The first words tattooed on my body were from a poet born into 1906. She wrote about the mischief of women being writers. I liked having this imprint on my skin– kind of like a warning sign or how syllables can be trouble-makers. Over the years, other words have implanted themselves on my body. Some are visible to readers, some can only be felt burning their way from beneath my skin.

Michel Foucault and Hélène Cixous joined in. Recently, it felt like the right time to finally have some of my own words on the outer layers on my skin.

It is a Saturday in Brooklyn and the heat is like a flirtatious lover batting its lashes against my freckles. I am biking along the beautiful path of eastern parkway. After a recent, unfortunate brush with the law alongside handsome poet, where we found ourselves accosted by three police officers lecturing us about the law we broke (running stop light) and subsequently writing me an overpriced ticket, I now STOP at all crosswalks and RED lights.

My red hair–resembling a giant puff of smoke earlier in the day–was tamed in a giant mess above my head and these words of mine slowly peeked out from beneath short-sleeved shirt.

Human on feet, stops beside me and says: I like your hair color.

Thank you, I say.

And your words. Can’t see them all, he says.

I lift up my sleeve a bit and let him read; I like to promote the encouragement of pronunciation.

He reads my words out loud and says, Cool quote.

I’ve often wondered what starts a quote. What makes someone’s words quotable. I hear a lot of things each day that move me, but they don’t often make it to immortalization.

I want to ask him what these words mean to him and I want to know what they make him feel. As a writer, so much of this tapping of letters onto screens or scrolling of letters onto pages is done in private. I don’t always feel the reaction or hear what thoughts are birthed out of these sentences or stanzas.

My body was read way before I had all these words on my skin. I was asked questions quite frequently of what my scars meant, where they came from, how new or old they were. I thought: if i’m going to be read in this way, i may as well give them some words to sound out.

I’ve been opening the windows to my body a lot more– airing out my language. Inspired by love. Inspired by healthier breaths. Inspired by new humans I’ve met who remind me how necessary it is to speak up and out.

My body is morphing in ways that are exciting and frustrating and I like that even in this frame that I’ve lived inside for over three decades, I am still finding new rooms to walk around, closets and drawers hiding lots of loot.

These quotes are a way to remember how often words surround us. Some stick on and remain, while others get crossed out, replaced by more up-to-date language.

My body has been a monologue for a long time. Now it is looking to dialogue. Now it is looking to ask and answer questions. It is coming out of hiding. It asks and yearns to be read.

graffiti’d poetics

We tag buildings with our names or a version of letters which resemble who we are. We boast how fearless we can be by climbing vacant subway trains and reaching questionable heights to hollow out poems onto rooftops and skyscrapers’ windows. We breathe the fumes of aerated paint onto bridges and brick walls. We call this art. Because it is.

When I think about the body, it is hard not to describe it as window’d or broken into. It is difficult not to search for the flaps of skin that may be used like deadbolts to lock out the ones who crawl their way in. Body as a building. Body as a construction site. Carved out poemflesh.

On an evening right before autumn arrived, I removed my clothes. Bound breasts beneath caution tape. Covered bottom half in prophylactics to protect and preserve.  I exited a stage and allowed an audience of others to write on me. Alongside another poet, we read out a collaboration of language, as humans wrote their names on us and messages of love and curiosity. One woman inked her mathematics into my back and I wondered all evening what this combination of numbers unlocked. There was a symbol on my thigh and a sliced poem below my collarbone. An affirmation on my lower back and a list of desires on my forearm.

At the end of this evening, the poet and I were covered. After writing on me, she asked me to write on her.

I wrote:

When poetry dissects, silence is lost.

There are so many ways in which to communicate. Many choose the press of fingers against handheld devices. Others ask for the presence of bones and skin to climb their way into present-tense room. Eye contact is becoming extinct. So, I offer up this body as a gesture of paper to write your poems on. Please use invisible welcome mat and wipe your feet and eyes first. Give the trees a break and remember that this skin can be washed and written on and erased and read. There is so much magnificence in the ability to let go of silence and unravel the body like a scroll.

What would you write on another if given the opportunity?

recalled planet

In 2006, we removed it. Built giant fishhooks and extended them into the sky. Then we pulled this planet out of its rotation. Pluto was no longer part of the gang.

Did we humiliate it further when we called it “dwarf planet” or “minor”? Stripped its name and called it a number? 134340

On land, there is a woman. She twirls pens into her skin like inked ballerinas and calls her body this planet.

I weeped when they took Pluto away. Wore a large white pin against my breast for weeks, which declared:

This woman who walks the earth has perforation plaguing her skin. She is a thunderstorm of beauty. She carries luggage in her pockets. A lifetime of wardrobe changes, notes, address adjustments, toiletries. When her hands dig into the corners of sewed hems, there is no certainty of what she might find.

see body as an arena of trauma victims
see body as a storm-watch warning in effect
see body as a parking ticket
see body as a paralyzed petal dropped to the ground from rooftop garden
see body as a fixed-gear bicycle
see body as an aroma of sewage and buffet grease
see body as this planet….evoked of power, pulled from rotation, stripped of history
see body as a dialogue between past and present with occasional interruptions from future

This woman walks across a bridge wearing black tar fabric over musculature/ This woman waters limbs so that they grow long enough to push Pluto back into its prominent spot, erases numbers and revises them back into a word/ Maybe she renames this planet/ Maybe she calls it by her name/ Maybe she glues thousands of maps together/ carving poems into the infrastructure of state lines and border crossings and/ calls it the formula of existence.