You build a door affixed to the one you already have to challenge the ones who try to get in. You tap your chest nineteen times every day, more than once, for every time the crowded city bumps into you. You purchase forty-nine different thesauruses in order to find better words for gun control to try to solve the excess of bullets. You spin globes in your free time; you call this both exercise and foreplay. You grow an allergy to your reflection, but you research creams and pills to push you toward relearning the manifestation of your skin. You want to be seen, but you are afraid they will only notice the gain. You are told– on a Wednesday — by someone you knew back when skin was less rebellious — that we are far more than what is seen; our selves extend to the map of veins traveling within us. You are told that the potholes pressed against your body are a conversation piece and a link to being human. You are told that doors prohibit not just the bad ones from getting in, but the good ones too: the poets, the teachers, the lovers, the students, the historians and translators. You strap on a face mask and worker’s gloves, but forego tools. You want to feel your skin rip when you pull off door from hinges. As it tears, you tear. As it detaches, a piece of you does as well.
quotes from Exile and Pride by Eli Clare:
“…home starts here in my body, in all that lies imbedded beneath my skin.”
I’ve told enough tales to call my body an animal. Or to claim these limbs as attachments to a novella. But really I’ve got an unedited manuscript of footnotes rooted in me. And to welcome others in requires a comfy chair and magnifying glass.
“The body as home, but only if it is understood that bodies are never singular, but rather haunted, strengthened, underscored by countless other bodies.”
I arrived here through a channel of others. Took up hobbies and habits due to the bones I’ve curled against. I can never take credit for all these scars and secrets; they are a multi-voiced poem; they are survivors of a learning curve.
“The body as home, but only if it is understood that place and community and culture burrow deep into our bones.”
The artists kept me safe. The hippie from California. The old witch who lived up in the mountains who made me tea from collected rain water and musk. I never had a welcome mat, so someone sewed me one made from grass seeds and metaphor.
“The body as home, but only if it is understood that language too lives under the skin.”
Not all of it can be pronounced or even spat out. Much of it is housed in silence, but vocabulary ferments, growing stronger each day. [But] when silence creates pattern, remove the middle and engrave the opposite.
“The body as home, but only if it is understood that bodies can be stolen, fed lies and poison, torn away from us.”
I didn’t understand that once a body is broken into, it may be difficult (if not impossible) to hem away the frayed ends. There is no skin that hasn’t felt rip or rummage, but I wonder in what ways can we relearn peace within a body’s war zone.
“The body as home, but only if it is understood that the stolen body can be reclaimed.”
But how? I strap giant felt erasers and stainless steel pads to my back, to scour the paths I walk and rub away the ghosts which follow. And we learn new words. And we strum music that becomes anthems that become balms for our brains. And we speak up and out and into and toward. To recover. To redeem. To rescue ourselves from the desire to leave.
In this 4 week 101 course you will be taught the techniques necessary in order to create a strong poetic foundation. You will read exciting new work by some of today’s most adventurous writers, be guided through the creative writing process, and have your work discussed in a safe and lively environment.
This course is $250.00 and will run on all four Saturdays in September starting on the 5th. It is an hour and a half long beginning at 12pm. This course will be both in-person and online, so if you cannot physically make it, you can remotely participate. Poetry 101 will be taught by NYC Poet Aimee Herman who performs all over the 5 boroughs, and has published two full-length collections of work.
Complete a small collection of Poems.
Have One-on-One Coaching with PTNYC instructor.
Perform a Graduation Show at a major NYC venue.
WHEN? September 19th-October 10th
LOCATED @: 33-02 Skillman Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101
What is it to move? We need no suitcases nor giant truck full of our belongings to engage in this verb.
To move is to extend body into another place.
To move is to take up space.
To move is to spread language like slow-churned butter onto walls and over potholes and between bricks on buildings.
To move is to understand where you began and where you have lead yourself.
Recently, I have relocated. Not to a faraway land, but a different part of a familiar borough. With ceilings far longer than arms’ reach and backyard and sun drenched walls. With built-in bookcases by fairy-tale landlord. With smells of poetry and granola wafting within each room.
As I packed in preparation for this new space, I found myself touching everything I own and asking why it still exists. In the land of New York where closets are deemed as “an extra bedroom” and square footage is comparable to some people’s weights, it can be difficult to hold onto things. So, I created piles: to keep, to give away, to leave behind.
I come from a long lineage of “hoarders”. But please do not be mistaken. We are of a people not fit for television reality show; instead, we hoard memories. And the dust that gathers on recollections can be fierce and overpowering.
Just yesterday, my too-good-to-be-true-but-he-is landlord spoke this advice: Sometimes it’s important to just let go of things. Ask yourself if you are ‘in need of it’ or if ‘it defines you’. And what that even means. In the end, sometimes it’s best to just photograph the ‘memory’. Because even if you throw ‘it’ away, the memory still exists. No garbage can can take that away.
I didn’t expect you to be here this long.
I was in math class, grade ten and you were just supposed to keep me from jumping.
When James B. told my best friend, Drew in 12th grade, that I should just kill myself already, you kept mocking me with your inability to go away.
I didn’t know you’d grow louder in the summertime, from sun baking you into a starring role on my arms.
My mother remembered a commercial for a cream that could be rubbed on scars to vanish them away. “They may not disappear completely,” she said, “but at least they won’t be so visible.” I cried that night, realizing how forbidden you are.
I was dressed in just skin and water, in a bathtub that belonged to me due to monthly rent payments and name on mailbox. When I was a kid, it was the water, which washed away my chalk drawings; I thought maybe it would wipe away the carvings on my hips too.
Hello. Yes, I remember the first time. And I also remember Rachel, from the mental hospital, teaching me other ways to push myself off ledges after all the sharps have been taken away.
No, I really meant it when I said that I find scars sexy, because it is a reminder we have given ourselves permission to falter.
Age nineteen, I am in the only car I ever owned—a green Honda Civic I titled: Quentin Antoin McKenna. At the gas station, the attendant looks at my forearm as I hand him a ten-dollar bill and he makes a comment, which reminds me there is no escaping this billboard of sadness.
I am engaging in an activity that some people call sex and the one pressed against me grabs my wrist and rubs callused thumb against what is raised. Calls it braille. Asks to read the rest of me.
You twitch each time you see others like you. Thunder against my skin knowing how similar we all are. How sad we all are. How in need of other languages we all are. How loud we all are. How brave we are. How desperate we are to survive and yet desire to die we all are. How. How. How. How. How. How. How. How. How. How. How. How. How. How. How.
Hair in its infinite stages of death can be far more beautiful than any orchid or moonlight or kiss.
This is what I was thinking when I watched the German with long, blond dreadlocks, parading death down his back like frozen stalks of sun, speak to me about getting lost.
We were in the front room of Bob’s Youth hostel located on a street in Amsterdam I still have difficulty pronouncing. I had been staring at him for what felt like hours, burning my hazel into his whole milk skin. I finally got up and sat across from him, asking if he’d write a poem with me.
“Yeah,” he said, “but I don’t really know how.”
“I don’t really either,” I said. “But if you can rummage inside your gut for the words which feel most potent, I think,” I paused, “I think you may find something there.”
So I gave him my tiny red notebook given to me by a lover who I had just started learning how to kiss, given to me to fill up during this two-week trip away from New York.
This was supposed to be an adventure on how to move toward who I was or who I wanted to be. My relationship with a different woman had ended just a few months earlier, one which I thought was the one I might marry, even though I did not believe in such a word.
It was a mourning trip.
I watched as the German, fingers sprinkled with fine commas of bleached hair, pressed his handwriting into the pages.
His dead knots became whispers soaring past his shoulders, for as he wrote, they shook. I wondered how many secrets were hiding in the decease of his hair.
“One must get lost,” he spoke. “Where are you from?” he asked me, handing back my pen and closing the book.
“Brooklyn. Quite a faraway land from here,” I said.
“Leave your maps behind, Brooklyn,” he said to me.
“No need,” I said. “I never carry them around. I get lost even when I do not intend to. But I like your reminder.”
He smiled. He had a tiny chip in his front tooth like the curve of a hammock. I wanted to lay in his mouth and nap beside his ridges.
He told me traveling is about connecting to the land, not the pages that speak about it.
“You’re beautiful,” I spat out. His eyes walked over the length and width of my face. I could feel his lashes even though we were an arm’s distance away from each other.
“Yes,” he said. As though I had asked a question. Or maybe he was answering something that he had heard much earlier. Either way, I enjoyed the oddity of his syllable.
“I’m trying to lose myself here. Bring another version back to New York,” I told him.
“Smoke enough hash and that will happen without trying too hard,” he smiled.
“I am trying to let go of a love. One so big, my heart still has stretchmarks.”
“There is not enough smoke to inhale, which will get rid of that,” he said. “But how about this. Actually…” he paused. I watched him remove the tiny, hand-rolled cigarette between his fat, slightly blush lips. With the tip of two fingers pressed together, he put out the fire on the end. Then, I watched him peel it open, drip the nicotine out and hand me this frail rolling paper, half wet from the spit of his mouth.
“I can see from the rest of your notebook….pardon my snoop,” he interrupted himself, “…that your handwriting is bitty. Write what you want from love on this.”
I held this disemboweled cigarette in the palm of my hand. As though it were a tiny space alien, which had fallen from the sky from a spaceship that our eyes couldn’t quite fathom. With the fingers from my other hand, I poked at it.
“It may not even be words,” he said. “The love you lust may be symbols.”
I thought about every word I ever learned. The ones I kept and the ones I could never quite remember. I wasn’t thinking about limbs; instead, my brain began to conjure up images of smells. Music of taste.
I dropped the cigarette from my palm and grabbed my pen.
The German smiled and I could feel him get up, though never let my eyes wander away from the paper.
I began to finally get lost.
Today, you turn seventy-five; I purchase you more paper as you continue writing this new chapter of your life.
Memory: I was Eleanor Roosevelt and you narrated the imagination of magic.
Today, you are reminded that there is no such thing as too old to begin again.
Memory: You take me into your closet to choose whichever ties I’d like. You even encourage my double windsor.
Today, I articulate gratitude for having a father who not only encourages my words but has built up a travelogue of his own.
Memory: New Jersey. Garage sale. Grandfather clock.
Today, you are a published writer. With the most incredible agent/bookseller/partner by your side.
Memory: We are eating lunch in the place we always went to in West Hartford to share good news; I tell you about my relapse and you barely hesitate before taking a bite of honey-mustard-lathered bread and say, “I love you.”
Today, you own your ISBN and I have been traveling with your second novel in my backpack everyday for over a week.
Memory: After midnight in Connecticut, you wait in the kitchen with a pot of coffee and salt & peppered chicken to gossip about dating and love.
Today, it is not just your birthday but a reminder of how important it is to say thank you.
Thank you. For existing. Happy Birthday, Dad.