This city beats its traffic into us. Of course you would call it percussion and I might call it a thunderbolt of forests parading like a holiday of bark and moss. The light caught me at an angle of sobriety and solitude. You never knew me when I was aggressive with my liver. You wouldn’t have liked me when I handcuffed my ankles to strangers and removed my gender in order to survive days. After you left, I noticed a human reading “The Bell Jar” on the 4 train heading back to Brooklyn. I wanted to ask her if it was her first time or fifth and if I had approached her, I might have mentioned that the last time I read it, I tried to kill myself. I am not a fan of warnings or patterns, so I watched her and read along, wondering what risk we were taking. All of this reverb causes my skin to faint into the shadows napping behind my veins. Some of us engage in an annual faint. I’ve fallen once and now I prop myself up against borrowed guitars or humans tall enough to climb my heels away from concrete in order to reach the weather in the sky.
The thought-provoking poet, Dan Dissinger, once spoke about a forest on his throat. I finally understand what that really feels like.
All day, I felt this undergrowth and moss migrate to various areas of my body. Roots pressed against lungs. Leaf canopy cradling my liver. The forest floor, cracked and spreading into my limbs.
Tropical rainforests have been called the world’s largest pharmacies. So medicinal and healing. My alleviation didn’t arrive until much later in the day, but it arrived.
Body rode bicycle over year-old bricks. Walked inside building full of papercuts and ISBNs. Breathed in the aroma of alphabetized poetics and fictionalized accounts of memory. Chose a stack of distractions. With each shift of body against air, I felt the roots of tree branch jut against my ribs. This forest is loud and persistent.
Drank coffee with a human who has enough words inside to sop up all the blood and batter. Exchanged sighs and grunts, as I wondered what ecosystem they had internally.
Got a ticket for riding my bike on the sidewalk! Was polite when police officer asked me for ID and do you know why I pulled you over and do you have any warrants out for your arrest?
But that forest needed to come out and finally, it did.
After they asked me my weight (while filling out the ticket) and I responded:
And then they asked me my height:
5’4 and three quarters, I answered.
They looked toward my eyes.
Hazel, I announced.
They peered toward my hair.
Red, I said, proudly.
I noticed the F. Most days I do not care. I fill this consonant out myself. Create the two lines, one longer than the other. Understand what it stands for. Try not to complicate things. I am a woman. I’ve got the parts. But. But. Perhaps it was the oxisol, weathering and churning inside me that caused me to say:
Excuse me, I do not mean to be confrontational by any means but. But. You asked me how tall I am. You asked me my weight. You catalogued my hair color and eyes. And then you just threw down an F without asking me. You cannot assume. You should not assume. You do not know.
Uniformed professional looked me up and down. Said:
I could take you in right now. You don’t have a driver’s license (I chose not to offer it up). You are giving me your address and I am trusting that it is correct (it was). If you had given me your license, it would have been stated.
None of that matters. You should always ask, I politely offered. Because even on licenses, it can be wrong.
We stood, with another police officer beside us, on Fulton Street, not far from my home. I was patient. I channeled the forest in me to take root of every word, pull it out carefully and responsibly. I was not fighting with this officer; I was educating.
So, what do you want me to put down? they asked.
I took a deep breath. Felt the medicinal properties float around like weightless astronauts inside me.
That’s a complicated question, I said. I’m not sure. But it’s no longer about that letter. It’s about you needing to know that you need to ask.
As I biked home, I looked at my skin and noticed soil dripping out of my pores. Oh yes, I am growing. My skin is excreting earth and this is a reminder that I am part of all this. I had a pink reminder folded up in my pocket of this exchange, of money now owed to NYC. I was shaking like leaves in a storm, a shivered rush of movement.
I am brought back to a sensation I received one day earlier, as I purchased my very first new tie and collared, button-down shirt at a fancy store for a fancy wedding. I have a collection of ties, but never one that has only worn my neck. I walked up to the cash register with two genders. Human behind counter rung everything up and then I said: Actually I am just going to get the tie and shirt. Who was I buying that other thing for?
We take our bodies for granted. We sometimes forget that we don’t always need microphones to speak out the truths inside us. This forest continues to grow, fill me up, drench my throat, and remind me of my radicle.
“forest on my throat” -Dan Dissinger
Do not speak about this. Do not explain this as a tickle or gargle of maps reminiscent of five years ago. This has been diagnosed and shelved. This has been neatly folded and attic’d. Throat cannot be a place where campers go. Throat cannot be a jungle of peeled species. Just call it passageway or tunnel toward trachea. Call it a situation for swallowing but do not do not DO NOT call it greenwood or bushland. This will make others want to navigate your coordinates. This will call too much attention to what drips in there. You call it swimming pool of muscle. Call it tongue, please. Do not glamorize the strength of your mammalia.
Put away your colors. The roots of your state lines. No one needs to know about the lineage of your wrists. Your belly is just a belly; it is not not not blue-lined construction paper with scratch outs and hauntings. Your face is just malnourished of symmetry. There is no need to beg for awards just because your lips exist and your moles follow a pattern parallel to constellations. There is no magic in you. Use your toes for counting. Put away your scar tissue, covered in shadow’d faschia from that time that time.What are you looking for have you found it? No, you may not use your knees as a tax write-off, nor your gag or eardrums. You may fold, but do not call yourself paper or weekly or subscribed or footnoted. You are not a thesis, nor an essay worthy of citing. This is not a metaphor. You are just body. You are just em(bodied]. You are just that.
When you posed/ with screams held open by upper and bottom lip/ did you know you’d be
How skinny was your grey and white mind, tilted
pressed into insignificant frame
gathered for Guggenheim possession
You were so desperate for moon, you dipped fingerprints in acid
burned one onto a building
[where did the pain come from]
In Boulder, Colorado you broke into backyards
stole clothespin off laundry lines and dug them between
folds of your belly nipples ribcage
Francesca, you left all your body hair alone
and your loneliness pushed you closer to art but
further from others
You had a fondness for geometrics and mammaries
And I have fallen in love with your right breast, perhaps
because it has been upstaged by your left.
And the trees
thin and long like you
In New Hampshire, you hide with stones and forest
align feminine to outdoor breathing
In Rome, you hung from door frames
reflected angels into puddles of gravel and dust
hid from calla lily too large