before and then. after.

“I tried to concentrate on who I was before I became no one.”   –Roxane Gay (from “An Untamed State”)

Before, there were no roots. No deep breathing. Breaths just arrived naturally like high fives and appetite.

Before, there were no secret entryways carved out into closet walls. No scooping out of innards. Because then, everything seemed intact.

Before, there were no pronoun discrepancies. No body dysmorphia dislocation elocution elasticity. Because then, gender was pronounced in ink without eraser tip.

Before, blood was just blood. Gathered inside body like footnotes.

Before, breasts were waited on. Welcome mat in place for slightly delayed arrival.


And then. And then. Statements became questions and questions became concerns and concerns became diagnoses.

After…. there is still room for footnotes and nests to form in the crevices where the echoes are hushed. And all of this becomes just another poem. Another shout.out. Another misread op ed.

Or. An opening. For what arrives later on.

following the waves of coney island

You fill your bag with clementines, chocolate and an empty bag for the shells you hope to catch. You sit beside a writer who unravels her days as though they are novels. You scrub out all the wax unintentionally collected in both ears so as not to miss a word. You hit traffic lights and listen to the sound of impatient cars outside each window. When you travel down the alphabet of street names, you finally reach ocean.

In New York, it is so easy to see bricks and concrete and potholes and urine stains but a handful of miles away, there is blue and there is salt water and there are sea gulls and there is a boardwalk.

You digest the ocean. Man jogs by, moaning and gasping as he passes by. You giggle because you don’t run, so the only time you make those sounds are during sex. A spandex’d man on his bike stops to remind you how Coney Island used to look. The dilapidated wood used to be sturdy and handsome. Storms have rummaged Coney Island’s insides and outsides. You can feel the sadness of his reminisce.

You get high. Walk over to the sand and sit beside the shells and crushed crab bodies. You share chocolate and stories. You ignore pangs of anger that you do not come here more often. You are here now. You are here now.

At some point, you eat a corn dog and french fries. You ignore the thick whispers of winter edging its voice onto your earlobe. You still have some time and the air is warm enough to remain outside.

Until the sun goes down.

As the hours drip past, you head back toward parked cars and sleeping rollercoasters. You thank Coney Island for still being alive after all these years. For always remaining open, even when closed.

Tonight, (november 13th) I read some letters to Richard Brautigan.

It’s been awhile since I’ve taken the stage to read my words. Since that life-changing writing residency in Nebraska, I’ve been simmering. Marinating in first draft novel land. Rooting and settling into new home with best mate. Grading papers and storing food in my body for the wintertime.

& reading. Reading on the train to work and reading while walking to the train to work.

Falling in love with a writer called Richard Brautigan.

As a letter writer, I thought he might be the perfect person to send words to. Though he can’t write me back, his words already exist in many stories and poems. It’s up to me (all and his other readers) to decode them.

So, tonight, I take the stage and read some letters. Perhaps play some ukelele. Hopefully, Richard will be listening.

If you’re anywhere near NYC with nothing to do, please join me:

LAMPROPHONIC reading series:

@ Bar Thalia, 2537 Broadway, NYC   8pm


EMMA BUSHNELL is an MFA student at Brooklyn College and has been published in Bodega Mag, Bustle, and Full Stop. She was a founding editor at Nouvella Books and is currently a reader at Catapult.

FRANCESCA GIACCO studied English and writing at Barnard College, and is currently pursuing an MFA in fiction at Columbia University. She lives in New York, where she is at work on a novel.

AIMEE HERMAN is the author of two full-length books of poetry, “meant to wake up feeling” and “to go without blinking” and currently teaches writing in the Bronx. Aimee has been published in numerous journals and anthologies including: cream city review, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetcs (Nightboat Books). Aimee’s biggest turn-ons include properly-used semi-colons, farmers markets and nutritional yeast.

ARDEN LEVINE is a D.C. native living in Brooklyn, New York. In 2015, her poems appeared in AGNI, Rattle, Sixth Finch, Free State Review, Bodega Magazine, The Delmarva Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Underwater New York, and were featured in Emotive Fruition (special collaboration with NPR’s Radiolab) and the New York City Poetry Festival. Arden is a reader for Epiphany, holds a Master of Public Administration from New York University, and consults to nonprofit organizations.

GLYNN POGUE is a writer and dreamer from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. She spent the past two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cambodia, where she ate fried tarantulas and bargained in the local market like a pro. Her prose has been featured in Essence Magazine and the UK’s Oh Comely Magazine. Glynn is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at The New School.

EMILY REMS is a feminist writer, editor, rock star, playwright, and occasional plus-size model living in New York’s East Village. Best known as managing editor of BUST magazine, Emily is also a music and film commentator for New York’s NPR affiliate WNYC, and was the drummer for the all-girl punk band Royal Pink. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in the anthologies Cassette from my Ex and Zinester’s Guide to NYC, and her short stories have been published or are slated for publication by Rum Punch Press, Lumen, Prose ‘N Cons Mystery Magazine, and PoemMemoirStory. Follow her on Twitter @emilyrems.


it’s ok….actually…..please don’t smile.

WARNING: This post may cause abdominal pain. And it may increase digestion. And those who read this may develop bed sores on their bed side. Side effects may also include: increase of oxygen to most parts of the brain, teeth whitening, freckle recognition, harmonized memories and unambiguous thoughts.

******               ******               ******                  *****

Resting against my face is not a smile. I used to take pills to push one into my skin like the imprint a foot makes in the sand. But there were all those side-effects and suddenly a smile just wasn’t worth all the small print tumbling me into nightmares, dry mouth, loss of sexual appetite and on and on.

I walk on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn from home to subway and three different humans (all male-bodied) stop me and say, “Smile!” as though I had forgotten how.

On the train, I study the commuters who travel like I do and try to decipher the language of their faces. I realize that my lips are turned downward. I lift one side, not quite into a smile but less than a frown. Then, I stop myself. Who am I manipulating my lips for?

I enter a room and collect a bouquet of “How are you’s”. I answer wisely: “Well” or “Good, thank you.” But what I want to utter is: “Troubled, at times” or “Feeling stifled by language which I cannot connect to myself” or “Traumatized by my trip here” or “Okay, but I’d really like to be better.”

My father reads my blog. Tells me my posts have grown sad. I want to tell him that my words are all from the same seed. That the soil they live inside is sometimes colder and sometimes rotten and sometimes neglected but always feeling. I want to tell him that I am a writer and words cannot all be yellow with three dimensional, rotating suns singing in unison. Sometimes syllables shake and have to sit down.

I just don’t want to fake it anymore because in that fake there is tragedy. I want to frown in plain sight; how terrible it feels to be in hiding.

At night, our faces can rest. No one needs clarity when the lights are turned down and we travel into REM. We can wince and we can furrow and we can twist our flesh into sorrowful sighs. And how beautiful and how real all that is. To just rest in a face you really feel without having to make someone else more comfortable.

It’s okay……really…..please…..don’t smile…..just be.

this is when we had to wait

originally published on great weather for MEDIA


I am younger than this moment. Maybe six or four or eleven years old. Tilted against my mother’s hip or arm outstretched for free sample of stale cheese or aged meat: there I am. Can you find me. Hair fainter than it is right now and much curlier. Longer, of course. My grandmother always begged me not to cut it. Why do we choose to forget how to listen during the times we should most.ah

I grab a ticket made of paper with a number on it and then stretch eyes to a neon screen. There are at least five numbers between the one I have against my palm and the one in lights. We must wait.

Of course, I am at Food Town or Grand Union or whatever New Jersey supermarket will accept the most coupons in this moment in this memory. My mother and I are at the deli counter purchasing processed animals and curds of milk. This is before I lost my ability to remember.

This is when we had to wait.

Remember this? When tickets told us when we could place our order. Doors, which closed and locked, led us far away from phone calls because phones were attached to long, windy chords attached to walls. Texts were on paper, not screens pressed into our over-priced pockets.

This is when we had to wait.

I remember—back when I still could—that I had a pen pal in Operation Desert Storm when that was the war of the moment. I felt strange curling my letters into cursive moments, telling this man—this soldier—about my day. Silly snapshots of lunchtime and unrequited love. Fighting with friends and the mess of my home life. I would wonder what my words felt like for him, when his sounds and mine were so divergent. Then I realized that was the point. We need to be reminded how others live in order to understand how to survive the war you’re in. And we are all in some sort of war. War of mind. Of body. Of political disagreements. Whatever the cause or title may be.

I would wait for his letter to get dropped off into my mailbox by the diligent postal worker. Sometimes, by the time his response reached me, I had forgotten what he was responding to. He’d answer questions I forgot I had even asked him, but the wait was always worth it.

Perhaps we have overlooked the importance of patience. Pausing for an answer. Breathing before pressing out our responses.

I’ve recently challenged this wait even more by exchanging war hero with deceased poet, several decades past his last moment of breath. I know that I will never get an answer back this time—that it is more than just waiting—instead, this time it is about remaining inside the questions. To know that sometimes words are most important when they are written, even if no one is around to read them.


water and poetry and gloria steinem…

Recently, I read an interview with the awe-inspiring Gloria Steinem, who was promoting her new book, “My Life on the Road.”

She said, “If you poured water on a great poem, you would get a novel.”

So, I grabbed all the cups and bowls in my apartment. Filled them with water. Filled my bathtub with water too. Filled my palms, pressed together with water. Filled my mouth with water and held it there, with my tongue and breaths.

Grabbed my poems. The ones in books and the ones still forming bones.

And then. I poured water on them. Dumped them into bathtub, let liquid smear all the words and lift them off page to swim. My verbs were doing the breaststroke.

I grabbed a new one that is still being written and threw it into my mouth with sink water and spit. Let my throat deal with the crowd of language vibrating against vocal chords and teeth.

Thought about how much string I will eventually need to sew each page together to make up this novel.

What would the title be and will it make sense? What if no one reads it? What if it has no ending? What if

Doesn’t matter. There is enough water to keep feeding the words to keep filling the pages to keep drinking up to turn into something to make people feel to make me feel…… extinguish my thirst.


I am so so excited to host this monthly series (though we are skipping December and January) at DIXON PLACE!!


Corrina Bain, Jherelle Benn, Simone Davis, & Meagan Brothers

LGBTQ artists and writers showcasing their creative talents. Featuring poets, writers, music makers, and performance artists of all kinds.

Wednesday, NOVEMBER 4th, 2015 / 7pm / DIXON PLACE/ 161 Chrystie St. NYC / FREE!

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