine maintaining your posture for 3,000 years. Now, visualize surviving fires, logging, and the infiltration of curious climbers. I complain when my morning writing routine is interrupted. Envision bursts of unexplained weather and flash photography.

We are electric in ways outside of the neon magic of fireflies. Our palms glow not from poems pushed into our life lines, rather the rectangular-shaped devices we’ve grown addicted to. Cell phones. Various versions of computers, laptops…even pads are no longer yellow with turquoise lines and paper cuts. Now, they may be plugged in too. Traveling home from a long day of work, I practice mathematics by counting each human plugged in to their chosen electronic devise.

When was the last time you stood still? And did you notice the curvature of that tree? The way its bark has peeled off in layers, offering a peak at its greenish skin. There are shapes in its flesh, far more interesting than that song you just downloaded.

When was the last time you collected leaves instead of phone numbers of people you are too busy to call anyway? I want to lie down in this soil, before it freezes over and it’s too late to scoop it all up and sprinkle it over me. Exhaustion slurps my cells, but I realize this sleepiness is connected to living. I forego an extra hour of sleep to poem. I challenge the midnight moon to a staring contest, rather than hiding inside my room and weeping against the confusion of my body.

And what is long enough? How do I know when it is ok to walk away? Away from that image of sunrise slurred against the sky like a drunk beauty. How do I know when I’ve looked at something hard enough with just the hazel of my eyes. The only lens between us are my glasses. No cameras are needed (sometimes).


I am staring. I am staring at you and you do not notice because you are staring at your cell phone. You are checking in to a place online, letting everyone know where you are without experiencing it in its live version. I want to kiss you but you are LIKEing something over a lit screen. I want to hold your hand, but it’s turned into something less human. It vibrates. It plays music now. It’s a map. The flesh is gone.


Memorize the scent of humanity in the air. Practice breathing with the rhythm of birds chirping or wind tapping. There is so much beauty to be found by unplugging oneself and recognizing the live-action photographs happening right in front of you. I put away that picture of the President tree and flirt with the one just outside my window. There are still a few leaves left on its skinny branches. It’s wide and so still. And in this moment, so am I.

What does it mean to be human?

“Camping Memories – Role Swap In The Shadow Of The Narrow Gate”, 45 × 72 cm, iron etching, printed from two black and one and one color plates next to each other, 2011 by Tibor Egyed. 


I awake to snow on rooftops and a skull swelling with head ache. My body is demonstrating against myself. In the night, someone must have pressed their fists against my thoughts. They leaked all over my bed. Through my sheets. Into my mattress. Ruminations stain the seams of sewed fabric. Even my pillows got drenched. What is my body trying to tell me?

I read an article by the comedian, Roseanne Barr, and she tells me to stop complaining about the size of my body. She writes, “Half the world is starving; the other half is trying to lose weight…Blabbing about weight loss is disrespectful to hungry people.” We are approaching resolution time and I am guilty of crafting lists longer than my legs, forcing out promises I often break before the end of the first month. People go on cleanses to prove that they can, but I wonder what would happen if we left our refrigerators outside as a communal offering. There would be no rotting fruit, forgotten and eventually thrown away. Nothing would go to waste because there is always someone out there who will eat what you won’t.

I am going to forego my list this year and just…LIVE. Instead of writing down:

Go to a museum
Bike around Prospect Park
Knit a scarf
Bake bread
Call someone I haven’t spoken to in over a year
Make art
Lose weight

I will just DO these things without announcement, without paper commitment.

What does it mean to be human?

I am bloody and burned and bloated and bewildered. I contemplate and procrastinate and waste and waste and waste. I complain and contribute and conspire and forget. I mess up and I’m messy.

With just a few weeks left of this year, I meditate on these months that have passed. What has been written, read, seen, heard and learned. Without a list, I am boundless now.

And I will honor my body in realistic ways. When it feels heavier, I will give it time to move slowly and hug away its insecurities. Nudity is best when it is given space to be honest. There will be no more sucking in in my future.

Being human is to just commit to being in this. Inclusive of the sad, the overwhelm, the moments where you just want to live outside the body. Like love, it wavers. And I am guilty of this.

Barr says, “Start from within.” I can do this.

Want to see America? Go to a casino.

Here, there is noise. Expectation of bloated wallets just from exercised slot machines and constant coddling of quarters. The carpet reeks of cigarette smoke and the walls cough against the humans inhaling the overpriced nicotine. Look around. Notice the fanny packs. The Santa hair tie. The insatiable bellies that belong to both genders. Notice the couples looking in opposite directions. There is a live band here. Instruments include tear drops bouncing against laps. Drop. Loss. Drop. Rent. Drop. Child support payment. Listen to the percussion of bloat inside stomachs from second helping of mussels or Friday night special of beef sliders. Hear the chorus of coins dropped into machines. The slurp of free alcohol or sober mugs of coffee. It will be awhile before this song walks away from you.

This is America is this America?

We want to win; we want to be winners. We want to sit in seats with neon screens flashing in front of us and drown in the aroma of success just from a simple pull of plastic lever or deck of cards or lucky number called out.

We want a way out. Out of punch cards or nine-to-five expectations or monotony of alarm clocks and exhaustion.

Just.One.Win.And.Then…….everything will be ok.

Machines consume paychecks and found coins hidden beneath couch cushions and the insides of childhood piggy banks and cashed in bonds and 401Ks. Humans feel the weight of regret as time ticks away from them. There are no windows here! And there is no reason to leave if smoking and fornication are permitted and is there a place to rest one’s head? Yes. And what about and what about and what about….

* * *

My body watches. My body follows the thoughts of my mind as I observe men and women… and some of them brought their babies… and some have left their children at home… and locate the new gamblers… and recognize the professionals… and then there are the ones who just love the sound of bells. My wallet remains unopened, unexplored. I do not gamble, but I watch those who do. I wonder if this is the America I grew up in or if this is the America of my future.

Desperation. Dissatisfaction. A need to be saved. Torment to win something.

Sometimes I think about having a kid or adopting one. Sometimes I think how wonderful it would be to live alone. Sometimes I fantasize about universal health care—no restrictions–no fears of “is this covered?”. Sometimes I just want to write all day, wrapped up in brown, borrowed writing blanket. Internet only for moments like this. Breaking for peanut butter and coffee and fresh vegetables formed into something magnificent. Breaking to kiss someone or breaking to call someone. And I wonder how many wins I’d need for all that.

a gluttonous thanks (the non-vegetarian version)

On a day where meat is consumed on giant porcelain platters and we make wishes from their bones, I awake to a wild turkey outside the window of my dad’s house. It gobbles out, good morning, as I wonder if it knows my inclination to all forms of meat (excluding lamb and veal).

As a child, this holiday called Thanksgiving filled our house. Our is defined as the family that lived there that is no longer (sister, two parents, and the extension of family and genetic entanglement). The door bell rang more than it would all year and my mother would dust off the fancy dishes that were kept hidden during the remaining parts of the year. She would spend all day cooking and the food would be gobbled up in twenty minutes. Then, clean up and preparation for part two: dessert.

As an adult, my Thanksgivings have been with shared with past lover’s families, in homes I’ve called my own with those without nearby family, and most recently with my father and his new (and wonderful) extension of loved ones. Thanksgiving is about culture. Praying for the insatiability we take part in that does not exactly mirror the rest of the year. We fill our plates with various starches and meats (for me: turkey, sui mei, duck, and chicken). There is laughter and shared stories, and in my case, Chinese opera.

We explore the veins of gratitude erupting inside us. The rest of the year, we feel it, but often forget to announce it.

What am I grateful for?

When I was a child, my dad and I used to listen to old time radio shows and we’d stare at that radio as though it projected images rather than just sounds. I am grateful for his insistence on working out my imagination. Playing with the thoughts in my mind as toys. We made up stories together out loud when I was young; now, we read each others on paper or in books.

There are some days I want to put my body on this list: it remains even after throwing bricks at it, even after my attempts at drowning it. I don’t know how this mass of weight and bones and blood and bruises continues to flourish and breathe, but I am grateful for its resilience. Health (without the insurance). The ability to move and stretch and use my scars as lines to write on to replace the mourn and haunt.



Peanut butter.


Poems and black ink pilot pens and blank paper that glows once it fills with words.


The poets I’ve met just this past year. The ones who storm stages or just whisper their language into me. The ones who break their silences.


I am grateful for the home I call Brooklyn. The world outside my window, which I bike toward and walk inside. I am grateful to those who throw their garbage away, rather than swatting the ground with it. The graffiti that forces me to learn another language. The bravery of those stormed out of their homes and lives from recent hurricane. The kindness of volunteers–humans who understand the power of giving without getting.

I am grateful for my dreams, which through proper watering, grows skin and cells. I am grateful for the ability to manifest what I desire.


Authors I have learned about through the beautiful minds and recommendations of others this year: Ariel Gore, Marisa Matarazzo, Joey Comeau, Lidia Yuknavitch, John Vaillant, Melissa Febos, Sheila McClear, Eli Clare, Vera Pavlova, and others.


Electricity and hot water.

My mentor. My muse. My mind.

Happy Thanksgiving day of gratitude. Happy realization that thanks may be given everyday, not just the ones announced on calendars.

weighting room

Winter brings on various changes:

The weight of air grows heavy against skin. There is a challenge to skin’s texture. Pushes out the old, wants it to flake off in dry patches like the leaves falling away from the trees. Lotion may be used in copious quantities.

The cold causes closets to appear bare at times when all articles of clothing are worn at once. Base layer of tank top or cotton undershirt. Long sleeved something beneath sweater. Three scarves around neck twirled together like competing dancers. Two corduroy jackets beneath thicker one. Long underwear–a bit itchy at times–beneath pants held tighter to thighs by leg warmers. Two pairs of socks–one long and one short. Boots. Gloves. Hat.

Body is protected in many ways. By clothing and by…more body.

I am trying to get used to this new shape. My Winter shape. If this were mathematics class, I might refer to my body as the Mandelbrot Set: an extremly complex object which shows a new structure at all magnifications. I am bigger. Perhaps this is my way of hibernating inside my self. There are no arms exposed or hips peeking out from thin shirts. My legs nap beneath layers of pants. If I were the type of person to shave my legs, I would stop at this time. I feel my face growing from oval to heart shaped. My hour glass is filling in with sand and I feel boxier and broader.

Buttons plunge and attempt a run-away from fabric. Belts are not as necessary. Winter is filling me out and weighing me down.

Now, although there are moments of overwhelm and frustration, this is not about wanting out of this body. (There is a sense of wanting out but it is not connected to this)

When I look at humans, I notice their shape. I love the various ways in which bodies arrive at themselves. We are multiple choice answers, filled in with scribbles and overflow. This is good. This is real. In the summer, I am bonier but never skinny or thin or small. How wonderful to be like the leaves, changing with season.

So, I remain a little longer studying my nudity. Grab hold of my belly that is far more rebellious than its ever been. There is no six-pack or three-pack or one-pack. It is wavy and loose. But it is still mine.

My thighs speak out like rioting teenagers. They are strong beneath the fat and move a little longer than I do. Cellulite illuminates and it can sometimes be a struggle to feel empowered by these persistent dimples, but they are mine too.

There is more to touch and notice and I still want to be noticed.

Winter, I will do my best not to get angry at your bone-chilling air. I will search out ways to extinguish any insecurities I have with this expanding body, growing in order to create more warmth. I will become bilingual off this body, as it starts a new language: one with clicks and whistles and hard to reach syllabic slurs. Beautiful does not have to be limited to small things, to smooth things, to sculpted angles of skinny. Beauty can be illuminated through folds and twists and turns and who knows how this body will end? It is unpredictable, which is far more exciting. Don’t you think?

an illuminated confession

I was old enough to understand that neon did not naturally grow inside me.

To find it firmly glowing inside something else, something real and buzzing, made me believe just a bit more in magic. Look up toward the lampyridae, or winged beetles, burning up the sky. I attract mates through poetry; they utilize their power of bioluminescence to search out their prey.

I might have been eleven or six. In a culdesac in central New Jersey, I squeezed my tiny fingers together between bits of air that glimmered. The fireflies flapped their wings, teasing me. Flirting? I wanted to know what it could be like to glow in the dark. I needed to know what it could be like to have a body that resembled a light bulb.

So I thought about swallowing. And I thought about asking it to lead me toward its village of gleamers. And I thought about creating graffiti on sidewalks with their oven-like glow.

When I caught one, I felt like everything inside me grew cleaner. It’s light could heal like bandages radiating light. My blood grew into newer cells. The future ghosts of my scars became permanently lost.

I should not have held on so long. They need to fly. They need to parade their inner moonlight. They need to remain alive.

But I was eleven or six and I didn’t quite understand death yet. Or I did but I was just so desperate to experience that glow as though it were my own.

Between my fingers, I squeezed it’s bottom half, as though it were a pen, and began to smear it against the sidewalk between my house and another’s. I felt no guilt—at that time—because I thought I was creating something beautiful. I needed something beautiful. I was turning the world outside my home into neon smudges. An SOS. A distraction. A well-lit reminder of what one can do with light.

Now I am thirty-seven or forty-nine or twenty-two. I use ink now. The only neon I squeeze from bodies is from my own. And it is red like old bricks, rather than green or yellow.

when is a movement more than a movement

Perhaps it stems from my obsession with bodies. The various ways in which we decorate them, enhance or decrease them, locate the voices kept hidden within folds. There is no body I do not notice. Though I prefer the ones with weight, curvature that forces me to practice mathematics (diameter, circumference, right angle, obtuse, quadratically-equated hips), I will also notice the bony ones: ribcages like dish racks.

I attend a dance performance featuring a dear friend of mine. There are two long rows created by metal chairs. Each one gets filled in with a pleated body, attentive and ready. Music arrives and I recognize it as an instrumental version of a popular song. My eyes grow heavy, feeling more like mountains than tiny pebbles on my face. They fall or something falls from them. I am drowning. (I am crying).

The gestures created from each dancer’s movement are ominous, narrated by faces lit by rouge on cheekbones and reddened lips. There are no words, yet I find myself translating the narration of their bodies.

This one is about falling in love and the fumes spread throughout a village of others. They grow sickly giddy: pushing hips out, curving thighs upward, lifting legs toward cheeks, twirling, twirling.

This one is about longing. Stuck inside the invisible structure of solitude. Of emptiness. The language of: this is not enough. Dancer is alone. Pushing out of/ away from her body. She is stuck. She studies the way it feels. Tempts the air around her with the ways in which her skin can shake and tremble. There is no way of getting out; how to make do with this.

A song arrives. I know this one. I’ve performed to this. The tears fall down my face like tree sap, slowly. They tumble. These bodies of women are able to curve in ways I want my poems to. They feast on instrumentation, beats, rhythms and remixed choruses.

These dancers are circular. Their bodies are oceans. I am boxed and locked. My body is scribbled.

There is a moment when a movement becomes more than just a word or gesticulation of intention.

The song fades out. The dancer walks to the side where the others watch. The audience claps. I clap. The audience writes down notes on designated papers, offering critique for this show of previewed works-in-progress.

I want to annotate my triggered memories. I want to walk up to them and whisper moans of sadness into their eardrums. Instead, I rip out twelve eyelashes and give one to each of them. Not for wishes, but to offer up my cells as a gesture…a extraction of intimacy.

plastic paroxysms

A battery-operated radio rests beside my bed on hand-painted table. I dig the art of turning it on, slight finger-tip touch tuning it toward a new station. I do not mind the garble, sometimes the static. It’s in me too. Many nights, I have fallen asleep to its hum of voices. I prefer the stations that talk to me; it feels like I have company. A roundtable discussion of politics, some of which I do not understand, but it pushes me toward a more pensive sleep.

And inside my closet beneath old sheets and towels with stains from the drip of my hair is a record player, purchased for ten dollars at stoop sale in Brooklyn. An Italian carried its surprising weight fifteen blocks for me. Records still wait to rotate as I put off getting its needle surgically enhanced or screwed back on or offered some version of CPR. Its body craves an electric outlet over batteries, but it still relies on something to set it off, to turn it on, to make it move.

In my sock drawer, where misshapen cotton searches for its mate, there are various other plastic parts in need of batteries. Colors include pink (or I prefer to notice it as salmon), silver, purple, red. Various widths and lengths and one is called Sharonda and they are all just devices to stimulate what humans can’t. As I search for paroxysms between my thighs, these batteries act as matchmakers, bringing me closer to orgasm.