how to invoke religion while holding hands and sharing the heat of approaching summertime.

“I learned how to find the new moon by looking for the circular absence of stars…I learned God’s true language is only silence and breath.”  –Kazim Ali (Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities)

Last summer, I found religion in the journal of a poet who described his hunger and silence while fasting for ramadan. I walked around taking slow, deliberate bites of whatever was around me. Napped on napping trees. Kissed beneath enough moon shadows to call myself a believer of things. Tried a new cuisine called sloped Brooklyn. Became a smoker briefly because I liked the way my breath would tangle with the invisibleness of air. Had a short love-affair with mayflies. Played ukelele on as many benches as my skin could find.

Weeks wait to be found before summer begins but check out this air! One can call themselves religious just by breathing. Just by emptying the winter from lungs and exhaling bouts of lonely or shiver or hungry. Hours can easily climb mountaintops. Clouds wait to be deciphered into a language of picture maps.

This time is different. You may use the same words for things but meanings no longer need to be still and unwavering. You can memorize a prayer like love and it can be new each time. How amazing! How wonderful to climb hands into another’s and trace the elongation of breath traveling without passport to another country just by feeling your way. 

Bodies are like religious institutions. Stained glass. Memorials. Psalms and palms. Sermons threading together the meanings of things.

We fast (figuratively and metaphorically) to remember why we hunger so much. We gain weight when we allow our bodies permission to hold on to what finally nourishes us.

neglect the map or gust of origin.

“Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you.” Aldous Huxley

I come from white walls white thighs white mother crust of malady and abandon.

I come from culdesac dead ended romance with calm and how to collect a thousand fireflies in just one summer with scoop of blond hand and curious wrists. Spell out help with the death of smeared illumination.

I come from guilt. Guilt of murdered lightening bugs. Guilt of murdered hair follicles through bleach and rusted scissor clip. Guilt of murdered childhood through the erasure of memory. Guilt of each kiss claimed by mouth without manners.

I come from New Jersey. Concrete and sod. Hangings and ambulance whispers. Suburban boredom collapsed into self-harm. That time that time that time that time that time that time that time that time that time. That time there was a need to gallop body into medicated bones and bruise away hatred of self.

I come from stages and poets dusted and banned. I come from Ginsberg and Plath and Kate Bornstein and Gertrude Stein and Bukwoski and Mapplethorpe and Serrano and Valerie Solanas and every teacher that tried to teach in a way that kept the windows open and doors unlocked.

I come from appetite and birth and love there was some love [once] and Brooklyn and boroughs and grass stains and hyper.

I come from shift and gender and clutter’d queer disrobing through each climb of love and affair.

I come from that place within the body that thieves. Call it basement. Call it butcher shop. Call it handsome. That’s where I derive.

beneath rust, there is something to be said.

It is early enough in the morning to assume that you are the only one awake. The sun may be out, but it still yawns with morning breath wafting against clouds, pushing them toward their daily mile. You are three quarters asleep, but alert enough to notice the sound of a bird, red like the tint of your hair, crashing toward the nearby window. Its beak is resilient, or it must be since it plunges against the glass once more. And then again. And again after that. You are stunned at its punishment or is this a ritual of a new day arriving. Does it want to come in? Does it want to get out? There is something to be said about the persistence of its pounding.

My bicycle used to remain indoors, but for the past year and a half it has been locked against the same sign post and its metal skin has changed from black to rust. It is the only thing I straddle these days, but it brings me joy and gets me to where I need to be much faster. My bike and I are philosophically entangled with the wind; I blink musical notes with each turn to alert the other shapes where I am going. A young boy on a bike tells me my back tire needs air and I feel such gratitude that he noticed this. If only we could pay closer attention to humans because we so often run out of air or we choose to breathe less and there is something to be said about someone stopping to say: keep breathing because I am conscious that you’ve stopped.

How about the time your skin hurt from being next to her. The arrival of spots called hives– similar to bees hoarding honey– holding your chest captive for several hours. As a child, they take your temperature with strips that measure the heat. Or in your ear or with the back of a hand. But what happens when suddenly someone else’s bones beside you create a rise of sun and moon and mountain top and the pitch of the loudest yell. What happens when another person becomes a thermometer entering you, evolving your degrees from 97.9 to high above the hundreds. There is something to be said about kinetics and the pungency of emotion.

a different kind of high

My breath is held captive by my ribcage, caught up inside the complication of my neck and even my lungs are gasping for some sort of rescue. Do not ask me to clap or lean forward. There is music playing but for once I practice stillness. Down below are drunk bodies, heavy bellies, sports fans fondling their partners just to get noticed on a giant projection screen. I am clutching my limbs, holding on to the one beside me understands my fear of heights well enough without having to ask why I am wincing.

I feel like the haunt above clouds which nap above rooftops. I feel high enough to converse with religion, if I were inclined to believe in such a thing. I feel like I can tell you what brand of weather will arrive next: this is how high up I am.

Far down below are men wearing tall bones and sweatbands on wrists and foreheads. They are agile and seductively graceful as they press callused fingertips against leather/rubber/synthetic wrapped sphere. This is called a dribble.

As I am practicing how not to be frightened from my fear of these heights, I become mesmerized by how many times they take a break.

Time Out: Bring out the “dancers” or women wearing very little spandex and bright red smiles and carmelized hair.

Time Out: Commercial break. Beer run. Refill of overpriced nachos or greatest hits compilation of meat pressed into a bun.

She asks me if I know the rules and I tell her yes, even though I don’t. But I also don’t fully understand how to engage in this odd twenty-four (continuous) game of life, yet I seem to be an active player.

What keeps me distracted from the extreme height of our seats is the woman behind me wearing netted stockings and a piercingly inquisitive voice. She is asking her boyfriend/brother/friend/cousin questions about the point system and why they rotate players. I overhear her say to him, “I don’t know what you just said, but I laughed.”

At the end of the evening I want to thank her for inadvertently distracting me from my fear. I want to thank the handsome human beside me acting as my seatbelt.

I used to not be able to travel up stairs with spaces in between them. I will never skydive. And as a child, I fainted inside a hot air balloon. This fear is bullying, but slowly I’ve worked out ways to move through it.

Kind of like life, I guess.

when you are left with nothing and everything and that is the truth

I need to breathe out the fumes of some people/places/things.

Body wants to snooze, but mind needs to press itself into vinyasana. Clothes climb on, bones unlock bike, make it move, make it wheeze. I pedal toward a yoga class where I find myself getting turned on, tuned in and unbearably aware of every sigh retreating from me.

I watch the women around me. Gender is difficult to ignore in this tight space. I don’t miss the presence of men and perhaps we are all men trapped inside these soft bodies. Yoga does not really leave room to question one’s current gender status.

I remove my jacket and shirt, and notice the scent trapped inside the hair beneath my arms. I love letting this hair breathe out with me. I love the smell of it, spicy like trapped hours and no air flow.

Watch the others to understand where to put my palms, hips in, arms wide. There is a language to this movement and although I do not speak it, I study the gestures of their bodies and allow mine to respond.

Instructor begins with meditational accordion, squeezing air out of its wooden body as we squeeze air out of ours. There is a chant. Her voice is like an extracted cloud; it is unexpectedly magical.

My first tear drop falls. Several thousand to go and then I am free.