The Sum of Calendars

I am trying to let go of something

–Tracy K. Smith


It feels like cold sore body gristle cracked molar memory of sixteen to nineteen

Misshapen elastic mourning its taut, its firm, its locked box casing

It feels like that time you learned Lucille Ball died while on the way to family Thanksgiving or Grandma’s grave or synagogue or some other place that triggered loneliness

You awake from a dream where all your teeth have been replaced with slurs. You try to sound out help or hungry or not now but all that comes out are four letter words bleeped out on the radio

Remember when your body was new. A gift-wrapped holiday. Upright and without all its springs popped. Yesterday, your veins started scratching their way out of each thigh. Morse code of aging. You want to call them beautiful; all that comes out is malnourished spider legs.

You are trying to let go of something. Of every organ which has grown slightly off-kilter. Of your misshapen brain, congealed due to improper adolescence. Of every time your welcome mat was set on fire.

One day, you will go on a bike ride. Your ears will be unplugged, just waiting to surf over wind and traffic. You will notice that your muscles can take you away but also bring you back home. You will lose your breath but something inside you will locate more. You will cry because every time your body moves, it remembers. It remembers. You may howl because sometimes you feel like a cone snail or a saltwater crocodile but you just can’t seem to commit to danger, so you keep pedaling. With every block, you let go. Back there, fingerprints from that time. Three pounds of hair, a partially lobotomized fingernail, some skin ready to flee, spit, all gone. You are something else; you are everything you were; you are nothing from before; you are all of it; the sum of calendars. You are still here. As you check your imaginary rearview window, you can see its blur miles behind you. You really wanted to let go. You were really hoping it wouldn’t follow. So you keep pedaling; you keep panting; you keep pushing your way out of __________ .

It Happened (again)

It happened (again).

Another stranger presses their curiosity against your scars and another bruise forms.

You arrive home after an evening where the sky offers no view of buildings competing with the birds and airplanes. The bruise is shaped just like that reoccurring dream you’ve had since childhood. You wonder if you should start wearing long sleeves again. You wonder if you should ice your limbs in a bathtub until they can barely utter any vowel sounds and then sever them completely.

It happened (again).

You mispronounce a word, use the wrong verb tense, forgot how to properly use a semi-colon, couldn’t remember the seventeenth president of the United States, had no idea that reference from that news story from that day, had that food stain between your teeth the entire day, wore your shirt on inside out, couldn’t remember how to get home, was corrected once again by your loverspousepartnerroomate as though mistakes can no longer happen quietly.

It happened (again).

You just wanted to know what it felt like to kiss, so you pressed your teaspoon lips against their tablespoon, pressed your skinned knees against their grass stains, pressed your fragments against their run-on sentences.

It happened (again).

You lost track of time and it was wonderful. Drank enough raindrops to count as hydration and conversed with a sparrow about immigration reform. You decided to be religious for a day, and prayed to the treetops. You sang hymns into squirrels’ bellies and asked for forgiveness from the worms you used to sever with your footsteps.

It keeps happening.

You forget your lines. You fall out of love. You overeat. You simply have no energy left to pick yourself back up. Your hair tangles in ways that are irreversible. You wonder if anyone really knows how to love you correctly. You break another toe. You sprain your tongue. You walk outside without proper uniform but then the sun fills in the lines of your goosebumps, asks you to remain even when no one else is, grabs hold of your hand, and in the scorch it leaves behind, you venture on.

A Story About Luggage

first published by great weather for MEDIA

When you are carrying all the baggage around from childhood and a mismatched set from adulthood as well, it’s really hard to get around. Everyone is tripping over your teenage years and let’s not even mention ages 24-27, 32-34, 35 too. You can’t fly because you can’t afford the extra fees for the weight of what you carry around with you everyday. People (before meeting you) think this is a metaphor. Oh, right, baggage. But this is inconveniently heavy with zippers and hidden pockets and it all looks the same so if you left it alone, you wouldn’t know it’s yours and this is when you realize other people carry around baggage too. Lots of the same shapes, but some a little smaller and (yeesh) even bigger than yours. There are dull colors coding these bags, but bright ones too. You swear you can see a leopard print in the distance.

Now that you start to see other people’s baggage, you realize you aren’t alone. So, you start to walk more, sweating and grunting a little by the weight of it all, but while you’re out, people start to ask if they can help.

“That looks heavy,” one says. “Can I…can I carry something?”

Your eyes grow wide like your hips when you went from girl to woman and you say sure. You give them a bag and suddenly you feel lighter. Just a little, but enough to notice the difference.

You keep walking and notice someone else. They have tied all their bags together with hemp string and masking tape, carrying the whole lot on their back.

You approach them because you recognize the pain in their face.

“Hi,” you say.

“Hey,” they shoot back.

“Looks like you’ve been carrying all that for a really long time.”

“I have,” they say.

“See that water over there? They call it the East River. Think we could walk over there together and just…let our baggage go? If not all, then some?”

“OK,” they answer.

So, you and this stranger walk to the East River where the birds fly just above the water and the secrets down below carry their own version of baggage and you each choose a few bags to let go of. There are moments you each cry, dropping tears into the water like soft stones creating hints of rings swelling the salt. There are no words spoken between you as you lift and let go. Lift and let go.

When you are done, you notice what is left. Still a significant amount, but some of the heavy ones are gone, doing a limbless breaststroke away from you. The stranger beside you has walked away, with only one bag left.


Now, you step outside more. venture inside new places. Your arms still carry this baggage around but you have enough breaths in you left to speak and even sometimes laughYou thought you saw that stranger again, though you almost didn’t recognize them by the width of their smile. And when you looked down to note their baggage, all that was beside them was the comfort of others.

You still have your bags. Far less and not as cumbersome to carry around. You’ve since met others who you’ve walked to the water with to let go of some weight. It makes it so much easier to live.

Excited to announce my new chapbook of poems

Thank you so much to Essay Press for publishing my chapbook of poems, carpus.

Carpus is a gutting of body, all the kicked up grit of gender and love and (mis)understandings of self

Thank you to the incredible editors who were patient and encouraging: Aimee Harrison (brilliant reader/editor), Travis Sharp (created the cover), and Emily Pifer (video embedder).


Let me know what you think! Email me at:

Check out this video of one of the poems featured in the book:


one hundred heart burns

The mothers count fingers of new babies to catalogue what is missing, but in New Jersey, everyone forgets about what hides.

Later on, they prescribe away the wild to cure what existed in utero.

It is easier to eat out of boxes to bloat away a language.

“Allergies, nine stitches, burnt heart from misread temperatures, airplane, haircut, broken teeth, pierced tongue, that time that time: drugs, a silent no, split ends, abandoned diets, balance beam of stretch marks, not enough time.”

I am not sure where I began, but I know I am still beginning.

woman on a bench with her eyes closed

inspired by Nan Goldin

She fits twelve, unopened cans of Miller Light in her see-through pocketbook because in the summertime she is at her thirstiest, yet no one wakes her, asleep on the bench, in white dress with the flowers like blood stains embroidered to hide the real stains, with cigarette still in mouth and white ribbon in her hair like an angel. Because she was one once, because she always was.

the other side of things

I’m trying to understand my inability to sign my name to things.

Recently, I was asked to list all of my scars, every side-effect from every human I’ve ever let inside me. I had to name two references who could locate my left ovary. I went back on medication because I missed having night sweats and hallucinations of solidarity.

I decided to cut all my hair off.

I removed all my clothes, including four of my moles and part of a vein that never seemed useful. I like that my scalp reminds me of a mountain.

Several days ago, I was yelled at by a man who hates white people. Or queer people. Or former Jews. Or drug addicts. Or teachers. I’m not really sure. My lung just couldn’t stay inside me anymore, so it jumped out, crossed the street and I’ve had difficulty breathing ever since.

I kissed a beautiful woman wearing lipstick on her toes, missing one-third of her wrist. I had forgotten how to take off bras, so we just did it wearing straps and confusion.

After the sun had clocked out, I watched a silent movie in the sky starring Anne Bancroft and Gene Wilder. I ran out of popcorn, so I started stealing nasturtiums from the garden I keep inside my pocket. Nothing is ever salty enough.

Maybe I will be approached with a piece of paper in the shape of the Brooklyn Bridge or a fence and I will signature my name in black ink or blueberry preserves and I will not hesitate because when I look out the window every sunflower will be looking straight at the one who most resembles the sun. And we will kiss as though we have invented something no one has ever heard of and our tongues will cure buildings.

Or something like that.

green pie.

for Jenna.


It is quite easy to forgo chatter and how-is-the-weather speak for a slice or two of pie.

You choose key lime. And as you plunge three spikes called fork toward shape of lime juice/zest, eggs, and condensed milk, you realize how little there is to say in this world.

You realize swallows can be far more profound than asking about the latest talents of their children.

You realize licks of sour and graham cracker sweet is much more satisfying than alphabetizing their weekly accomplishments.

You realize pie can be far less judgmental and cynical than social gatherings.

You do not floss. You prefer calories to sit between your teeth as though they are star gazers, howling at the moon or (in this case) your tongue.

This pie is your confidant. Your traveling companion. You scale mountains and hop streams with this pie.

You neck in a movie theatre playing a documentary on poverty or poetry; it does not matter because you and this pie are chewing language into one another.

You dip your unmanicured but proud fingers into its sticky pale green. Nor grass green or pea green. Not olive or jade. Neither emerald nor peridot. More pale, like sun-starved. You prefer it this way.

Now, what else must be written?

You remove battery from phone and unplug distractions like electricity and clothing.

You want to uni-task with this pie.

You want to taste and flirt with its crumbs, without interruption. And this is how it goes until there is no more reflection of green and only full.


what fruit are you?

On the 4 train headed toward Utica, Brooklyn, I look up and notice an ad.

How to describe what should never be described? How to describe an advertisement that shames bodies and attempts to capitalize on a woman’s parts? How to imprint media’s peer pressure module to coax a woman to…..


For the low, low, CRAZY price of $3,900.

White woman in white tank top holds two clementines between white fingers against chest.

MADE IN NEW YORK, it says.

Same white woman in white tank top holds two grapefruit, one in each white hand, against chest.

“For other body modification, we also do liposuction, tummy tucks and Brazilian buttock lifts,” reads small print.

In the first photo with the clementines, the white woman is frowning. Her mouth is turned toward the floor as though an invisible wire had been threaded into each lip, causing it to droop.

In the second photograph with the grapefruit, the white woman is proudly showing off her white teeth. Her smile is large. Large like her breasts. After calling the phone number.

After emailing for more information.

After making an appointment and heading into the clinic to be cut into and accentuated.

I stare at this ad and then look around me to see if anyone else is noticing what I am noticing. How is this an emblem of NEW YORK, where we are a “melting pot” of so many types of bodies and minds and backgrounds and emotions.

Why would any of us want to pay the low, low CRAZY price of $3,900 to have a floatation device on our chests?

(That said, for anyone reading this, my intention is not to shame or dig at those who have chosen a breast enlargement. That is your right and your body and your money. I just think about how advertisements are crafted and the thoughts these images can leave us with.)


When I was in seventh and eighth grade, I stuffed my bra.

That’s not one-hundred percent accurate. I stuffed my undershirt, because I didn’t wear a bra until I was in high school.

My chest was flat like Delaware. Like North Dakota. Like the table I eat my breakfast, lunch, dinner on. My best friends called me: Mosquito Bites because…..(well, I think you get it).

I wanted a chest because they had a chest and so did Janet Jackson, who I had a deep crush on (a crush that extended to her brother, Michael as well).

I wanted a chest because I thought if I didn’t have one, something was wrong with me.

Because of Media. MTV. Billboards. Basically everyone around me telling me what a “woman” should like like.

This is what I was thinking about, upon seeing this advert on the subway.

I was also thinking that I certainly have altered my appearance to look/feel a certain way.

Would I pay the low, low, CRAZY price of $3,900 for any of these changes?

Every month, I dye my hair from what used to be titled dirty blond, to RED. I pay anywhere from $6-$12 for various tubes and developers.


When I first noticed this ad, I thought: What fruit would I want against my chest?

Kiwi? Lychee? Grape?

There is no hidden meaning to this ad and perhaps that is why I feel so impelled to write on it. Small breasts make you sad; big tits will make you happy.

How many other people have looked at this ad and wondered about their inadequacies? How many people eyeing this suddenly wondered if the fruit beneath their shirts were no longer good enough?

How many people?

How many other ads are just like this on other trains, over highways, interrupting television shows and in magazines?

How many?

What fruit are you?

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.