(based on a true story) Woman of twenty-something reads paper menu on 4 train as though it is a novel: page-turner with characterized ingredients she-- chooses her adventure of heartburn.
A bar of soap stuns skin into thinking it can forget.
A shower of ice from the sky that closes all the universities and office buildings and that one person who forgets to listen. Walks outside. Slips on top of a shutter of melt. Remains fallen. Finds a love letter frozen beneath it all. Waits for the water to soften. Reads it. Says, I haven’t forgotten this.
Forget chocolate today. Give her a box of bones. Or a pamphlet full of your warning signs written in poetic stanzas. A fluffy teardrop that she can cling to at night. A bouquet of teeth. A bottle of whine.
In cupboard, there are three dates left. Cured, like caramel. You peel away their harvest with the strength of your appetite. What you want is something bigger. What you want is something promised. With food, you never have to practice how to approach it. With humans, you tend to walk away engulfed in starvation.
Today has nothing to do with love. Today’s currency is grandiose flirtations. How big are your flowers. How expensive is that appetizer used as foreplay for later.
A holiday shouldn’t be the catalyst that reminds us to say things or do things.
In the morning of two days from now, grab her wrist and spell out your wishes in imaginary shadows. Whisper a love letter into the tattoo he got when he was too young to think about aging. Sing a song that harmonizes fear and commitment. Make a mix tape full of songs that bleed stains of lasciviousness onto her floor.
I used to read “The Bell Jar” each year until I landed in the hospital in Connecticut. On a Saturday, curry is cooked in a washed-out red and black pot. A welcome of cauliflower, onion, kale and cumin. Later, an attempt at brown rice that never tastes as simple as white. I think it’s all that death that can create a relapse of sad within the body; I remained there for almost two weeks. It is never as spicy as I need it to be or I receive third-degree burn on the ledge of my tongue. Like love, there is no easy interpretation for piquant or peppered. She needed to call herself Victoria because illness is metal and it is necessary to protect oneself from the possibility of rust. I am solidified in silence as I chew alone. No one asks if I like it, but into the air I still speak out: for the most part. Plath parades her grey so effortlessly and I wonder if I can fall in love with a human who knows how to blot my weep with palms of heal. Meals may be annotated and books can be digested. I should have used more garlic.
In these parts, you may notice the aggressiveness of air quality. Those are a particular type of peanut roasting in the aroma of buttered honey. That is halal and those spices will dig their way into your belly and cause you to swoon for blocks. That is urine. This is cologne-covered-man and that is a gust of taxi pollution. What do you call that force of salt on twisted bread and I think that over there is a pizza truck where you may fall in love with the lust of real Italian sauce.
Here is this city, in this borough, breathe in. Forgot about the belligerence of food options. And sometimes the humans forget to bathe or simply cannot due to lack of water and tub. But make room for them. And sometimes the rain-drenched-concrete emits an aroma of sour and stun. Make room for that too.
If you get lost, follow the trail of bread crumbs and chicken wings before the pigeons pick them up. These lights color the air, creating a fragrance of rainbow and blind. And there is a scent to New York rubber, scratched tire wheels and bicycles bruised by potholes. None of this is deodorized. Nothing is sterile here. Put away your anti-bacterial lotion; this city is meant to penetrate your nostrils and follow you home.
I’m sorry to arrive at a rumor with exposed fascia and crutches.
I’m sorry I’ve grown an aversion to the scent of your voice.
I’m sorry I ate the leftovers of oxygen and sewing needles.
I’m sorry for the grey intruding on my red and the need to bleach bleach bleach.
I’m sorry my knee is unwashed yet eloquent in its demand for summarized empathy.
I’m sorry you feel the need to hide your diet of dairy, gluten and cardboard boxes.
I’m sorry I still think of you right as I’m about to fake an orgasm.
I’m sorry the tree outside my window has faded posture and sap envy.
I’m sorry about the time I asked you to stop loving me at a diner in Western Massachusetts and that song came on that often infiltrated 80’s movies and then you handed me a bag of all the things I ever gave you minus that anthology of Latin American literature.
I’m sorry those people got stabbed on the J train.
I’m sorry about all those scars you find distracting on my forearms and the invisible ones on my hips.
I’m sorry about your fear of heights, spiders and middle aged white men.
I’m sorry you only call me when it’s a holiday.
I’m sorry about that time.
I’m sorry about your childhood.
I’m sorry I snuck inside your evening, stole a piece of your smile and left the reek of my secrets.
I’m sorry it had to end that way.
I’m sorry it hasn’t quite ended.
I’m sorry your beard distracted me & the way your small hands didn’t approach me made me want to approach you.
I’m sorry my gender confuses you.
I’m sorry I prefer sports bras to push up and itch.
I’m sorry I think about my vibrator when you touch me.
I’m sorry about preservatives and peanut allergies.
I’m sorry you’re sick.
I’m sorry you feel the need to document everything to remind people you are alive.
I’m sorry I stopped speaking to you.
I’m sorry you hate me in that way.
I’m sorry dogs don’t live longer than humans.
I’m sorry stamp prices went up.
I’m sorry your train was delayed.
I’m sorry your coffee wasn’t warm enough.
I’m sorry I didn’t come.
I’m sorry you don’t get my poetry.
I’m sorry you thought I was interested.
I’m sorry you took the time to read this.
My tongue is coated in recycled paper cuts and I’ve grown accustomed to indigestion upon reaching the final pages.
You search labels, count calories, drive ten extra miles to catch the bakery on the corner that uses coconut flour and sugar substitutes. I remain still in this corner of the earth chewing like a rabid monster as chapters slip into my mouth and sentences slide down my throat.
You have diagnosed yourself with celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, and a wheat allergy. I have diagnosed myself as a glutton for fatty words.
You are okay with corn, tapioca, rice, potatoes. Sometimes you use nut flour or quinoa. You dream about amaranth and millet. I am fine with Bukowski, Sexton, Acker, Delany. Sometimes I take a break from novels and poems, and read non-fiction. I dream about hybrid prose and Lidia Yuknavitch.
You do not wear lipstick. However. You investigate mouths before you kiss them for signs of gluten in lipbalmlipgloss. You leave your envelopes open for fear of its gluten glue. You fear you fear you fear cross contamination. I do not wear lipstick. However. Sometimes I push it into my lips like a bully and then I kiss the table of contents because I want the wax and emollients to leak into the elipses leading to page numbers. I leave my zipper open for easier access when I’m enthralled.
You just finished your meal of gluten free bread full of rice and legumes and almonds and xanthum gum and corn starch and hydroxypropyl methylcellulose. I just finished a memoir about water a memoir about testosterone a novel about how he lost her a book of poems about crossing borders a memoir about sex work. You need a napkin to wipe your mouth; I need another bookshelf.
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.
Poems and black ink pilot pens and blank paper that glows once it fills with words.
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.
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.
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.
Electricity and hot water.
My mentor. My muse. My mind.
Thanksgiving day of gratitude. Happy realization that thanks may be given everyday, not just the ones announced on calendars.
notice the way stomach retreats like a hushed prisoner for over two hours and the way that hurts skin’s feelings
A woman walks on stage where even the microphone has a cup holder and she tells a story about her lifelong love affair with cake. Even when she speaks this word, her lips walk further away from her teeth, which part like you hope your lover’s thighs will, and you realize this is more than gluttony; this is true desire. The large, rectangular speaker hangs just above her to the left, projecting each word, which is never a whisper. She is not impersonating a vegan, nor bragging about how her latest cleanse makes her feel even more alert. She is emptying out her pockets, pressing hollow wrappers to the wooden stage. Calling out calorie counts like mathematical poems.
Her belly is soft. Not that I touched it. Not that I was close enough to brush against it. But the way her cotton shirt rubbed up against her stomach allowed me to see its suppleness. I realize I look at bellies a lot. I look at a lot of things, but especially this part which has never been soldier-like for me: firm, regimented and tough. My belly is more like a toddler: squirming and fidgety. It has never been flat, but I’ve also never had a routine to push it into a different shape.
I have a memory of kissing
a woman many women and as hands move toward my stomach, it suddenly becomes a turtle, retreating inward. I become king multi-tasker as I pay attention to the language of our tongues swirling and breath bending and skin melting, while waiting for that moment of her hand against my…
This is the moment where I suck it in. All of my breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The snacks and desserts. The second helpings. The late night binges. The sneaky spoonfuls. And as I find somewhere else to put my belly she says:
Why are you doing that? Let it out.
And I wonder if her noticing means she does it too?
There are certain parts of our body that society wants to be flat, while other parts are asked to be rounded out. And I want to request a recall of these expectations.
I, too, like cake. And when I go to a restaurant I like to look at the dessert menu first to see what I am working towards. When I am eating a meal, I am often thinking about the next one. I do believe we have set too many boundaries on eating.
Maybe we just need to talk about it more.
When this woman told her story, I laughed because it felt like mine.
What happens from birth to the beyond-years where food becomes some kind of enemy or the friend that you are really close to, then get jealous of and start gossiping about and then ignore and then lose contact with. What I mean to say is:
we aren’t I’m not being honest here. I’ve got some food issues. I’ve got an eating disorder or, disordered eating. There is some chaos in my body, in my eating habits, in the ways in which I qualify my meals.
we I just need to leave my belly where it is.
* * *
utilize flaps of skin like extra pockets to place grocery lists and recipes
memorize the texture of cellulite
bounce of kernels
un-popped beneath skin
A full-figured tree pushes its belly out at me outside tallest window in Brooklyn. I am gaining weight as though it is an Olympic sport. The threads of my underwear have come undone and each strand has become like a hair tickling my inner thighs. What are these monsters loitering against my chest. You call them breasts; I call them heavy and without wisdom.
Go on. Attach yourself to either one and drain out its mass.
A young woman in my class tells me she prefers being fat. She is far happier without bones scratching against subway seats. I notice the way I have been sucking in my stomach for over two hours and the way that hurts my skin’s feelings.
Breakfast does not have to occur only once in a day. I eat until I get it right. Supper is consumed three times.
When a woman brings me a small box of salted caramels in the late evening, I take small bites. When she is gone, I eat the rest and sleep against the contrast of sweet and salted stains upon my lips.
Let go of my nipples; instead, please bite into my hips. They are far meatier and less confused about whether or not they should really be there.
My diet consists of eating food.
I dream. Last night, I could not lift my face. My legs unlocked themselves from each knee and just stopped agreeing with my steps. My hair dripped fat like slightly undercooked bacon. My shoulders were marshmallow’d. I awoke alone in a bed where my body missed its protective layers. I ate another chocolate.
If I photograph my lunch, will you stop asking me what/if I ate today?
when I inhale, I use my tongue
There is a brunette woman with a silver ring in her nose, collecting light and dust. Her lips bounce together biting into a strawberry. I should be listening to a lecture on research, language and the art of composing sentences. Instead, I quietly digest the seeds of her flesh, darkened grains of hereditary smoothness.
Memorize the stain of stewed tomatoes or chili peppers. My stomach grumbles toward her teeth, strong enough to rip open fruit and thoughts, still marinating from the night before. I am studying the linguistics of her throat. She sets all utensils and dishes on fire. Her hands are strong enough to replace porcelain dishware. Her fingers are slender chopsticks sliding food between fingers.
Her shadowed skin is stained.