“the book is a literal body” –joy harjo

Inside this body, I have two. No, three. I’m still counting.

Inside this body, I have alphabetized two hundred and fourteen (plus or minus) bodies, birthed out of books out of words multiplying into more words, crafting enough bones to hold me up for days at a time.

Inside this body, I speech about pronouns and water. I remove every vein from beneath skin to sew into a tightrope for others to reach me.

Inside this body, splinters from the trees I’ve made love to. I’ve got shagbark and shellbark pulling at my shape with stretched branches.

Inside this body, a dialogue with freedom.

Inside this body, screams to wake the dead.

Inside this body, several long stories and a personal essay with fifteen pages of footnotes.

Inside this body, a love triangle featuring poetry, prose and musical notes.

Inside this body, an understanding of light fixtures and renewal.

Inside this body, a literal interpretation of every crack I’ve jumped over or squashed. Here, is where I focus my map. The map of behind me and what is yet to be trekked.

 

 

TODAY: a celebration of a new book by my dad.

Many years ago, while I was still living in Boulder, CO, I was published in an erotica anthology. I came back east to visit and made my way to Connecticut to see my dad. We were both very excited of my publication and even though the content was a bit racy, my dad and I headed to the nearby Barnes & Noble, so he could buy a copy.

Yes, I went with my dad to buy a book of erotica.

I have a fond memory of heading to the “Romance” section, where it was housed and eagerly finding it in its alphabetical place. If my memory is correct, we took photos. My dad holding erotica book, then I.

He has supported me through all my rejection letters and the unexpected acceptances. He has come to my readings and performances, even the ones which had content most fathers would find uncomfortable. He always called himself, a fan.

Now, I get to be his fan, as I help him celebrate his new book, “The Jefferson Files.” Tonight, at 61 Local in Brooklyn, NY at 61 Bergen Street. 7pm.

Being a writer has freed me from so much. I revel in watching his freedom let loose on the page as well.

in search of a superhero on the 4 train

dear black boy on green line, manhattan bound from the bronx,

I can still hear the music of your voice in my ears, but what to call a melody of screams. I have housed that fear, but never in that pitch and never out loud.

I did nothing.

I gave you my eyes, hoping they would stop your father, the long monster. I called him this, monster, because he is one.

I did nothing.

You dropped every spoonful of salt from your body through your eyes, begging to stand. You just wanted to stand. Why can’t I stand, you screamed. But the monster wouldn’t let you. Your father. I did nothing.

He called you son, while hitting your head as you screamed: “You said you were going to punch me in my neck.” I did nothing.

He said, “You are the reason everyone is staring.” And you continued to drop cups full of salt from your body as we all lifted our feet not to get wet from the drown of your fear. Your father, the monster, said he was going to punch one of us and called it your fault.

I/we did nothing.

I waited. I waited for someone else to do something because how long can one watch someone else’s trauma without reacting. Without doing something. We were all just bystanders waiting for another to step up.

I/we did nothing.

I kept waiting for someone to strap on a cape and save the day. I wanted to strap on a cape and save the day.

But I did nothing.

*

I think back to Kitty Genovese, a Queens woman who was stabbed to death just outside her home in 1964. Her neighbors watched during this attack. They watched the person leave, then come back and rape her. They watched and they did nothing.

*

Who or what are we waiting for?

When I finally got to Brooklyn, I walked off the train, headed above ground and cried. I cried for the boy and I cried for his cries. On that 4 train at 6pm, everyone on that train let him down. His calls for help were ignored.

I immediately reached out to my friend–a poet and teacher and the one who holds me accountable every single day for the tasks I hope to get through each day. I told him of this event. My hands shook and chest echoed.

I did nothing, I told him.

What can be learned from silence? At some point it must be cut into and turned up.

 

When silence creates pattern remove the middle and engrave the opposite.”

 

I’ve been carving up all the silences in me since I was a kid. Trying to tell on the fright inside me. Speaking up is a way of moving through.

dear black boy on green line, manhattan bound from the bronx,

I want you to know that there are many monsters out there and some even reside in our homes. But there are also superheroes, humans who smile without a need for anything back. Humans who do not punch or abuse with words. Humans who heal.

only ten words left

As per an experiment given to my students: If you had only 10 words left 
to speak (regardless of their relationship to each other) what would 
they be? The words inside the words can be spoken too.
linoleum
mailbox
innards
coffee
poem
handsome
disembody
queer
resplendent
quiet

***
dent box in 
hand

i embody
i queer

dent of
some innards
 
quiet queer 
of i

hand poem
of fee

a resplendent
quiet

of 
linoleum

(can you) LIKE this?

When I was a junior in high school, I liked a boy called G. I was too shy to ask him if he liked me the way I liked him, so I gave him my Enya CD before class one day, because I had overheard him saying he liked her music.

He smiled and took it, but never really said if he liked me or even the album and I have a scar on my right forearm from the day I drove to that park somewhere between where I lived and didn’t and cut my skin until I felt touched by something.

Grade ten in high school and I am told by my best friend that while he was in the gym locker room, a bunch of other boys were making fun of me. They said they wished I had just killed myself already and I began to wonder why my friend was relaying this to me. He said, “I defended you,” because he liked me, even though no one else did. Four more scars were born soon after.

First grade. A boy called D passes a note to me via three other people and asks me if I like him back. He gives me a choice: Circle YES or NO or MAYBE. I circle all three; even then, I had a difficult time making up my mind.

Nowadays, we are LIKED at least once a day, sometimes ten or thirty depending upon how often we ask through typed-up messages and photographs. We unravel our scars, dig them out like time capsules and put them up onto our computer screens, so that someone will press a button and deliver validation we’ve grown to thirst for.

Nowadays, we walk around with instant validation. All one has to do is post words and wait.

LIKE.

LIKE.

LIKE.

Two minutes pass and you’ve acquired three and then two more and suddenly your lack of employment or depleted bank account or untreated-but-diagnosed depression does not matter.

You. Are LIKE’d. Simply because you posted words above a button making it very easy for others to press it.

You tell people you have grown sick or gone to hospital or stopped eating or what you are eating or how you sit or how you lean or the delicate drip of your nose or who you are dating.

You tell people about what you just did or what you are about to do or what you plan to do next week.

LIKE.

LIKE.

Nineteen years of age, I am swallowing a boy’s body part that does not feel safe or comfortable in my mouth. He did not ask me if I LIKED this.

Year twenty-seven of living and I leave a place that I never recorded after my body is broken into once again and there is no button, but if there were I would not press it.

Seven years later and I try it out. I gather up some words like a bouquet of flowers stolen out of someone’s front yard. I take these words and thrown them onto a computer screen. And I wait. And I hold my breath until the first….

LIKE.

It feels good. Adrenaline of acceptance rushes through me and suddenly it does not matter how much I meant what I wrote. It doesn’t matter that I never spell-checked or fact- checked. All that matters is someone LIKE’d it, which means someone LIKE’d me.

And all my scars began to faint away or I pretended they had and it did not matter I was alone or lonely or hungry or still depressed. Someone pressed that button for me.

LIKE.

I take all these LIKEs and crush them up. I press down firmly to smooth out the hard bits. Like gristle. Suddenly, I’ve got a fine powder of LIKEs. I lean toward them as though about to whisper something worthy of a click to them. I get so close, I almost blow some of the LIKEs away. Then, I glide this dust toward my nose and snort them up like the drug it really is. I inhale. My chest beckons. My ribs climb themselves. I inhale every last drip of LIKE that exists and revel in the aftertaste of anticlimactic emptiness.

 

an ode to my furrow.

My therapist calls it a crease. As though my forehead has overslept after a night of tossing and turning and now it needs heavy-duty ironing. And yet, I like this noun. Perhaps I can call every fold and fumble on my skin a crease.

When I sit, that is not fat forming around my belly. They are creases. All those scars on my forearms? Creases.

My lover stores poems in my creases. But the noun chosen is furrow. Sometimes it is used as a verb: “Your brow is furrowed and I like this.”

I am unaware of when it happens. This noun of waves or verb of worry.

I furrow on the subway. I furrow when I make love. I furrow when I am in my nude, in the bath or upwards in shower. I furrow when I am eating a meal that steals all my words. I furrow when I am reading. Perhaps this is my resting face/place.

Creases or wrinkles or excess of skin does not have to be a bad thing. In fact, I quite like my folds. Media tells us to be smooth, but I like people to know I’ve lived and continue to do so.

My body tells the story of me when I am too shy to.

My body does not allow me to skip pages. Every inch of me speaks out my history. I like this. It reminds me I have one.

So, I’ve got this furrow that for a brief time was covered due to a poor decision called bangs. 

I was recently asked (by my therapist) to think of a part on me that I can say I like. For over a week, my answer was empty.

Finally, I know.

I like something about me.

My furrow.