My father reminds me to remain. When his mileage grows further than my eyes can reach, I press yellow post-it notes to borrowed walls to remind myself what to do.

Exist. Write. Nourish. Be kind. Be patient. Be present. BE.

When I ask my students why they write, a list of words unravel off their tongues reminding me how necessary it is to even question this process of documentation.

I write because it keeps me here.

My father is a novelist. I can say this now because he spent many years curving his back toward various computers, writing words down. Amidst the stress(es) of life, he found time to accumulate over 70,000 words into organized chapters and plot twists. A writer writes.

Each time we speak, he asks me how my writing is going. Am I sending work out? Am I broadening my audience? This check-in reminds me my purpose.

I remind my father that he keeps me here too. As a writer, I have grown accustomed to being so enclosed within my thoughts, it has created a distance inside me. I can reveal all my secrets on stage, but that is because they have already been written down. In person, I am zipped-up; this can be a lonely existence.

My father reminds me how I used to be. Before ______. And before _______.

When I was younger and my hair was yellow and soft, we used to listen to old radio shows, barter at garage sales and hoard other people’s junk. My body was less creased, less angry; there were far less stockpiles of scars on my skin. It’s difficult for me to recall that human that once was me.

My father reminds me that there is still happy in me; I just need to be open to rummaging a little.

I remind my father that there is still peace in him; he just needs to be open to some rummaging as well.

a poetic collaboration

Aimee Herman performs the piece “a meeting of selves through the salve of love” and an excerpt from “Postulation” in the Nerve Lantern poets’ theater show: An Afternoon of Sparking Poetry.

Additional performers: the phenomenal poet, artist, music making Trae Durica.

Intro by Kris Lew.

Hosted by Medicine Show Theatre as part of its Word/Play series of writers’ readings. New York City. July 19, 2014. Co-organized by Kris Lew and Ellen Redbird.

Nerve Lantern: Axon of Performance Literature is a literary journal published by Pyriform Press and edited by Ellen Redbird.

This program at Medicine Show Theatre was made possible in part by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency.

Videography by Caryn Waechter
Video editing by Dan V. Weiss

© Nerve Lantern


Now, when I travel on the subway, I look for men with spread legs. I like to pretend that I am a knife cutting them in half. When I sit between two men practicing this posture (with the minimal space they leave open), I feel like I am silently reminding their knees that it’s OK to make contact.

I want to whisper into their ears: Are you airing something out that cannot wait until you get home?

I want to spread my legs and practice a yoga pose that is inconsiderate for train travel and see if anyone notices.

When I sit beside/between these men, I locate the geography of my body. Everything is squished together like the suffocated insides of a sandwich. I can barely turn the pages of whatever book I am trying to read because even my elbows are forced to squeeze against my sides.

I search for these male-spreaders with my eyes. They are everywhere.

A male on the 4 train heading uptown takes up 3 seats! I agressively/politely say, “Excuse me,” as I fold my body into one of the orange squares, forcing him into 1.5 seats.

Another on the C train heading into Brooklyn could fit an entire refrigerator box between his thighs pushed apart like wings.

Now, people are documenting these spreaders. There are websites and pages giving notice to this epidemic of inconsideration.

But is there a cure?

in defense of.

“What needs to be defended in writing is what’s offensive.”   –Charles BernsteinI travel with a poet through six states toward a place where there are five banks within five blocks and when I ask where the best place to get a cup of coffee, I am answered with: “7-11.”

We are here for a poetry festival and I feel as far from NYC as one can.

At the University where everything is happening, we go to a Q&A with three editors and hear what not to do as writers. They end it early, so they can catch the art reception happening upstairs in the library where there will be free cookies and crackers. The artist speaks only briefly because she needs to catch a plane and is waiting for her driver to pick her up.

I start to wonder why we are here.

Suddenly,  it is suppertime and the only happening place to eat is a Mexican restaurant, but they serve hotdogsso we head to the cafeteria with three other poets.

Seven dollars to get in and it’s ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT.

As we eat, one poet asks about censorship. How do you know when to hold back what you say? Like, not say something because it could offend someone?

I think about all the rooms I’ve listened to others and all the rooms I’ve shared with others. We could go around and ask about trigger warnings and words to stay away from and gestures that are offensive, but that may leave us in silence.

I told him that if you make someone angry or make someone ecstatic, it’s all the same. You’ve made someone feel with your words. Isn’t that what you want? I asked.

Another poet added that if you feel compelled to read something, then go ahead. If there is urgency, give it space to roam.

Today, I take the stage and suck up my allotted twenty minutes. I think about what stirs me and these infamous trigger warnings.

I just want to feel something. I want you to cause me to write. I want you to give me more words to expand my vocabulary. I want you to cause me to question what I know.

tell it like you remember

It was a Sunday, but it may have been a Thursday. It was cold enough to forget what sweating felt like or it may have been summer. There was a rainbow in the sky or printed on someone’s shirt. There were birds flying toward another patch of sky. Or it may have been empty.

There was a pile of letters on the ground as though a postal worker had fallen and all this paper represented the remains.

Someone sprayed graffiti on a building or fence and it read:   Never Fall. In Love.

You had just eaten a lunch of seventeen sandwiches or cold soup or it may have been breakfast time and all you ate were coffee grounds and haunts from sleep.

It was sometime after 8pm. Before midnight and nowhere near 11pm.

Everyone you passed smelled like buttercream and anise. Frosted black licorice. Your tongue was sore from licking itself.

You were not in love for the first time in over a decade.

Your teeth were like picket signs in your mouth in search of a cause to bite into.

Someone may have asked for your phone number. Or your order. Or if you could move aside because you were blocking an entrance.

Did I mention it was cold out?

It was definitely February. Probably March. It wasn’t October.

There was talk of poetry or philosophical medical jargon.

Someone was playing an instrument or it could have been the finely-tuned chorus of harmonized voices in your head.

Nope, definitely some strings.

You were wearing elbows and fingernails.

No one kissed you but you could taste the breath of another on your shoulders.

At some point, your wrist reminded you that time is never important. Numbers only exist for those who can add. Sometimes time is just about what your appetite and eyes call for.

There was a rainbow and it existed in three hundred and thirty-four shades of burgundy.

an interruption of sorts.

“If we catch only a little of our subject, or only badly, clumsily, incoherently, perhaps we have not destroyed it. We have written about it, written it and allowed it to live on at the same time, allowed it to live on in our ellipses, our silences.” –Lydia Davis

First, decide if it is unfinished. If you speak no, then you are wrong. How can anything be done if everything which surounds us is a draft. This air has been circulated and past along and will never exist the same.

All of this is a broken silence.

Interrupt the fragment of your tongue. Barge into your sentence with a sequence of yawns or teeth-clicks.

Everything has been done before but not right now in this moment like this.

Discontinue judgement that the salt staining the outsides of your eyes is misbehaving. When your friend confesses they permit only one day per year for tears, interrupt them with a squeeze. Insist upon the need for emptying. Otherwise, there’d be no room for any of us.

Even patterns deserve an interruption. Diet your hair and cut away some weight. Not everything on a body needs to be symmetrical. There does not need to be a reason for elbow pads or bandages.

Travel — down a different block or past state lines. Interrupt your weekly session of chores. Pretend someone is following you.

And at the end of an evening, say goodnight to something else. Not the moon or your lover. Kiss goodbye the wood keeping you warm at night. Or whisper ‘i love you’ to the window panes or vents or the cat which bellows when the dark arrives.

Interrupt your gratitude for those which rarely get noticed.


here is how it will happen.

You will receive health insurance for the first time in eight years minus one summer.

A human dressed in a different version of queer than you will ask: “So, how’s your gender going these days.”

And you will smile because there is something so rewarding about breathing sometimes and you will inhale so deeply, you can taste your organs.

“Everything is still forming its bones,” you answer. “There are some things that are getting louder and some things that are feeling stronger in me.”

When you mention hysterectomy, you do not announce the time your professor at the university near the mountains thought you already had one due to the way you were writing about your blood and carved out structure.

You want to cry the moment your lover tells you, “I imagine you wearing the chest you dream about, not the one that greets me each night.”

You hoard that free coffee, owed to you on punch card from favorite cafe, housed in your wallet. You want to save it for a time that celebrates something you’ve been longing for.

You will revisit a lover who loved you when you were still searching for the instruments to carve out the vocabulary of your thoughts. It will be like time never passed and you will relocate that smile you had before that time you used to pretend away. You will kiss a map of all the years onto the palm of the others’ hand.

“But do you even want to figure all this out?” says the one dressed in warm and sleep-deprived.

This? Is it something to figure out or untwist like knots of curious yarn,” you answer.

You’ve got too many turns in you, so you say: “I’m just looking to feel alive from all my angles. I want to play seek, rather than hide so much.”

Here is how it will happen.

You will stop locking yourself away like a diary with blank pages. You deserve to be read.

You will kiss and you will opposite-of-rhyme and you will read enough books to feed your eyes. And you will whistle even in the winter when your lips shiver. And you will wake. And you will wake. And you will stay.

words which can now be found.

Thank you to Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal for publishing my poem, texture of a mushroom. This is an excellent publication that “celebrates the commotion of liminal space.”

Click on the link above to read the poem and listen to the audio version as well!

luf |ləv| (like very much; find pleasure in)

Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.”   — Cheryl Strayed

What do you mean you’re lost. This is exactly where you were heading toward. There is water somewhere over there and look! there’s a chorus of trees humming your favorite song. There are patches of shade beside the sun and ducks beside the turtles and is that an alpaca‽

This is just what you’ve been looking for and it is easy and pronounceable. It is romantic and cinematic. You are learning a new language, but you’ve heard so many of these words before. Sometimes ease can be difficult to get used to because you never expected it to exist.

Breathe in this aroma. Some call it magic. You call it luf.

new year.

Wake. Remember that there is a new date now. It may take you awhile to get used to this. Breathe. I know you know how to do this, but be present with each inhale. Do not make any excessive promises or commitments like weight loss or gym membership. Just arrive in this new year. Be kind to yourself and recall that these first few months can be difficult. Walk toward bookshelf. Choose a book you haven’t touched in awhile. Go to page 47 or 132 or whatever page your fingers stop on. Choose a word that your eyes first connect to. Repeat it out loud as though it is your name. This is your prayer. Infuse it into your sentences. Use it as the first title of your first poem of this new year. Or inscribe it in a letter to someone you’ve forgotten to call.

Go somewhere where you are welcome. Where you are acknowledged as human. Go somewhere where you may feel inspired by the sounds you hear. Go somewhere where you can feel nourished. Go somewhere where you can learn; go somewhere where you can teach.

Be present.

Today, from 2 pm to 12 pm, there is a marathon poetry reading, Shadow of the Geode, at The Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe at 236 E. 3rd Street in NYC. This is their 21st Alternative New Year’s Day Marathon of poetry. Stay for an hour or come for the whole experience.