love in a disemboweled cigarette

Hair in its infinite stages of death can be far more beautiful than any orchid or moonlight or kiss.

This is what I was thinking when I watched the German with long, blond dreadlocks, parading death down his back like frozen stalks of sun, speak to me about getting lost.

We were in the front room of Bob’s Youth hostel located on a street in Amsterdam I still have difficulty pronouncing. I had been staring at him for what felt like hours, burning my hazel into his whole milk skin. I finally got up and sat across from him, asking if he’d write a poem with me.

“Yeah,” he said, “but I don’t really know how.”

“I don’t really either,” I said. “But if you can rummage inside your gut for the words which feel most potent, I think,” I paused, “I think you may find something there.”

So I gave him my tiny red notebook given to me by a lover who I had just started learning how to kiss, given to me to fill up during this two-week trip away from New York.

This was supposed to be an adventure on how to move toward who I was or who I wanted to be. My relationship with a different woman had ended just a few months earlier, one which I thought was the one I might marry, even though I did not believe in such a word.

It was a mourning trip.

I watched as the German, fingers sprinkled with fine commas of bleached hair, pressed his handwriting into the pages.

His dead knots became whispers soaring past his shoulders, for as he wrote, they shook. I wondered how many secrets were hiding in the decease of his hair.

“One must get lost,” he spoke. “Where are you from?” he asked me, handing back my pen and closing the book.

“Brooklyn. Quite a faraway land from here,” I said.

“Leave your maps behind, Brooklyn,” he said to me.

“No need,” I said. “I never carry them around. I get lost even when I do not intend to. But I like your reminder.”

He smiled. He had a tiny chip in his front tooth like the curve of a hammock. I wanted to lay in his mouth and nap beside his ridges.

He told me traveling is about connecting to the land, not the pages that speak about it.

“You’re beautiful,” I spat out. His eyes walked over the length and width of my face. I could feel his lashes even though we were an arm’s distance away from each other.

“Yes,” he said. As though I had asked a question. Or maybe he was answering something that he had heard much earlier. Either way, I enjoyed the oddity of his syllable.

“I’m trying to lose myself here. Bring another version back to New York,” I told him.

“Smoke enough hash and that will happen without trying too hard,” he smiled.

“I am trying to let go of a love. One so big, my heart still has stretchmarks.”

He smiled.

“There is not enough smoke to inhale, which will get rid of that,” he said. “But how about this. Actually…” he paused. I watched him remove the tiny, hand-rolled cigarette between his fat, slightly blush lips. With the tip of two fingers pressed together, he put out the fire on the end. Then, I watched him peel it open, drip the nicotine out and hand me this frail rolling paper, half wet from the spit of his mouth.

“I can see from the rest of your notebook….pardon my snoop,” he interrupted himself, “…that your handwriting is bitty. Write what you want from love on this.”

I held this disemboweled cigarette in the palm of my hand. As though it were a tiny space alien, which had fallen from the sky from a spaceship that our eyes couldn’t quite fathom. With the fingers from my other hand, I poked at it.

“It may not even be words,” he said. “The love you lust may be symbols.”

I thought about every word I ever learned. The ones I kept and the ones I could never quite remember. I wasn’t thinking about limbs; instead, my brain began to conjure up images of smells. Music of taste.

I dropped the cigarette from my palm and grabbed my pen.

The German smiled and I could feel him get up, though never let my eyes wander away from the paper.

I began to finally get lost.

an affair with books

She handed me a book and asked me to read it to her/ It had the color blue melted into it like an improperly hidden secret/ I read until I lost speech due to lost spit due to lost air/ swallowed before and after every word.


My thirteenth lover refused to read anything outside of cereal boxes or street signs. We would make love in silence, moving only one-third of our bones. When she kissed me, I alphabetized my book collection in my head. Reread Baudelaire and Cesaire while she flapped her tongue against mine like a drowning victim.

She had no idea I was cheating on her with the volumes of books inside my imagination. She had no idea that the small moans exiting my mouth were for Sexton and Rumi and Giovanni and Baldwin.

One day, I slipped a poem beneath her pillow, cut up from a book I found on a stoop during a walk without her one Spring.

She barely noticed it, except that when she woke, she did mention an infiltration of noise in her sleep.

Usually, she dreamed in mute and beige.

Soon after, we broke up due to the fact that kissing can only last so long before one aches for an index and bibliography. I left her for a writer who drank shots of ink and licked me with stained tongue. We wrote novels with our bodies. We made love on abandoned train tracks and defrosted the language of seventeen poets onto each other’s skin.

It only lasted a summer. Until I met a novelist. With a vocabulary stretching past seventy-three states.


day 11: fall.

“She is a letter in the / envelope of your body”  –r. erica doyle

1. You don’t always know. You don’t always know when you lose something. You don’t always know when you lose something, especially when you may never have had it in the first place.

2. Suspend your disbelief for just a moment when I tell you that sometimes love travels with you in silence until you are ready to fall. Until you are ready to articulate your dark, your scary, your spider webs, your uncertain.

3. “I knew when I could combine the disconnection of my nude with my clothed and they still loved me. When I wasn’t shamed into a gender that did not feel like my own, I knew they were the one.

4. Letters. Post. The intimacy of handwritten articulation.

5. Be someone’s Autumn. (Translation: Show all your colors and encourage them to show theirs. Be an adventure, as you give yourself permission to fall and be and belong. Mesmerize.)

6. “She is the gape of a second.” –r. erica doyle  (Translation: Do not look away because there are moments that are like gasps and you may meet someone who steals your blinks away. So brief. But in a sliced-open second, love can be found.

7. The others do not have to hide. You can still find room inside the carved box of your mind to love the others. To remember them. But do not romanticize. There is a reason they are no longer in sight. But love never goes away. It just elipses……

8. Ray LaMontagne on repeat.

9. Unfold your hiding spots and play seek.

10. Love like you have not watched any of the movies. This is your script to write.

in search of human with a penchant for postage

When was the last time you called yourself a musician of ink, wax and particles of verbs. There is no need to cite your sources when you quote the lineage of a breath. Don’t go rummaging in your lungs to find where it first arrived from. You can just footnote all of this as a harmonium housed in the folds of your skin. Don’t pretend you’ve been in love before. Don’t artificially enhance the stamps in your passport. It’s ok to be an amateur at living. We cannot all be expected to know how to exist right away.

tell me again how to breathe.

“Love was a country we couldn’t defend.”  (G.A.I.)
All of this is just to say: pause. 

In this room called east, your oxygen will be guided from your nose. When ready, let it out through mouth. Stop. Remember the city behind your ribs. Breathe from there as well.

Channel the comma. There is balance as it tips its weight upwards. There is curvature; you can even address it as top-heavy. Give yourself room to interrupt the spaces that haunt you.

In this room called Brooklyn, you may run into panic. Channel the bicycle spokes that secretly live beneath your skin. Roll away. Climb mountains even when the land you walk over is flat. Pick flowers even in the Winter and instead of photographing, hand this stem of green and face of yellow to the first human you see. Breathe in the breaths they offer to you like invisible bouquets of carbon dioxide.

Now, this may not be as easy, but. Remain in this room called love. It is hardest to get out of and often includes a cover charge too intense to dig out of wallet. But you do. Because it is so deeply aromatic. Inhale that sandalwood. And ylang ylang. Press your tired, nervous thighs against this other. Stretch out numerics and reveal one thing that makes you bleed, one thing that guts the salt out of you and choose an adventure with this one, barefoot.

It is impossible to run very far when the calluses on your feet slow you down. So, slow down.

In this room called lonely, exist long enough to take a ticket. Rip it. Scoop up its entrails and throw away. Choose to be in love this time than surrounding its periphery.

But before all that or while, keep breathing. Walk in and out and in these rooms and inhale and exit and exhale. And remain. (You often forget that part.)