nadal oodh

How much am I willing to pay for peace?

On my way toward an uptown pub to meet a friend, I inhale the scent of meditation. Outside, there are scarves, carefully folded colors in piles like square clouds. I am early to meet him, so I stroll inside, expanding my lungs as aromatic smoke covers me.

I am brought back to Bob Dylan in tape deck of two door hatchback; I am fifteen. I am a passenger in a car driven by Farrah, the first hippie I ever secretly loved. Her skin was drenched in patchouli and her hair gathered in knots and all those freckles and her long skirts and nose ring. At that time, we both volunteered at the same place, spending hours with humans who were placed in a home because their minds grew differently than other’s. We completed puzzles and drew, listened to music, and donated our time to people who– for the better part of the day– were ignored.

In this tiny store full of homemade candles and tinctures and sweet-scented oils, I spoke with the singular worker about slowing down.

“This is the first moment of my day where I am stopping just to breathe.”

He rubbed a package of incense together and asked me to inhale.

“This is nadal oodh,” he said.

And my knees began to curve from the musk mangling up my insides in the most exquisite way. It was far too pricey, so I began to look around. I breathed in nag champa and frankincense and guggul and camphor. My fingers settled on sandalwood and as we exchanged currency (dollars, receipt), he grabbed one stick of nadal oodh and gave it to me.

“Fill your space with this,” he said. “Save it for a moment when you need your air to tell you things.”

I am percolating in ruminations. My soul has been searching it’s self and sometimes I think about joining in. I am not sure where I should be, but I need to be somewhere.


Some things can be explained.

The indentations on cheeks like puddles also called dimples.

Curve of hairline, similar to low tide.

The elongation of your toes.

The intonation of voice. It’s pitch and peaks.

When you are around them, it is easy to assemble where your parts came from. Skin tone. Body type. Strength of shoulders and inclination to laugh during the sad parts of movies. Every root can be labeled and tagged as an offshoot of someone else.

In the morning, when I am alone at my desk– which used to be a piece of scrap wood balanced on plastic crates and has since been replaced by a yellow fold up table purchased at summertimes stoop sale– I think about the parts that cannot be explained. And I search for these parts in lovers too. Because I want to decipher the mannerisms swiped from family tree and the ones which came much later.

We arrive and we watch and we learn as we watch and we do as we watch and our opinions are like a giant garden watered by our parents or guardians. It is difficult to decipher what is chosen, when nothing is its own anymore.

I’ve done some things that were not mentioned at suppertime or holiday gatherings or through school research of family history. I follow the dust, bred from the chalk-marks surrounding these things to figure out its true origins.

Where did all this arrive from?

Youth is something we push away and push and smother with a pillow because we want what the grown-ups have when we can’t have it. We let go of overalls too quickly and imaginary friends and nap time and excitement over snowdays or water-slides. We put on make-up when our faces are colorful and dramatic already or slick our hair back and replace wide-open laughter with brooding glares.

Then when we are real adults (which I am still researching), the bills arrive and suddenly we are judged by our credit score instead of how many U.S state capitols we can memorize. Our status is marked by how many computer friends we have and the latest phone upgrade glowing in our skinny pockets. We surround ourselves with things, similar to when we were young, but our things are plugged in and flashy and everything must match including underwear and whatever happened to those faraway days when life was marked by play-dates and tree climbing?

In the olden days, we played a game on looseleaf paper called MASH. This light-hearted game was like a scratched out fortune teller.

Mansion. Apartment. Shack. House.
What is your fate?

And you have to name who your future husband would be (before we knew we were queer). And what we wanted their job to be (because we control that, right?). And the car we’d drive and the name of our kids and animals and even the place we’d honeymoon (for those of us legally allowed to marry).

I remember even as a kid, I never wanted the mansion and I wasn’t too keen on a house either. For most of my adulthood, I’ve lived in an apartment without a wife or kids, had a perfect pup for some time, and I never dictated my partner’s job but I always wondered when I’d get the one I always hoped for.

When I am around my family, I study them in a way I never did before. I do this in order to understand myself a little more. Someone drilled into my mind and stole so many of my childhood snapshots that many years are blurred. Kind of like how it looks when I take my glasses off….but worse. I don’t remember full years. So I try I try I try to be present now because this moment is loudest and the ink is still wet and the words are at their thickest.

Maybe I should address the calluses on my feet from all the paths I’ve taken. They know where I’ve been, recalling each time I’ve gotten lost. Perhaps all the answers to our selves can be found in the hardened formation of tissue decorating our unseen bones.

body is a fireplace for rummaging ashes

There is a strange aroma that arises with each burn. And nothing just disappears. Because if you look within the crumbles of fire, you will see each woman devoured through external glances, the men, the books, the meals, the water, the leaves, the mountains, the spices, the bedframes, the silence, the sliced animals, the musculature of eardrums, the roads.

Sky is a cannibal. And the sun is a combustion of yesterday and the decades that wait backstage. Are fingernails flammable. Is the belt you whip your pages with fire-proof.

Save the world one spit at a time. Hoard saliva as though it is a remedy. When you see something worthy of keeping, hiss the liquids off your tongue and gyrate to the sizzle.

Not everything is a metaphor for something else. Sometimes a fire is just for warmth or a need to extinguish evidence of life.

When one sets a body on fire, the only thing left are the bones, hinting toward the remains of existence.

mother tongue

This would be the time. Find a partner or purchase sperm. Insert future teenager into womb. Water. Water. Water. Remain upside down while saturation continues. Go to breathing class. Eat for 1.5 . Watch texture of hair change and nipples get darker or wider or so sensitive, you walk around rented apartment shirtless. Notice aversions begin as waistline stretches and elastic becomes more necessary than any lover ever was.

Dream about forests swallowing body and baby / roots hovering and hollowing.

This would be the time. This was exactly the time for my mother and sister. My uterus glows neon reminders that if it were to ever be used as container, pod, housing unit for future human, the time is now.

I live inside a tiny room, where walls have been replaced by books and memories and paint and photographs and love notes. This room is wedged inside a dark apartment, which I dream is made of soil and dandelions rather than must and neglect. There would be no room for a baby here. And someone else shares this space and I need to be alone in these walls where yellow drips off the white paint and I swear they are messages they are stories they are past tenants telling me it is time to leave now.

So I go.

Mailboxes are meant to be leased in order to experience other shapes and locations. I move to another street, another corner of borough. I cut all my clothing into squares, sew their corners together and create a quilt. I walk around with this cloak like a cheesecloth, wrapping me into something safe and contained. I hold imaginary hand of imaginary baby. We frequent farmer’s markets and libraries. We learn languages together and this baby buries every one of my scars with each smile.

Maybe I can be whole when I create a whole other.

This would be the time. But my health insurance hasn’t begun yet and my bank account is a bit lower than I’d like it to be and I should probably relearn arithmetic and U.S. history.

Numbers can be intimidating. Traumatizing. A contant reminder of what I should be doing.

I’ll sit inside this. No sperm shopping for the moment. I need to get my things in order. I’m still not convinced I’m a permanent resident here.

At night, my dreams can continue.


i was never really taught how to be so is it ok that i am still finding out / so is it ok that i don’t fully understand the function of my palms and the meaning of their itch / and is it ok that i need to run and when i remain i am still running / so is it ok to hoard my breaths for the times i lose track of where they come from / so is it ok to mourn so much / so is it ok to (still) think about jumping, cutting, gassing and swallowing / so it is ok to have poetry as my mistress–the one I run to when I don’t want to explain myself / and is it ok to still prepare for how i’d like to end / and is it ok that i spit ghosts out of me each morning before breakfast / and is it ok that i quietly gather them up and swallow them back inside me / and is it ok to need these ghosts / and is it ok if i am one of these ghosts / and can you just let me know if you’re ok because i am not or maybe i am / and let’s just be still / let’s just be still /let’s just be still (in this)

a tale of two jennifers

Beneath a plastic wrapped swingset. On my bed in a basement in New Jersey. Tall and thick. Strong and thin. Shaved. With moustache. From Freehold. From the Bronx. One was heterosexual. One was newly queer. One is married now (perhaps). One transitioned (I wonder).

I tend to write about my first time but never the third time or the last time or the time that never happened or the time I still think about or the time that almost ruined me.

How have I evolved in this sex life and how many of them still think about me or our time together.

I have no idea where they are– even in this world of constant knowing of where everybody is and what they are eating– so I will guess or gather enough words to create a story in my head.

Two Jennifers– one almost after the other– plus the one I never got to because her lips preferred boys’. This particular Jennifer bared her back to me one day on route nine when we were feasting our flesh on needles and ink. Her boyfriend purchased her a fairy and I called myself a woman on my lower back with a circle and cross.

I loved her before I even knew what that meant because in those days queer existed in banned library books and in closets. There were no clubs, only bullies lurking in cafeterias.

Years later, I’d find her, briefly before she got lost again. Behind bars. Locked up.

The Jennifers led to a queue of others: women, some whose names I memorized, some of which I never needed to learn. The Jennifers led me to my first orgasm, experienced far later than I care to explain. The Jennifers introduced me to french kissing and fingering and fondling above and below clothing.

After the Jennifers, I found love several times. Each time growing bolder and thicker and LOUDER.

Sometimes I wish I could find both of them. Let them see me without the smoke and inebriation. We could write a poem together, share a meal. We can scratch each other’s bodies with hieroglyphics–translated into SOS signs. They may be surprised I stopped drugging and I may be surprised they both practice heterosexuality now.

There was that time. Neither of them were there, but the smell of their memory was. In that state I never thought I’d travel to. In a tent or on a mountain or maybe we were straddling a rented mattress or eating a burrito or perhaps reading Sexton or shivering melodies or burrowed in a sleeping bag or hiding out from agendas or letting go of gender roles in a sulphuric cave.

And everything I had learned from the Jennifers– and the ones who followed soon after– no longer mattered. Because bodies steeped in (real) love let go of choreography and you know it’s real when there is silence. No moans. No dirt speak. Just crickets or dog bark or toenail scratch against ankle or yelp from the good pain.

Maybe it’s best we lose track of people because memories cannot remain static if we are FACEBOOK friends, chronicling lives through stalked computer screens. I like remembering the Jennifers as how they first looked to me. Young. Because I was. New. Because everything then was. Real. Because even if I’m the only homo left, our bodies created music created lessons created history. Even if just for me.

we arrived in this naked

There is no idea but to cover up or clarify how those folds got there.

And if belly is soft then explain that a baby once grew inside it or if breasts lack complacency, make sure to convince them that it’s from feeding or genetics. Or lie about exercise regime or explain that work hours overlap possibility of sit-ups or weight lifts.

Bodies are like snowflakes are like fallen secrets pressed against windows are like reflections are like sharp implements are like dangerous exaggerations are like predators.

And in a room full of humans, take note of the shapes that take shape within the shape of a space.

Ninety-degree angles and triangular justifications and octagons and rectangles and its been awhile since my body existed inside a classroom where numbers were examined but I’m quite sure there is a reason for all these symbols and figures to differ.

I disrobe and replace mirror with an audience / distract eyes with poetry so stretchmarks are an afterthought.

But don’t all our bodies stretch and without those marks couldn’t we assume that body as one of static…no movement…no evolution of self?

It’s ok that you notice the blurry lines on my body. The ones beside the scars. The ones that arrived as I arrived into my bones.

We all began as nudes. As empty. As exotic folds. Put away your irons and embrace the wrinkles and grooves.

Clothes are just an accessory; what whispers underneath is the truth of beauty.

home is where is where is where?

(for adam)

A jackhammer in the distance and I turn the music up. Everywhere, urine reminds me that not everyone has a home to piss in and sometimes we need to sit inside that. Home is cramped, shared living space with mice and mold.

Home is pigeons professing poetry against my window. Home is underground and scraped sky and art painted on brick walls, dripping. And when I am here, I am away or want to be or need to be. And I’ve tried to run away for three decades searching for this home inscribed on greeting cards and etched on doorways. But within me is a vagrant and I am searching for the address hidden inside my body.

it figures

At a figure drawing class, I sit amongst artists with sketch pads or pieces of handed out computer paper, staring at a man dressed in spandex and stillness. I try not to look down as I draw; this is my technique. But also, I am keeping track of the minimal times he blinks. I fear his eyes will go dry and freeze open. I worry as he begins to shake, holding an awkward pose picked out for him by the skinny artist/facilitator.

About an hour into these poses—some 5 minutes long, some 20—-I begin to take his clothes off. I do not realize I am doing this until I look down and notice that the nipples protruding out from beneath his polyurethane skin is surrounded by nude flesh on my paper. I write lines to offer contour to his chest and belly and then continue down.

Before I realize, his muscular thighs spread apart and a penis grows from the tip of my #2 pencil.

When the pose is over, I glance at the man beside me with a sketch far different from mine.

“I guess we see what is also inside us,” I say to him.

Later on, this male model turns into a female on my page. Or maybe he is still a male, but this time I draw his muscular shape surrounding a vagina. Perhaps I am out of my element. I work with words not images. But his body was speaking in many ways and all I did was exchange letters for stretched out lines and curves.

I didn’t need to draw what was in front me. The others were doing it well enough. What I needed to do was look beyond his poses. I’m not an artist; I’m an interpreter.

tell me how to live (part 2)

then, believe

notice that stains exist on coffee mugs like blots of art created from your lips and sips that never quite made it in

notice that the moon is resilient–an animal in the sky, curled up creature snoring out a radiant satellite

notice the way she carries your tears like Atlas and the whole world / your salt in her palms / an entire existence on his shoulders

notice the arrangement of scars on freckled body resembling the cuts in sky from airplane soar

notice the way your teeth bite into human interactions and the slow digestion of new friendships

notice how others smile once you do and how magnificent it feels to be noticed