beyond the view of what can be swallowed

There is too much to take in right now, so you must remove some things. Who needs both lungs. The air breathes against you enough to make some room in body. Tree slopes toward shoulder and itches hip, which is exposed because clothes can be alarming and nudity is where you began. Some of these teeth can go. Remember remember remember when you pulled some out that day because loose means lucky available and ready. Sometimes a tiny twist is enough to exit away some roots. You are being selfish. You don’t need all that skin. Cut some away and lay it over water—a raft for the birds too tired for heights. There are some bones that exist for breaking. Brake those off like shared fortune. Wrapped around the skeleton are poems. Read them out loud. Let them go too. Give away blood to the highest bidder, even if all you get is twenty dollars, some eye rolls and an encore. Someone has taken your cells home for the night. Be grateful they have air-conditioning and a question-marked tongue. Peel off layers of words—weight of water-logged driftwood.  How many hers do you still love. There are two hims now. Here is a handkerchief to wash the soot away. Stay far enough from the flames of this bonfire because sparks are promiscuous and looking to take you too.


tilt your naked toward the ugly and squeeze out reformation

Much of it begins out of something else. You read it; you noticed it on a Tuesday stuck inside that book everyone has been telling you to pick up. You captured it inside the fist of your pupil, punching the air with that dust-collecting stare.

It started like a dribble of compare.

He spoke it in his language, which was yours until they frightened it out of you.

In order to go on, turn body into the only carnival ride you could commit to. Like carved-out pills or shy spaceships, they call it tilt-a-whirl. Shake out your biology, your apologies, the startled cause of your sick.

Forget the fur and wool, step into plaster and caulk. You may only be kissed when the wind storms away the layers of your lips from the past seven years.

It’s not that you’re ugly. You just don’t have enough symmetry to warrant air-brushing and notice. Take travel-sized sewing kit to the death in you and seam-rip it away.


i want to pretend away the cupboards

Here is the challenge. I want you to tell me why you do this. Explain in clicks and coughs exactly how you got your neck to wrap itself inside that silk.  I am going to press my mediterranean wrists into your suburban ones. It is too much of a commitment to ask you for your reasons, so I’ll spill fire-soaked whiskey in your lap to gauge what type of communicator you are. Your ankles are showing and I thought those were shadows from Sunday or gardening, but it seems you only offer up select parts of your body to sharps and grooming. But aren’t you a woman and can you tell me in advance when I am allowed to touch them. Beneath the crinoline and itch, far beyond the striped slacks and even the panties, which can be worn beneath boxers and stuffed behind the fibrous and burly, is a cabinet. OK, call it closet. Shelving unit? I know you store your tax returns there and collection of parking tickets. I know about the love notes from that artist who drew you in black ink swirls in barrooms across Connecticut. You hoard stamps and amputated limbs from rejected family trees. Your inconsistencies make others uncomfortable. You will need more wood to build more shelves to hide more things to keep more lovers. I want you to drink that. I want you to drape your body against mine like an evacuated corpse. I want you I want you I want you not to look like that so much. All I am really asking is this. Don’t politicize your gestures. Don’t flatten what should be lifted and gawked at. Don’t hide your pretty. Don’t raise your arms. Don’t you want to be hit on? Don’t you want to be aggressively handled by eyes that validate the performance of your beauty? Now, put all that away. Get out your potpourri and smell it up like flowers like baby powder like well-how-girls-should-smell and make things easier on yourself. It is better this way.

a bicycle. a forest. roots.

The thought-provoking poet, Dan Dissinger, once spoke about a forest on his throat. I finally understand what that really feels like.

All day, I felt this undergrowth and moss migrate to various areas of my body. Roots pressed against lungs. Leaf canopy cradling my liver. The forest floor, cracked and spreading into my limbs.

Tropical rainforests have been called the world’s largest pharmacies. So medicinal and healing. My alleviation didn’t arrive until much later in the day, but it arrived.

Body rode bicycle over year-old bricks. Walked inside building full of papercuts and ISBNs. Breathed in the aroma of alphabetized poetics and fictionalized accounts of memory. Chose a stack of distractions. With each shift of body against air, I felt the roots of tree branch jut against my ribs. This forest is loud and persistent.

Drank coffee with a human who has enough words inside to sop up all the blood and batter. Exchanged sighs and grunts, as I wondered what ecosystem they had internally.

And then.

And then.

Got a ticket for riding my bike on the sidewalk! Was polite when police officer asked me for ID and do you know why I pulled you over and do you have any warrants out for your arrest?

But that forest needed to come out and finally, it did.


After they asked me my weight (while filling out the ticket) and I responded:

Really? Ok……179. 


And then they asked me my height:

5’4 and three quarters, I answered.


They looked toward my eyes.

Hazel, I announced.


They peered toward my hair. 

Red, I said, proudly.


And then.

And then.


I noticed the F. Most days I do not care. I fill this consonant out myself. Create the two lines, one longer than the other. Understand what it stands for. Try not to complicate things. I am a woman. I’ve got the parts. But. But. Perhaps it was the oxisol, weathering and churning inside me that caused me to say:

Excuse me, I do not mean to be confrontational by any means but. But. You asked me how tall I am. You asked me my weight. You catalogued my hair color and eyes. And then you just threw down an F without asking me. You cannot assume. You should not assume. You do not know.


Uniformed professional looked me up and down. Said:

I could take you in right now. You don’t have a driver’s license (I chose not to offer it up). You are giving me your address and I am trusting that it is correct (it was). If you had given me your license, it would have been stated.


None of that matters. You should always ask, I politely offered. Because even on licenses, it can be wrong.


We stood, with another police officer beside us, on Fulton Street, not far from my home. I was patient. I channeled the forest in me to take root of every word, pull it out carefully and responsibly. I was not fighting with this officer; I was educating.

So, what do you want me to put down? they asked.

I took a deep breath. Felt the medicinal properties float around like weightless astronauts inside me.

That’s a complicated question, I said.  I’m not sure. But it’s no longer about that letter. It’s about you needing to know that you need to ask.

As I biked home, I looked at my skin and noticed soil dripping out of my pores. Oh yes, I am growing. My skin is excreting earth and this is a reminder that I am part of all this. I had a pink reminder folded up in my pocket of this exchange, of money now owed to NYC. I was shaking like leaves in a storm, a shivered rush of movement.


I am brought back to a sensation I received one day earlier, as I purchased my very first new tie and collared, button-down shirt at a fancy store for a fancy wedding. I have a collection of ties, but never one that has only worn my neck. I walked up to the cash register with two genders. Human behind counter rung everything up and then I said: Actually I am just going to get the tie and shirt. Who was I buying that other thing for?


We take our bodies for granted. We sometimes forget that we don’t always need microphones to speak out the truths inside us. This forest continues to grow, fill me up, drench my throat, and remind me of my radicle.

what all this means is what does all this mean.

The woman from the radio sings about her brain being picked at like a chicken bone and I think about the last time I was gnawed on by another. She fears insanity as the range in her voice reaches raspy or the kind of holler that only dedicated nicotine inhalers receive. I once dated a Human who started smoking to strip layers off throat. I want to sound affected. I want to appear bothered and broke. When I was nineteen I learned how to forget myself in chemicals and imbalance. Sometimes it is necessary to recall an evening when books replaced clothing and you wore Cisneros and she wore Hafiz and somehow Sexton and Neruda joined in. There will be a vow taken today between sunrise and star patterns and it is difficult not to think of that afternoon I lied about peach trees in an alley below the mountains. What has happened to the moments below your clavicle and when you find someone who calls your hipbone a rainforest or lightening whelk, remain beyond the fear of its end.

beneath rust, there is something to be said.

It is early enough in the morning to assume that you are the only one awake. The sun may be out, but it still yawns with morning breath wafting against clouds, pushing them toward their daily mile. You are three quarters asleep, but alert enough to notice the sound of a bird, red like the tint of your hair, crashing toward the nearby window. Its beak is resilient, or it must be since it plunges against the glass once more. And then again. And again after that. You are stunned at its punishment or is this a ritual of a new day arriving. Does it want to come in? Does it want to get out? There is something to be said about the persistence of its pounding.

My bicycle used to remain indoors, but for the past year and a half it has been locked against the same sign post and its metal skin has changed from black to rust. It is the only thing I straddle these days, but it brings me joy and gets me to where I need to be much faster. My bike and I are philosophically entangled with the wind; I blink musical notes with each turn to alert the other shapes where I am going. A young boy on a bike tells me my back tire needs air and I feel such gratitude that he noticed this. If only we could pay closer attention to humans because we so often run out of air or we choose to breathe less and there is something to be said about someone stopping to say: keep breathing because I am conscious that you’ve stopped.

How about the time your skin hurt from being next to her. The arrival of spots called hives– similar to bees hoarding honey– holding your chest captive for several hours. As a child, they take your temperature with strips that measure the heat. Or in your ear or with the back of a hand. But what happens when suddenly someone else’s bones beside you create a rise of sun and moon and mountain top and the pitch of the loudest yell. What happens when another person becomes a thermometer entering you, evolving your degrees from 97.9 to high above the hundreds. There is something to be said about kinetics and the pungency of emotion.

the gender of clothes (shopping)

I used to dress this way. I owned some skirts and I didn’t mind the jutting of wire beneath breasts–its intention to lift and raise and press firmly together.

Although I still draped myself in polyester pre-owned fabrics, I could also be found wearing curved-neck’d shirts and sometimes eye shadow (though I still haven’t learned how to properly rub it on). I owned some dresses and had shirts that could be called tops, purchased in stores that had no men’s section.

What does it mean to attach gender to a garment? This is not about wearing a tie (though I can often be found with one around my neck); this is not about wearing a vest or slacks or even converse or bandanas.

Yes, I often strap my breasts down as though they are wild animals and need to be caged. But it’s not about that either.

I guess I just want to be one of those hardcover books you find at stoop sales. No fancy jacket with summarized description of text. Not even a title or author sometimes. Sometimes there is a hint of its contents, but often the blurs become an androgynous unknown. You will need to skim and reread, question and annotate in order to really gather its intention and exquisitely intricate existence. There will be twists and turns, perhaps even a choose-your-own-adventure sort of thing.


My dad and I are leaning against a clothing rack as his partner shops for clothes in a small town in Connecticut. I love her enough to forego my hatred for shopping and stores that do not go beyond a size zero (even with hushed-in-the-back plus-size section). Surrounding me are thin fabrics, see-through blouses, and half-skirts. Studded bras. Cropped sweaters. Leggings and pants tighter than surgically stretched out skin. A woman named Jenica wearing name tag and headset, sings along to the piped in music. Jenica walks up to me and asks to read my body. I turn my arm toward her as she reads my tattoos. Then she takes in my attire, which does not quite match the feminized fabrics robotically hung all around me.

You like old things, Jenica says. I can tell.

Yes, I reply. I like when the elastic has been worn away by a stranger’s body with occasional life stains in inconspicuous spaces.

Jenica tells me about growing up in the Bronx. Missing only two things about New York: the ability to eat anything at all hours and the nightlife. I want to add to her list: Prospect Park, the benches along eastern parkway, the poets, the magical collisions of humans finding each other even amidst severe overpopulation, the music, the graffiti, the pigeons. Instead, I just smile.

I love that Jenica isn’t trying to sell me anything here. She doesn’t tell me how great that dress over there would look on me. Nor does she persuade me to try on that glittery pair of high heeled monsters closest to the door. Jenica and I have an unspoken agreement that I am just a visitor. There is no section that includes my body’s gender.

I think about clothes as I prepare to attend a friend’s wedding. Just wear a dress, I am told. I already have one, purchased for a different wedding from a different time that felt awkward then too. Although it still hangs in my closet, my body refuses its existence.

I’m going to wear a pair of fancy slacks, a button down shirt, tie, vest….

Suddenly I am interrupted by my sister. No. Please don’t wear a tie and vest. (As though anyone would even be looking at anyone besides that beautiful bride.)

I have been wearing ties for many, many years, but just within the past three or so I have been wearing vests quite regularly. Perhaps they feel like armor. Bullet-proof gender concealers. Slick and sexy flaps of open fabric. I feel most handsome in this.

I have never been a good dresser, and haven’t really cared enough to spend entire paychecks on denim or famously labeled shirts. I’d rather pay my rent or buy a book. But I am learning that since I want to be this smelly old book found on a Brooklyn stoop for 25 cents without title or cover art, I am often misread. So here is my synopsis:

Human arrives wearing red and scratches. Falls in love. There is a death somewhere. There is a collapse of language and after the fall, new words arrive. There is no rainbow or acronym or if there is, this Human cannot be found in just one letter or color. There are some fights. There is a contemplation of sanity. There are many meals and family and then Human relocates. Then Human chooses poetry over employment. Human lives in a yurt with another named Rebel. Human is a bit blurry and quite hairy and has so many knots that there are too many tangles to mention. There is an engagement. There are apologies. In this book, there are no clothes or defining hairstyles. Human prefers nudity. There may be a sequel.


That rain out there sounds like applause. The leaves and traffic, scattered grass and monogrammed concrete are all performing stunningly tonight. An encore suggests the city listeners are appreciative. The ones with the box seats are the poets, the fearless squirrels latching onto plaid-pattered screens, pigeons with slippery wings and breath of barbecue steam. Deep inside that puddle beneath your window, a curl floats like an emaciated tugboat. Engine of railroad lineage. Propeller curves and footnoted presence in books and dream sequences. This does not have to be a tragedy. Nor will there be a prologue or feast of sequels. Each storm is its own language. Also inside that puddle is a limb. Cannot call it arm or third of leg. It is collaged and hungry, sipping on rainwater from imaginary straw made of molecular mosh-pit. There is a table of contents decoupaging the skin. How lovely how odd how wet this all is and then clothes come off because synthetics leave too many imprints and reminders of factories. The earth desires nudity, so it drenches; it floats umbrellas away from wrists and curled fingertips. This should be a performance. This should induce romanticism. We should be triggered by its miasmic reminder of the last time.

how to be sturdy

A lot can be written about a bag of rocks and shells.


The shells arrived from Coney Island, stuffed into brown paper sack, all crumbly like an instrument of papercuts. The day these shells arrived in this bag, I was with my father. Earlier in the day, we drove from Crown Heights to Bensonhurst, where he lived many years ago. We even rang the doorbell to see if we could see inside. An old woman in curlers and question marks opened the door. She spoke only Italian. We smiled and continued walking. My dad and I shared a pastry at a local bakery; he got a grape juice and I got a cup of coffee. Then we headed to Coney Island where he hoped I might find strength within the sound of salt liquefying into oceanic waves.


On this day, I felt like a collapsible ladder: screws removed, flimsy and hunched. Another break-up…and I won’t reference a heart broken, because the muscle inside me kept beating. Instead, I will speak on the hazel in my eyes, feeling burnt and long-winded. My blinks were wheezing and weary. My hips were bloodied and my appetite had been carved out, replaced by nothingness.


As we entered the beach, I took off my shoes and socks and reveled at the feeling of scratchy sand between my toes. My dad took his shoes off, but remained in his black socks with gold toes. This made me smile. He treated the beach like a giant, bendable magical carpet.


I picked up shells that felt whole to me. They needed to be unabridged and intact. I could not bear to see any cracks; I was cracked enough. I held each chosen one to my nose and inhaled the stench of seaweed and the Atlantic. Then, I put them into the brown bag, along with some sand and sea glass.


Two months later, I grab many of these shells and some rocks purchased at a garden store on Washington Avenue in Brooklyn. They were of various colors and curvature; all were extremely smooth and treated. I mixed them all together in a see-through zip lock bag and brought them to school with me. Today, my students were taking a test that they had worked all semester preparing for. I wanted to give them something sturdy. Strong. I wanted them to rock this test.


Each student chose their rock or shell and I tried to explain to them that these came from the earth, like them. And their resilience is a sign that even through the toughest of times, these natural elements remained. Sometimes (oftentimes) their shape changed, but so did these students. Their minds and thoughts and perspectives like rocks and shells, altering texture and configuration.


Many times in my life, I have been given rocks that have saved me like hardened life rafts. I keep them on my alter or in my pocket or by my desk where I mix up poems like linguistic tinctures.


One student rubbed his chosen rock between his palms and said: this rock will get me through this. I wanted to tell him how right he was. I also wanted to let him know that he is the rock. I guess I am too.