something found, something borrowed

He shows me a piece of glass, shaped like the moon landing, found while biking home from work.

“I was stopped at that intersection where we we were stopped by police that time we tried to break the rules. I looked down and there it was. Hopped off my bike, leaned it against my hips and picked it up. All its edges had been dulled; who knows how long it had been resting against Brooklyn pavement. But…”

I waited as his voice trailed off.

“But even as I put it in my pocket, I felt like I was borrowing it. Maybe that’s always how it is. We borrow the things we take from the earth and then when the earth is ready, it takes it all back.”

I tasted many words on the tip of my tongue, but I wanted him to continue. I wanted him to never stop talking.

“And look right here,” he points to several arches in the center of the glass. “Don’t you feel like it is an imprint of the moon landing? Minus the proud flag waving. But if I hold it a certain way…” He tilts the glass sideways. “…you can almost see the flag and feel the wind from its fabric swooshing against the air.”

“Something found, something borrowed,” I finally uttered.

“Exactly,” he said.

an excerpt from “meant to wake up feeling”

Currently, I am reading “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park, which is based on a true story from Sudan. A story in two parts: 2008, where we follow a young girl who spends day after day walking back and forth to get water for her family. 1995, where we become part of the frightening adventure of a “lost boy of Sudan”.

What are you reading? Need a recommendation?

Here’s a poem from my recent book of poems, “meant to wake up feeling” published last year by great weather for MEDIA

yurt

 synonymous with homeland         opposition of ribs made from concrete         soil and lattice wall       tension earth     animal insulates weather   dismantle for camel transport     there is no need to commit to this     sacred     circular     jurta     ornamental strength from cosmos or fire   kherga     expansion of tree shave     wool insulation         gifts from sheep     ropes     Russian or German or Turkic     xayma     compression of heavy     you     only two hours to make this home     pattern dragon metal   collapsible   stain heritage into alphabetized books     lyrical station of angular

That’s Independents!! a celebration of NYC presses and their writers!

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Three Rooms Press presents The Monthly at Cornelia Street Cafe
That’s Independents!  5 Rockin’ Independent Presses  Tell Secrets and Share Stories

I’m excited to represent great weather for MEDIA alongside the incredible writer, Corrina Bain.

Friday, July 3, 6 pm
Cornelia Street Cafe
29 Cornelia Street (between Bleecker & W. 4th St.)
Admission: $8 (includes a free drink)

Three Rooms Press presents a celebration of the New York independent literary tradition with THAT’S INDEPENDENTS: A Celebration of NYC-based Independent Presses. Doors open 5:45 pm, showtime is 6 pm. Admission is $8, which includes a free drink.

Each of the five publishing companies represented will discuss their publishing ethos—and what sets them apart—then present work by some of their current authors. Presses include: The Unbearables, InDigest, Seven Stories, Great Weather for Media, and Three Rooms Press.

Doors open at 5:45. Admission is $8, which includes a free drink. Cornelia Street Cafe is at 29 Cornelia Street, in the West Village, between W. 4th Street at Bleecker (http://corneliastreecafe.com/).

something about an elephant

She wandered for days.

Ran her feet against the mud of summer. Her toes, painted every shade of brown including brown.

She preferred the opposite of solitude, but she was without the others this time. Ten years of this time. 

She overheard the one wearing name tag and uniform that she was difficult. Taciturn. Grueling to approach.

Someone, decades ago, named her Happy.

Now, she refuses to even stitch her name to her tongue, knowing the irrelevance of its sound.

To describe her morning, one would have to be patient enough to sit through her silence. She meditates until her blood sizzles, vibrating her veins. Then, she shakes her bones like a moondance and heads back into her mute.

She fell in love only once. For one day. Minus the hours she had slept. Another with skin like hers but darker. A wrinkled revision of flesh. They would rub their differences into each other like art. They never spoke or shared names. They simply breathed in each other’s remnants of breath.

She recalls the scent of her love’s mouth breezes to be like the sulfur salt spring water she always smelled in her dreams.

Now, she remains. There is nowhere left for her to visit besides the stories in her mind; that they cannot take from her.

notes from a writing residency

written specifically for great weather for MEDIA

 

When I first landed in Grand Island, Nebraska (population 50,000), the first thing I said out loud was:

dear nebraska, I want my chest to be flat like you.

all photos taken by Raluca Albu

(all photos taken by Raluca Albu)

 

My roommate and I (Selina Josephs, the magnificent collage artist/painter) was traveling with me. We both got accepted to the writing/artist residency called Art Farm and were venturing to the town of Marquette (population 228) to spend two weeks savoring the flatlands and creating like mad.

Ed Dadey, the owner of Art Farm, picked us up at the tiniest of airports where only one conveyor belt rotated luggage. There were no skyscrapers here. All the clouds roamed without interrogation of bolts and metal. The sky was like an open stadium.

After a trip to purchase groceries, we made our way to this curious land in the middle of nowhere, where the grass stretched tall like preening models. Ed dropped us off by the house we’d be living in called Victoria.

photo by Raluca Albu

Victoria house

Three stories tall, many walls unfinished. It was vast and haunted and magical and overwhelming. Throughout my days there, I got accustomed to the sound of mice traveling above me. These rodents were bold; chasing each other around the house; sipping water out of available mugs. There were also the raccoons. A family lived in the house. In the house. We could hear the babies chatter and the mother, we called Ricki, left each night at dusk and came back at dawn. I saw her once, as I rocked back in forth in a beautiful rocking chair in Selina’s art studio, while I typed away words gathering momentum on my computer. I heard the scratching of nails against wood, looked up and saw Ricki: climbing up the wall, slinking into a hole in the ceiling.

Add to the mix of wildlife: chiggers (mites which burrow beneath your skin, lay eggs, and create a monstrous display of itchiness), ticks (resilient– even landing on a citronella candle meant to ward them away), flies, flies, flies, ants, mosquitoes…….

Monday through Thursday for three hours, we worked on the farm. Tasks included gardening, moving furniture, digging holes, planting trees, and my personal favorite: carpentry. I picked wood, measured it, cut it down using a beloved and sexy band saw, sanded it down, then hammered into place.

by Raluca Albu

photos by Raluca Albu

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Then, the day was ours. Each artist worked in their studio; I alternated writing at the desk in my bedroom overlooking the farm, writing in the library or at a cafe called Espressions & More in Aurora (population 4,000). At the cafe, I drank delicious coffee, ate homemade sandwiches and met several locals. Here is where I found much inspiration for what I was working on. I wanted to infuse this Nebraska in my work. Hear stories of the humans who lived here.

During my time at Art Farm, I wrote over 15,000 words, ten poems and several letters mailed away. I skinny dipped in a beautiful lake beneath (what felt like) a million stars and called out my spirit animal (elephant) at a bonfire where the planet Venus glowed above us.

I (semi) conquered my fear of heights as I climbed a ladder that went to nowhere (an art installation by a previous resident), played my ukelele on a rooftop and swung from a very high swing shaped like a unicorn, hung in a floating barn.

Here in Nebraska, I found bits of my wild. A wild that had been stifled and punished and hidden for many years. A wild that always got me in trouble. A wild that put me in rehab at nineteen. A wild that knocked me out of relationships. A wild that bullied me back into drugs many many times.

I thought the wild inside me was bad, so I ignored it. Stopped going to parties, talking to strangers, trusting people. But in Nebraska, I was reminded that there is a good wild too. One which reminds me other ways I can celebrate my body, even my nude, in ways that won’t make me feel tarnished and scraped. A wild that reminds me the impact of words and creativity. A wild that encourages real friendships, allowing me to fall in love everyday with the humans around me. A wild that validated my existence.

I’m writing a novel. For years, I would not say this “n” word, for fear of what that meant. I’ve been writing this novel for over eight years. By the end of this summer, I will be done with my first draft.

On my final night at Art Farm, we opened up our studios and went on a creative crawl……viewing everyone’s art, hearing the words of the writers. It was incredible. I presented some of the words I had written during my two weeks, while Laura from Aurora (an enthusiastic local and wonderful human) played guitar.

Processed with Moldiv

presenting my work, with accompaniment by Laura from Aurora

I cried while viewing the art of my favorite oil painter called Lindsay. She captured many of the spaces on Art Farm, infusing each painting with the energy one can not see in each room, but it is certainly felt. During my time at Art Farm, Lindsay was the one who kept reminding me the importance of being present. So much of my wild came out because of her.

Processed with Moldiv

brilliant oil painter and human, Lindsay Peyton

Art Farm residency woke up so much of me, that I am still trying to articulate. Being back in Brooklyn has been an adjustment. The sky is zipped up in ways I never really noticed before Nebraska land. People move a lot faster here and when they ask you how you’re doing, they do not wait for the answer. I’ve been writing less, but trying not to be too hard on myself. I learned that I may not be that hippie I thought I was, but I am a hybrid of farm skin/city scum/open-road eyes. I’m still not quite sure where I belong or even how to be. But this residency taught me about resilience, facing my fears and the magnitude of trust. What a beautiful, powerful realization.

 

Lindsay, me, Z, and Selina

Lindsay, me, Z, and Selina (photo by the wonderful fiction writer and Brooklyn resident, Raluca Albu)

 
 
 
Read more Aimee in meant to wake up feeling 
 

how to pay attention to a body.

all photos by mike geffner

all photos by mike geffner

Here’s the thing: I’m not always so present in my body. We’ve had a tumultuous relationship over the years and although we are on speaking terms right now, there was about a decade where we just ignored each other. Passive-aggressively passed by, barely making eye contact.

Sometimes it felt like a language barrier, not quite having the right words to say, unable to connect. This tends to happen. We had a few interventions, even started collecting dictionaries in order to search for more words to speak out. But it’s been a long, long journey toward understanding the ‘right’ ways to pay attention to each other.

On a Friday in Queens, I walked from the 7 train toward an art gallery where poets, music makers and performers of various disciplines gathered for an event produced by The Inspired Word performance series. I was not going as poet, rather performance artist, lending my skin out to strangers and friends to be referenced as The Human Canvas  (Graffiti’d Body).

Here’s another thing: It’s difficult to present a piece where much of your body is exposed with the intention not to titillate. What I wanted people to contemplate were the various ways in which bodies are like buildings. Buildings which we tag with our name or images or bits of contemplations. How skin can be weathered like bricks. What one would write or draw if given the opportunity (with pen, ink, marker) to tag another’s body.

The humans were shy at first, but so was I. None of these people knew how deeply uncomfortable it was for me to be dressed in such drag. Red sequined tube top worn as skirt. Chest scooped into a black bra, a contraption I haven’t worn for almost two years. Bra has since been replaced by a binder, training my tits to flatten and disappear. All beneath yellow police caution tape.

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The rules were: You may write or paint anything and anywhere. Some wrote their initials. One wrote a sound: ZOINK!. Another wrote part of a poem. There were designs, declarations (will you gay marry me?) and symbols.

People were shy at first; perhaps we are just not used to people saying: hey, want to write on my exposed flesh?

Throughout the night, people timidly approached my skin. Many asked first (which I appreciated, though it was certainly not necessary; the permission was granted the moment I walked through the door). One said, I don’t know how to paint. I responded, yes, you do. And then, I put some paint on the end of a brush and handed it to her. Just……put this color on me and see what happens, I said.

She painted: Let’s make love, not war.

I smiled and said, Hey, you’re a painter now!

273At the end of the night, my partner arrived, and he approached my skin quietly, using paint and marker to tag me.

Being the only one who knows my gender in its entirety, he said, “I’ve never seen you like this.” (This meaning skirt and fluffed-up breasts).

This piece is political, but in a space like this where I speak only if the audience asks questions, its more about being silent and observing the ways in which people approach a body.

I could feel myself being ogled at times, and I knew this was part of human nature. Outside of spaces like this, I practice androgyny. I am far less and more of the in-between.

Here’s how I pay attention to my body now: I enforce encourage dialogues. With myself. With others. I ask questions of myself. How does this feel? How do I want to be today? 

What felt comfortable yesterday won’t always feel that way today.

So, I encourage my body to be more open. To be more out loud. To speak up and out. To perform on and off stages. This reminds me that the silent treatments only prolong stagnation in a body.

My body has housed me for over three decades. The shape has changed and I’ve got quite a few scratches and signatures on it now, but it is also a speaker box. And I intend to project.

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an ode to my dad

 The calendar calls Father’s Day June 21st, but what committee came up with this date and why is it secluded into just this square?

Dear Dad,

I fit you into my suitcase when I traveled to Nebraska, when I searched for myself in Amsterdam, when I relocated to Colorado, when I visited Georgia, and visited Vermont.

Spread your words on the grasslands of Marquette, over the canals near Prisengracht, by the Boulder Creek, in Denver’s Cheesman Park.

You remind me to breathe. To write. To share what I write. To share how I breathe. You tell me that when it rains, it pours, so when it feels like pain is endless, there is always a reprieve. You encourage me to be out. To be kind. To be safe. You tell me not to hold onto gifts–to give things away without reason so they can enjoy things longer. You remind me to eat. To explore. To love.

You live inside my present, instead of reminding me of the ghosts of my past. You do not judge or hate. You welcome and encourage. You create.

We do not pick our fathers. Or our mothers. Or siblings. But I feel by far the luckiest that you’re the one I call Dad. And you’re the one I call friend. And writer. And reader. And everytime I forget how to remain, you’re the one I call to remind me. To stay.