that time you took your shirt off

It was a Thursday and the sky was a shade darker than your silverware. You took your shoes off and slung your fingers inside each one as you let your toes feast on the sand, full of cracked shells, twigs and occasional cigarette butts and remainders of glass.

You were with the one you love. The one who searched for the perfect spot to rest blue bed sheet and stack of sandwiches to house your testosterone-fueled appetites.

You placed your sneakers on the corners to hold the sheet down, took a deep breath and inhaled the Atlantic. You kept it in your lungs until you had to let go. All that salt. Waft of seagull wings swirling down your throat.

You look around and see bare breasts and strings of fabric covering up the other parts. You love seeing bodies being celebrated, uncovered and unapologetic.

You look at your lover, who is blinking in the ocean.

And then. You remove your Batman black t-shirt. You remove your binder. You are bare chest and excited nipples.

Your lover removes his t-shirt. Then, binder. He is bare chest and hairy nipples.

You leave your green bandana on, which hugs your neck.

You leave your gender behind for an afternoon at this beach, which is far more gay friendly than the one you usually go to. Several hours later, when you both decide to ride bikes for awhile and explore the nooks, you shake off the sand on your skin, flatten breasts back beneath binder, with Batman t-shirt back on.

You think about Nebraska. Skinny dipping beneath that dark sky. Allowing yourself to be self-conscious for only fifteen seconds. Then, recognizing that these humans– these poets, these artists, these magic makers– see past what your parts look like and recognize you simply as human.

Nudity can be like a shout-out: Hey, look at me! Look what I got. This is what I am!

Nudity can also remind us and others that we are not what we think/feel we are: Hey, forget all this. It’s just the scaffolding protecting the best parts, the parts you cannot see.

On a Friday evening, one day later, you walk on stage and tell a story that is yours, but in someone else’s voice. The audience does not know that it is another human speaking on behalf of your memories. Sometimes it is easier to relay the messages of your mind through a different medium: oil painting, collage, choreography, sculpture, song, poem.

Even all those times you were in various stages of nude, the audience never really saw you.

Then on Saturday, several hours later, you wonder when you might finally take that scaffolding down.

finding what you forgot you were looking for.

Yesterday, I crashed into a photograph…down on eastern parkway…it was just me and a woman in white.We enter and exit moments, some of which belong to us and some of which belong to others.

On a Tuesday, I biked my way into a snapshot of a woman wearing the garb of approaching wedding. Her hands were hidden by a bouquet of flowers and I never got to see her face, just that body clothed by fabric that looked like January sky. I wanted to ask her so many questions, but instead I spoke them out loud into the wind:

What are you hoping for?
How necessary are rings? Do they come with a guarantee?

On a different day, I speak about love with another poet. He asks me: So, what’s going on? Are you in love?

I smile because this gives me time to approach such a question. I tell him: I’ve had some immense loves in my life and if it never happens again, I think I’ll be ok. And then I add: It’s too fucking scary to get into again.

Bike rides tend to lead me toward discovery of self and place.  So do these conversations with poets and musicians.

Where are we going and how are we getting there.

I haven’t owned a car in over three years, so I’ve been getting places through the transportation of my body. It can roll and honk and brake and signal. None of my parts are borrowed, but they don’t all exactly belong to me. I’ve torn off my rear-view mirrors; no need to see what is behind me anymore. I study the cracked windshield of my soul and allow it to veer me forward.

I almost got married once, though I doubt I would have worn white. I’ve been in love 4 and a half times. There may be more ahead of me, but for now, I am working on the one who keeps trying to get away: me.