black out 10/8/15

Vladamir Nabokov wrote, “The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”

I ask: Is there such a thing as a blank page? Are we ever really starting from nothing? Pages come from trees, which come from earth, so even in the emptiness, there is a history of something that once was.

Blackout poetry is a form that celebrates this. Finding words from within other words. Creating something new from what already exists. One can take any text and blackout as many words as one desires. Leaving several words, strung together or all apart of just leaving one. But what is left is what becomes newly birthed. Because the meaning changes. And it becomes yours.

Here is a recent blackout poem I created:
into your intestinal/ your weird evolution/ of neurons/ of trouble/ of bacteria/ (yes,)/ and pretty/ of timid/ called “gut”/ also Who knows?/ with yogurt/ Okay, what if/ to stop/ at our stomachs/ go poking/ write, the human/ the privilege/ the self.

how to be found

originally posted on great weather for MEDIA


how long until/ the limbs become/ just/ skin’s memory 


I travel west to contact every doorframe and window hinge I have ever touched. I want to know if they remember my fingerprint configuration. I need to know I am impactful.

In my pocket are three words I did not know before three days ago and one references a fruit I have trust issues with: aubergine. I contemplate renaming myself this word because I like the sling of its third syllable slapping tongue against roof of mouth. Is it ever too late to retitle oneself?

My mother calls me while I am pretending to write and she goes off script. She tells me my uncle has passed away. How long until a body loses its shape? And what shape does it become? Death lay there in his body for at least three days until. Until.

How to be found.          Out.

While living in suburbia, as a teenager with a license, I walked out of my psychology class one day with a mission to drive to my favorite park and hang myself. I was without weaponry, but I much preferred DIY techniques anyway. No one noticed when I walked out, right as the teacher—with three day beard or lipstick on teeth, I cannot recall—was offering a lesson on fight/flight and the biology of mental illness (or perhaps something completely unrelated). Slowly, I walked through the school parking lot to find my car, which really my sister’s, and it was red with only two doors. If I listened to the radio, I would have searched for Nirvana to scream his suicide notes into my ear.

This was the 90’s.

This park I liked was small, with evidence of duck excrement littering the ground like confetti. I did not care enough to watch where I walked; I just wanted to find the perfect tree to keep me elevated.

I ask my mother how he died and she does not know. I use a word like autopsy because of movies and over-saturated crime television programs like CSI and Law and Order. I need to know that even after addiction and depression, one finally reaches an age of understanding and stillness. I need to know I won’t want to revisit that tree with DIY weaponry when I am in my sixties.

I was fifteen when Kurt Cobain died. Less than one year later in 1995, I will try what he succeeded at, choosing pills and knives over shotgun. When Kurt died, everyone around me draped themselves in capes of flannel. When I die, I wonder if everyone will dye their hair red or just head to work because. Because. Why not.

On my travels west, I reach a doorframe found in an old school house, now called apartment complex. I licked the doorknob to see if it still tasted of me. All I can report is my tongue felt like pocket lint and pennies for the rest of the day. There was no sign of recognition.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an American commits suicide every 12.9 minutes. In the course of writing this, at least four people have died.

I ask my mother once again about an autopsy, sounding out each letter slowly. Don’t you want to know? I ask. But I know that I am really asking me.

The last song Kurt Cobain recorded with Nirvana was titled, “You Know You’re Right” and I wonder if we ever really do. The lyrics haunt like the loudest lover you never could get over.

Kurt growls, “No thought was put into this/ I always knew it’d come to this/ Things have never been so swell/ And I have never failed to fail.”

The tree refused to elevate me on that day I casually escaped the confines of high school. Instead, I carved my name into a bench that faced a manmade lake. I contemplated what I was contemplating. Almost twenty years later, I look up that lake on the computer, and find that it has a yelp page. People express joy for its vastness; a perfect place to picnic; a spot for fishing or handholding. I ponder submitting my thoughts on the trees and how they may have saved my life that day, when I might have contributed to the census of Americans who end their time. How many stars would I give and would I mention that I used to think this park was a perfect spot to die, but now I just think it’s the right place to remember how to be found.

but also because of this.

[for Lily.]


You asked me when I started writing. Where did it begin and what caused it.

I mentioned Lou Reed. Bob Dylan. My sister’s old boyfriend, my favorite, who encouraged me to poem and to hippie. I mentioned that assembly freshman year of high school when I read a poem that caused all the teachers to warn my parents that I might try to Sylvia Plath myself. I mentioned open mics and giving up my dream of being a pastry chef.

But also because of this.

I started writing when my razor’s blade grew dull. And I started to write when I ran out of girls to kiss. And

I write when I binge on too much food, and feel the need to purge something.

Here’s the thing:

I’ve been writing letters to this old, white guy named Richard Brautigan, who keeps feeding my book shelf.

And I think of my student who asked me: Prof, why do so many writers off themselves? 

And I said, because so many come from tragedy & addiction & too much sadness to be cured by prescriptions, and it is the writing that keeps them alive, until….it just no longer can.

So I write to stay alive. Until I no longer can. And then maybe someone who needs a reason to remain will find me. And I will feed their bookshelf. And we all can just keep saving each others’ lives. One poem, one story, one page at a time.

in celebration of breasts and surviving

When I was fifteen, I was still writing letters to my breasts, asking if they got misdirected. Sent to the wrong address? Used incorrect postage? (There was no FOREVER stamp at the time).

I thought I wanted them. All my female-bodied friends had them. Many in size extra large and abundant. At that age, we want what is around us. What other people have. Or…..we think we do.

And then I got them, but in size small and some people touched them and then I did not want them anymore and then and then. The End.

I think a lot about breasts because I think a lot about bodies. Therefore, I think a lot about knees and collarbones and earlobes and hypothalamuses.

When I was asked to read something for a Breast Cancer fundraiser, I immediately said yes and then I realized why I was asked: because someone I really care about has had it: my mom.

So, I’ve been thinking not just about breasts, but my mom’s breasts. And it’s hard sometimes to find time to grade papers and write poems when you’ve got four breasts on your mind, but more than that because….as I said, I think about bodies quite a lot and I live with another set of breasts and I walk out the door and breasts and and and. The End.


Research is being done to learn more. To catch it before it climbs further into body. More and more people are surviving. But more and more people are getting diagnosed.

Please support a night of honoring those who have survived breast cancer, those who did not make it, and those whose loved ones are still fighting.

Come to The Parkside Lounge on October 4th at 7pm 

317 E. Houston St.  NYC

Tickets are $10, but if you can give more, please give. 100% of the proceeds go to The Pink Daisy ProjectEven if you cannot attend, you can STILL support by buying advance tickets online or donating directly to The Pink Daisy Project.

More details:

The Inspired Word Presents its 5th Annual PinkSpeak: Breast Cancer Journeys in Poetry, Music & Prose – a breast cancer fundraiser in Manhattan, New York City.
Dedicated to the memory of poet/author Pamilla DeLeon-Lewis, a beautiful, inspiring lady who performed at our first PinkSpeak and passed away on January 6, 2012, and Dorothy Geffner, mother of Inspired Word founder/producer Mike Geffner.


Featured Artists:

Singer/Songwriter Khadijah Carter

Poet/Storyteller Phillip Giambri aka The Ancient Mariner

Poet Keisha-Gaye Anderson

Singer/Songwriter Samantha Leon

Poet Aimee Herman

Author Sofia Quintero

Poet Cindy Peralta aka Black Angel

Writer Bob Lemoullec

Singer/Songwriter Natatia Allison –

Singer/Songwriter Matt Jacob –

Spoken Word Poet Lana Rose –

Writer Regina Woiler –

an overheard conversation between richard brautigan and aimee herman

It was a day unlike Wednesday, but it was Monday or was it Sunday. It was definitely sometime around 4pm and 3:15.

Richard: I started out this day thinking about the exhaust fumes from cars fighting their way to a parking spot in Hawaii and now I am wondering why the cost of cantaloupe has gone up.

Aimee: I call them candy-lopes.

Richard: I had a lover who lasted through one nocturnal whose hair smelled like the ripest of cantaloupes. She was studying botany and when I kissed her, she told me she could feel the rash my mustache would give her mouth. She smelled like a harvest.

Aimee: And did you give her a rash?

Richard: In more places than just her lips.

Aimee: I started out this day thinking about that library you wrote about. I wanted to find that tall door leading into the house for books and bring you one.

Richard: Poetry.

Aimee: No. The other one.

Richard: You done with it?

Aimee: I’m scared to peek at its end.

Richard: I wrote letters. Mailed some. Gave others away to the wrong ones. Sometimes I’d write suicide notes and stick them beneath seats. I never signed them, of course.

Aimee: Why not?

Richard: Because they weren’t mine.

Aimee: I found one of my suicide notes in Connecticut.

Richard: Was it beneath a white oak?

Aimee: Yes. No! In a tiny drawer, second one down. Purple. Purchased at a garage sale somewhere east. I didn’t recognize the handwriting, but I recognized the name.

Richard: Did you want to edit it?

Aimee: Yes.

Richard: Tell me about the painter. Didn’t she bring me to you?

Aimee: No. Yes! She reimagines rooms. When I met her, I was hours away from an interaction with ticks. I was also desperate for a recall.

Richard: What do you mean?

Aimee: I mean…we were in a town full of three hundred people. Or less. And I was this blank page. I kept wondering what words I could fill for them. Who I could be? You know I come from a city where we are forgotten. Or–

Richard: Unseen.

Aimee: Yes! No. Seen through. Or unheard. No one looks up anymore, Richard. But she does.

Richard: The painter.

Aimee: Yes. Yes!

Richard: Tell me what she looks for.

Aimee: An answer. But there are so many questions.

Richard: Do you know, I spent days in my youth obsessing over a family who brought their furniture to a fishing hole. They’d sit on big, comfy chairs as they dug their line into water to see what they’d catch.

Aimee: And did they catch much?

Richard: Always. And you know why?

Aimee: Ummm….persistence?

Richard: Because they were comfortable. Tell her she needs to settle. She needs to bring her chair with her wherever she goes.

Aimee: Really?

Richard: Aimee. No. Yes! She’s a painter! So, I imagine she can paint this chair. Paint this comfort. Paint what she needs. Paint her answer!

Aimee: And then she will find her fish.

Richard: Right. Or whatever it is she desires at the end of her line.

good with words

Recently, a Rabbi called me a wordsmith. He knew me many years ago, when my hair was a different color. I was not much like this person I am now. I didn’t want him to recognize me, and I was quite pleased that he didn’t.

I read a short poem and words about mourning at a funeral for my uncle. Afterwords, once all the salt that sifted out from both eyes had dissipated, and I, longside five other men, took on the role of pallbearer, he said to me, “You are quite the wordsmith; you should keep at it.”

I smiled because he had no idea how much I needed to be reminded that I do. I smiled because my sister heard and she looked at me with pride.

This man of God, saying to me, a human who teeters on the edge of atheism, that I am good with words. 

On a Friday night, I sit wearing nothing but skin and remnants of sick still stuck to my flesh. I light a stick of incense and encourage the smoke to breathe me in, wrapping its seductive trail all over me. When one stick burns out, I light another. Inhaling this nag champa tickled my stuffed nose, but gathered me into a deeper mindset.

I began to think of the time my mother stormed my bedroom, and threw out all of my incense. She thought I had it because of drugs. She had no idea that I had yet to begin my thunderous battle with addiction; I just enjoyed the smell.

Even now, I like lighting these aromatic perfumed sticks not to mask any other smell, but to remind me to breathe in deeper. To get lost in the curls of smoke.

All I could say was, “thank you,” to the Rabbi, even though I wanted to say so much more.

I wanted to say to the Rabbi, “Do you remember me? I used to be blond and my parents liked each other. But you must see a lot of rotating marriages. It is 2015 and all.”

I wanted to ask him, “I know Jews don’t believe in heaven or hell and I don’t either but. But what do you think about a human who no longer feels comfortable in the body they were born into? There are words for this, but for me, those words don’t quite fit. And Rabbi?” I’d continue.

“Rabbi, what I mean to say is, I’m not so good with words when I need to use them to describe how this all feels. And also….” Here is where I will pause for such a long time, I will watch this scholar of Jewish law, get uncomfortable, and even impatient.

“…The thing is, maybe I just have a difficult time committing to letters. And designations. And clubs. And groups. And classifications. And stereotypes. And….”

The last time I went to synagogue, I sat, nervously reading prayers, translated into English. I was with my partner, who practices.

I practice to0. But not religion.

I practice how to be.

I just said thank you to this Rabbi who knew me before puberty and mental illness and trauma. I’m much better with words on paper; I’m just not so good with words when they want to come out. Sometimes, they just need more time to prepare.