What is the Diameter of your Mouth?

My mouth is having an affair. It has let a non-degreed dentist inside it, stretching it far past its ability and now I have the aftertaste of sore and bothered.

My father always knew when I relapsed because my nose would be cracked and red. Eventually, he stopped asking. Instead, we’d meet at our regular lunch spot, talk around addiction to remind each other there is more to life than pain.

When I go to the dentist, the other students gather to try and understand the trauma of my mouth. The professors ask questions; my teeth become a pop quiz for what happens when one flosses with stolen pill carcasses for too many years.

Once, my father asked me why I kept putting holes in my body (reference chapters eighteen through twenty-three: The Piercing Years). He’d wince at the hoops and studs and glare of jewelry distracting my skin. I never really knew how to answer. To let the screams out? 

My mouth is called child-sized. They need to make an impression of my teeth and no mold is small enough to fit inside me. They stretch and stretch and I wonder if this is what childbirth is like.

Eventually, I stopped taking drugs and cleared my body of jewelry. The addiction will always remain, but all the holes closed up.

I want to tell my dentist that I like the way his facial hair grows and that if I could wake up with a beard, I’d leave it alone. But one day, I woke to find a long, blond hair growing from my chin and it seemed too lonely, so I asked my spouse to take it away. Maybe I have a difficult time committing to the in-between of things.

The last time I consumed “the bad drugs”, I was watching a friend’s dog for a weekend. It was her way of thanking me. The calendar called it Valentine’s Day and I might have preferred chocolate, but it didn’t stop me from consuming.

I tell my father that I have been writing non-traditional love poems. He asks me what that means. I say: the kind of love that runs away from flowers and announces the beauty in mouth sores and cavities. It hurts when I laugh because my mouth is still healing. It hurts when I laugh because I am still learning how.

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75.

Dear Dad,

Today, you turn seventy-five; I purchase you more paper as you continue writing this new chapter of your life.

Memory: I was Eleanor Roosevelt and you narrated the imagination of magic.

Today, you are reminded that there is no such thing as too old to begin again.

Memory: You take me into your closet to choose whichever ties I’d like. You even encourage my double windsor.

Today, I articulate gratitude for having a father who not only encourages my words but has built up a travelogue of his own.

Memory: New Jersey. Garage sale. Grandfather clock.

Today, you are a published writer. With the most incredible agent/bookseller/partner by your side.

Memory: We are eating lunch in the place we always went to in West Hartford to share good news; I tell you about my relapse and you barely hesitate before taking a bite of honey-mustard-lathered bread and say, “I love you.”

Today, you own your ISBN and I have been traveling with your second novel in my backpack everyday for over a week.

Memory: After midnight in Connecticut, you wait in the kitchen with a pot of coffee and salt & peppered chicken to gossip about dating and love.

Today, it is not just your birthday but a reminder of how important it is to say thank you.

So…….

Thank you. For existing. Happy Birthday, Dad.

 

an ode to my dad

 The calendar calls Father’s Day June 21st, but what committee came up with this date and why is it secluded into just this square?

Dear Dad,

I fit you into my suitcase when I traveled to Nebraska, when I searched for myself in Amsterdam, when I relocated to Colorado, when I visited Georgia, and visited Vermont.

Spread your words on the grasslands of Marquette, over the canals near Prisengracht, by the Boulder Creek, in Denver’s Cheesman Park.

You remind me to breathe. To write. To share what I write. To share how I breathe. You tell me that when it rains, it pours, so when it feels like pain is endless, there is always a reprieve. You encourage me to be out. To be kind. To be safe. You tell me not to hold onto gifts–to give things away without reason so they can enjoy things longer. You remind me to eat. To explore. To love.

You live inside my present, instead of reminding me of the ghosts of my past. You do not judge or hate. You welcome and encourage. You create.

We do not pick our fathers. Or our mothers. Or siblings. But I feel by far the luckiest that you’re the one I call Dad. And you’re the one I call friend. And writer. And reader. And everytime I forget how to remain, you’re the one I call to remind me. To stay.

existence of gratitude

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

 

Dear Dad,
You inspire me to remain. To acknowledge that sometimes we inhale breaths that are sour. That are tattered and raw. You tell me that there is a reason for all this…that definitions sometimes arrive long after we learn the words. You called me a writer far longer than I could pronounce that word myself. You remind me to give away my words. Remind me to keep carrying ink even on the days I feel like there is nothing to drip out. Thank you for existing. Thank you for continuing to exist.
 
[happy birthday]

how grateful.

Remember when.

We stormed garage sales with handfuls of bargain’d breath. I collected books & clothes cluttered with stains & stories. You found that grandfather clock, which still chimes on the hour.

You were there when I received my first rejection as writer. Collected slips into green folder that kept getting thicker and thicker. You were there when I received my first yes.

Remember when.

Eleanor Roosevelt impersonations in car ride and old time radio shows, which stirred up our imaginations.

Getting kicked out of West Hartford bookstore for copying recipes into notebook.

With each break-up, you were the one I called to remind me that there will be another.

Coney Island in April to remind us both the power of the Atlantic, as I collected salted shells. You remained even as I attempted to scratch myself away.

Remember when.

That trip back in time to Williamsburg and that bridge that replaced your home. A tour of your childhood when penny candy cluttered pockets and memories were just beginning to form.

Wednesday open mics at Peaberry’s Cafe and each drive you made to hear me perform in theaters or tiny bars.

Remember when.

Always encouraging me:     to travel my way through Amsterdam; to follow my dreams as poet; to cross this country to Colorado; to follow love even when it hurt in its end; to believe in magic.

To inspire me as you wrote your stories outTo mentor me not as father, but as friend. And as survivor. And as a human who has fallen but continues to remain.

The realization that within me, the roots of my identity as writer, grew from you. And continue to grow.

My gratitude that we do not choose who are genes connect to. Regardless, I would have chosen you. My friend. The one who never lets me down. The one who has never judged me even when I deserved judgement and scorn. The one who never reminds me of my past; instead, you tell me to look toward the future and prepare for all the rainbows to come.

Remember when.

Remember when.

Remember when.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

 

 

a gluttonous thanks (the non-vegetarian version)

On a day where meat is consumed on giant porcelain platters and we make wishes from their bones, I awake to a wild turkey outside the window of my dad’s house. It gobbles out, good morning, as I wonder if it knows my inclination to all forms of meat (excluding lamb and veal).

As a child, this holiday called Thanksgiving filled our house. Our is defined as the family that lived there that is no longer (sister, two parents, and the extension of family and genetic entanglement). The door bell rang more than it would all year and my mother would dust off the fancy dishes that were kept hidden during the remaining parts of the year. She would spend all day cooking and the food would be gobbled up in twenty minutes. Then, clean up and preparation for part two: dessert.

As an adult, my Thanksgivings have been with shared with past lover’s families, in homes I’ve called my own with those without nearby family, and most recently with my father and his new (and wonderful) extension of loved ones. Thanksgiving is about culture. Praying for the insatiability we take part in that does not exactly mirror the rest of the year. We fill our plates with various starches and meats (for me: turkey, sui mei, duck, and chicken). There is laughter and shared stories, and in my case, Chinese opera.

We explore the veins of gratitude erupting inside us. The rest of the year, we feel it, but often forget to announce it.

What am I grateful for?

When I was a child, my dad and I used to listen to old time radio shows and we’d stare at that radio as though it projected images rather than just sounds. I am grateful for his insistence on working out my imagination. Playing with the thoughts in my mind as toys. We made up stories together out loud when I was young; now, we read each others on paper or in books.

There are some days I want to put my body on this list: it remains even after throwing bricks at it, even after my attempts at drowning it. I don’t know how this mass of weight and bones and blood and bruises continues to flourish and breathe, but I am grateful for its resilience. Health (without the insurance). The ability to move and stretch and use my scars as lines to write on to replace the mourn and haunt.

Saska.

Coffee.

Peanut butter.

Windows.

Poems and black ink pilot pens and blank paper that glows once it fills with words.

Trees.

The poets I’ve met just this past year. The ones who storm stages or just whisper their language into me. The ones who break their silences.

Mountains.

I am grateful for the home I call Brooklyn. The world outside my window, which I bike toward and walk inside. I am grateful to those who throw their garbage away, rather than swatting the ground with it. The graffiti that forces me to learn another language. The bravery of those stormed out of their homes and lives from recent hurricane. The kindness of volunteers–humans who understand the power of giving without getting.

I am grateful for my dreams, which through proper watering, grows skin and cells. I am grateful for the ability to manifest what I desire.

Pickles.

Authors I have learned about through the beautiful minds and recommendations of others this year: Ariel Gore, Marisa Matarazzo, Joey Comeau, Lidia Yuknavitch, John Vaillant, Melissa Febos, Sheila McClear, Eli Clare, Vera Pavlova, and others.

Employment.

Electricity and hot water.

My mentor. My muse. My mind.

Happy Thanksgiving day of gratitude. Happy realization that thanks may be given everyday, not just the ones announced on calendars.