I am hoarding wine beneath my tongue. I’ve disarmed my hips for another and this one seems to be carefully slipping love notes inside the marrow of my bones. How do you nourish your memory. In what ways do you feed the scratch-outs on your soul. Eighteen years ago, I paid a stranger to press purple ink into my lower back through single-serving, vibrating needle. He joined circle and lines into a universal woman sign. I carried that female insignia for all these years, which slowly turned from friend to acquaintance to stranger. Are there indentations on your body that no longer belong to you, Rebel. Recently, I paid a guy from Bolivia to alter my gender marking. He told me all about the places he traveled to and the days he scarred his thighs with illustrations to practice being an artist. What would it look like to practice being human. Last week, I carried a rock resembling a tiny egg and an eight line poem by Vera Pavlova. She reminded me that if there is something to desire/ there will be something to regret. But in desire, there is so much breath. The weight of our exhales, Rebel, can turn our forearms into paved roads. Our shoulders into mountain tops. Our chests into stationary reservoirs. Let’s swim in all this burgundy lust, which can be found in Poets, Chefs, Former Monks, Music Makers and Hippies. We can climb our way toward the tallest tree top and swing from the branches of its origin. I am finally digging myself out of all these roots, untangling and recognizing the hybrid in me. Let’s eat up all these question marks and digest the answers that come.
“You’re more than just neither, honey. There’s other ways to be than either-or. It’s not so simple. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many people who don’t fit.”
― Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues
Sometimes we can find shapes and words that make sense for our selves and sometimes we must create our own symbols to speak out. There may not be a designation of sound for these lines. How to pronounce a slash or a question mark or a semi-colon. What matters most is the freedom to take on these formations. One does not have to choose what has been assigned. There is power in pausing, questioning and deciding for oneself what fits.
“Gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught.”
― Leslie Feinberg, Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue
With each year I find myself alive, I collect more words to explain myself. My vocabulary grows; within each new sound, a poem forms. And like all good poems, with each draft, it gets better and better. Do not ignore the cross-outs– the scars that scare you– they are all part of what started all this understanding. Our bodies are a rough draft leading toward more drafts and more ways in which to show what we are telling. We are teachers too. Welcome in the questions of others. This creates a bridge of understanding.
Celebrate Staten Island (why not?) at their annual St. George Day festival of the arts. Celebrate the earth as well through spoken word, art, music, dance performances and dragons!!! I am excited to perform alongside some other great poets and celebrate a local lit journal called NYSAI at 3pm! The festival is all day from noon until 7pm.
Take the (free!) ferry into Staten Island and head toward the festivities.
“As it turns out, we’re all still learning to be men, or women, all still learning to be ourselves.”
― Jennifer Finney Boylan, She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders
So much of this is about perspective. How much are you willing to withstand. You’ve remained this long; you might as well keep going in this way. But what does it mean to pause your way out of yourself. What I mean is, what if you can’t continue like this. Yes, you are beautiful or of course, you are handsome, but that does not help you to survive this.
So you purchase a notebook. Grab a pen with enough ink to last through many rounds of notes. You begin to read every book swallowed by your skin. The memoirs of each scar. You cram hours of studying, forego sleep to become a scholar of your body. All this time you really thought you knew yourself, but you were just a stranger.
You circumcise your tongue anytime someone wants to know what hides behind your zipper. They question the strength of your gender. They search for consistency. Search for known markers: hair length, texture of clothing, the humans you hang around, your voice. You find yourself falling in love with humans who understand the blur of gender. You gravitate toward the ones who can speak on it for hours without running out of syllables. You tattoo more words on your skin to remind yourself to speak up more.
You silence your silence away.
This is the moment. This is the moment in which you contemplate labels. Maps. Where you want/need to be. You leave your hair alone. You make love to yourself as though you are no longer a stranger.You give up trying to find suitable spackle to fill in the cracks of your identity. Instead, you leave these cracks alone. They are fissures. They are openings. They are breaths.
This is the moment you arrive.
Talk about what it means to give your voice away and exchange it for a different pitch. To leave your tone behind because it never matched the way you heard yourself.
Talk about this new slope of sound coming from your lungs and lunging off your tongue.
i never knew your voice before it changed, so i cannot imagine it as anything but you
Talk about the sensation of hearing your voice echo against your ribcage. Is it softer now? Deeper? When you speak out your syllables, do you curve your back toward the resonance or are you still hesitant to call it yours?
sometimes i think about what it
will be would be like to walk away from the ring tone of my voice
I gave away my voice a few years ago to a couple of strangers who misspelled my name and mangled my limbs into a paint stain. I traveled to nearby bodega, picked up a can of chick peas, an onion, some ginger and a voice. On a Sunday, I biked along a path full of yarrow, red maple, windflowers and picked a pinecone in the shape of my voice. I climbed a bridge and contemplated then executed a jump, felt several boroughs collide in the form of water washing away the trouble in my skin and there I spoke several octaves of breath control.
if only i could pick and choose what changes
While you listen, notice your hands. They have been waving others away for how many years. They have been been stealing money out of your pocket. They have been rummaging around in the playground of your body in search of in search of what.
“Sometimes my hands, they don’t feel like my own.”
On a day that can only be called employment of understanding, you remove your hands from your pocket. They are dry and cracked from hibernation. Spend a moment comparing them to elephants and deserts, cracked open. Call them sand dunes. Turn yourself into a hunch. Call it bridge pose. Climb your hands inside you because on this day you are mountain. You are venturing toward the genders cohabiting in every tunnel of your self.
Understand that this may be painful. This is more than just labeling. This is more than just recognition of what you are. Sometimes it takes a road trip over someone else’s body to acknowledge something not right on your own.
Call this red dust. The tiny particles of earth making sense of itself as it takes on new shapes. This matter flattens and folds parts away. This invisible soil has no preference for pronoun, rather prefers that you see it as an entity called other.
“Dear body/I’ve been trying to/rub you away like a rash/forcing you away from my bones/And I waited for you to arrive…
“How’d you know it was me? Describe my weight in shapes and sounds.”
“I’d know your soprano-turned-tenor touch anywhere. And weight? Well, I wound up having a difficult time lifting any words off of me due to the heft of your musculature. The weather channel called you significant.”
“Are you hungry?”
“Burgundy and drizzled with cooking wine.”
“Do you mind if I stay?”
“Even as I swallow this last bite, I yearn for more. I’m ok with my shape changing because it’s from so many meals with you.”
“Is this an offering?”
“More than that. This is a stop sign.”
“So we can title this a collision of red?”
“Or a photographic collage of love letters drifting between an eight minute commute of disjointed language and what happens when you fall in love with your pen pal and woo them in cross-outs, haiku and elipses.
Call this Sunday. Order up two hundred kites shaped in sizes ranging from dragon to sperm whale. Turn up your boom box attached to hip, playing a mash-up of Charlie Parker and Tupac. Gather up your grass stains. Dig toes into flesh of earth, meaty syllables of soil. Stop worrying about what your hair looks like or if there is dirt on your face. You are meant to get messy sometimes. Write a poem on a rock, found beneath a leaf. Turn your handwriting upside down. Throw it into a puddle and if there are none nearby, make one with stored up tear drops, created by the wind. Have an impromptu picnic in your neighborhood park with local fruit purchased at nearby farmer’s market. Stain your fingertips with ink of recycled newspaper. Depending upon how bold you are, make love beneath this hunched-over sun and blanket hiding the limbs of you and your other. The ones nearby will leave you alone, too impressed by your boldness to interrupt. Remain until the air drops causing your sweat marks to shiver. Bike toward the sun’s replacement called: moon. This one is dripping lust. All around it echoes of moans. Offer up your black-and-grey lips to a rainbow. Watch the stain saturate the rest of you. Call this love’s contagion.
This is what was waiting. Behind all those Brooklyn traffic lights and spray-painted stop signs: you. We must be reminded of what hides in order to remember what we have been seeking. Get lost in order to be found. Even when it rains, there is enough sun saved up for you to get tan lines beneath a thunderstorm. Don’t be so afraid of love. As a child, you climbed enough trees to grow splinters from your veins. And when you cut yourself while making meals for others, one could certainly measure the sap stored up in your blood to classify your species. To the ones you matter to most, they call you Major Oak. The one who loves you loudest calls you Sacred Fig. Stop running so much. The roots of your gender are endless. You may need to replace ink with lead during this phase of existence. You are in constant revision. Even when all the lights have turned themselves off, there is enough glow in you to survive a forty-two hour blackout. Remain because the ones who came before this one prepared you to grow up.