Kind of Like High School

first published by great weather for MEDIA

 

It is similar to when you are in high school. You are in the cafeteria and the smells of imposter pizza and imitation chicken nuggets lead you to almost forget about your deafening hunger. You’ve got your lunch and your over-stuffed backpack and your quintessential post-pubescent pimples and you’re ready to search out a table to sit at.

Usually, you’d be sitting with _______, but you are no longer speaking because of _________ or __________, but probably because ___________ said ______________.

So, you sit elsewhere and pretend that person who you used to call your best friend simply no longer exists. This friend who knows that you used to pick your nose and then eat your findings. Who knows that you had a crush on Judith Light from “Who’s the Boss”. Who knows that you sometimes forget to brush your teeth and hair. Who knows simply all of you (thus far).

You pretend to easily digest your lunch even though you ache. Even though this friend who was like part of you is like a stranger now.

It is like that.

Except this isn’t high school and the friend who held the other half of your BFF charm is your body. Yeah, it’s like that.

But here is the twist.

Cut to twelve years later or fifteen or twenty and you see this friend and you don’t know how to act. Can you just say hello after all this time? Do you pretend you didn’t spread rumors about each other and that most (if not all) were true?

Somewhere in my twenties I had a massive fight with my body and banned it from sitting at my lunch table. What I mean to say is: I ignored IT. Gave IT away to strangers. Handed IT over to people who didn’t even care enough to learn how many vowels are in my name. Dressed IT up, even though the lace was itchy and the push-up was too pushy.

It doesn’t matter why (that’s another month/another poem/another story), but what matters is I let go of IT. I stopped addressing IT, asking IT questions: Does this feel ok? Am I mispronouncing you? What is off limits?

After years of the silent treatment, I started to call my body QUEER. It felt slanted, but not exactly toward anything specific, just away from WOMAN. Away from GIRL. Away from SHE.

I covered up the parts I gave away. I ripped off my pronoun. I cut my hair. I grew out my hair. I asked my breasts to stop addressing me. I grew attracted to those who slanted too. I liked the ones who understood what it was like to be engaged in bouts of silence with their bodies. I liked not having to explain why I cried every time I was touched.

For me, I just wanted to erase everything I had done to IT. Hide the parts that had been broken into (by others and myself).

And then. One day—it happened to be a Saturday—I saw IT. We sort of made eye contact, but both immediately turned away. I almost didn’t recognize it; it had been so long.

*

When I was old enough to get a tattoo (18), my friend and I (who shared the same birthday) went to a small shop on route 9 in a strip mall in New Jersey, and got inked. She got a fairy on her lower back. I got the WOMAN sign.

I was not yet OUT (lesbian) but a FEMINIST and excited by my breasts which were finally growing on me. I wanted to look like her and all the other girls in my school.

Eighteen years later, I added to that woman sign because it didn’t quite speak the truth of how I saw myself. So, I added a MALE to the FEMALE and suddenly I felt a little better.

On this Saturday, where my body and I began to slowly break the silent treatment, I wasn’t quite sure what to say. So many years of reticence. I had forgotten how to approach it.

 

ME: It’s you, isn’t it?

MY BODY: Yeah.

ME: I…I’m not sure if an apology is—

MY BODY: There’s nothing to be sorry about.

ME: But I stopped talking to you.

MY BODY: And I stopped listening.

ME: Is it too late?

MY BODY: Why don’t we go for a walk?

ME: Can I…can I hold your hand?

MY BODY: As long as you don’t let go this time.

Rubber Spatula

For Lidia Yuknavitch because her words stir me up in all the right ways and reminds me the importance of being a writing misfit

 

I was taught at an early age the importance of a rubber spatula.

The tilt and twirl of handle between fingers, and press of rubber against bowl to scoop and flip. The folding in and out and around of ingredients. A rhythmic movement like thirteen yoga positions all arranged at once inside a metal bowl.

As I grew older, I imagined this rubber spatula as the ingredients inside me grew, and I needed a way to bend them. Mix raw into cooked. New into old. Memory into memory. Hurt into pain into disruption. Scar into blood into raw into still.

All of the ladies on the cooking shows showed me how to use the proper tools to cook. Cut using sharpened knife, with fingers curled in. Never to overmix. Paying close attention to order and pacing.

I don’t recall who taught me how to hide. How to stuff. How to forget what burns like bile into gut. Like ignored tooth rot. Memory into memory into memory. Collecting a variety of instruments to anesthetize the wrong angles of body.

 

  1. Grab a bowl larger that your sixth impression but smaller than your list of resentments.
  1. Add sugar, salt, drain the oil from your skin which collects like tally marks of your improper diet. Throw in some flour too.
  1. Make room to analyze your kneading pattern: how you hesitate to pound, how you shape and batter. Search for elasticity.
  1. Bake, as you stir in your contemplations of what has been lost or forgotten. 375 degrees. Golden brown. Swallow after chewing.

 

I stopped being a girl when it felt like a slur every time I heard it pressed against me.

 

The first thing I burned was peanut brittle. Tied apron to ribcage to catch the spills. Crushed peanuts as though they were my dreams. Stirred sugar into corn syrup into salt into water. Watched the bubbles lift up, copper liquid screaming from the scald. Too late for the butter. When we forget to pay attention, incineration.

 

I tried to describe it as this:

It was when he ran his spatulate privilege

into my muted body that I knew I would

never be able to move the same.                

(You know what I mean)

 

Also Known As:

Tongue Depressor

Fly Swatter

Paddle

Splint

Propeller

  

When bathrooms had symbols I could no longer prescribe to, I cut out my bladder and folded it in as well.                                        

(see blunt end of shattered spatula)

 

Prep time: Forty minutes to an entire lifetime and then what?

[indigestion and disillusionment]

 

Help me to understand the meaning behind all this stir.

 

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).

READ CARPUS HERE

Let me know what you think! Email me at: aimeeherman@gmail.com

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

 

how to fall in love with you

I didn’t always hate you, pink. I liked your jellybeans. Your Rainbow Bright hair. Your participatory hue after a summer sunset. I collected cavities from all your bubblegum. Cancelled my mistakes with your erasers. You sugared my lips with your cotton candy. I even liked my meat to look like you in the middle. I may have even pressed your synthetic pink threads against my young pink body, playfully rummaging my hands over all your pinkness.

But now it’s your voice which I cannot seem to get out of my head: high-pitched ponytail and knee socks. You tell me all your rules, pink. Who can wear you. Who can kiss you. And I just can’t eat your jellybeans anymore.

It’s not that I need to love you; I just don’t want to hate you so much.

So I locate your address and travel the distance to find you at home. Pepto Bismol shutters and walkway and door and I know it’s yours.

I search out the music in your pink, pink voice. Try to remember you coat my tongue and wear my lips and there are bits of my body all salmon-colored too.

Pink, I could love you if you weren’t painted on that tool kit, marketed specifically for you-know-who. And pink, I could love you if you weren’t so political. So militant. So girl.

Pink, maybe we could share a meal and eat greens and yellow squash and red, red beets and remember that a color can just be a color. Without wardrobe. Without gender. Without a rule book for who may approach you. I could love you, pink, if you stopped being so pink all the time and mingled with the rest of the far more open-minded rainbow.

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.

SATURDAY: Cleaning out our closets (a performance about all the ways we come out)

JULY 23rd……Stories and Songs about Coming Out

Cleaning Out Our Closets is featured in the HOT! Festival at Dixon Place, so come and celebrate all the ways we reveal ourselves to others (and ourselves). FEATURING: Aimee Herman and Trae Durica

WHERE? Dixon Place 161 Chrystie St./NYC

WHEN? Door @ 7pm Show 7:30 This is a short show, so please be on time, as it has a running time of 45 minutes.

*There will be poetry books and Keith Haring inspired patches for sale!!!****

 

 

Aimee Herman is a performance artist, poet and teacher, widely published in journals and anthologies. Aimee has two-full length books of poems and is currently writer-in-residence for Big Words, Etc. reading series.

Trae Durica is a poet and artist, whose work has been published by NYSAI and great weather for MEDIA. He will be featured in the BOOG poetry festival in August.

dial tone

I play a furiously combative game of phone tag with my body.

When my body finally picks up, call waiting beeps me out of line.

My body informs me that I am too elusive and not committed enough to my internal infrastructure.

 

There is an uncomfortably long [estimated 437 minutes] bout of silence between my body and I on the telephone.

My body is clearly housing a collection of disgruntlement.

 

I call up 1-800 Flowers and order a bouquet of 

just because with peonies and alstroemeria.

My body sends it back without hesitation.

 

I try again, knowing I have over three decades to make up to my body.

I paste letters to its skin. Create melodies for poems celebrating its bones, even the broken ones.

 

I make my body a meal of coq au vin; it reminds me its a vegetarian.

I bake my body cookies; it tells me it no longer ingests sugar.

 

I pay $4,700 for an apology in the sky. But it was windy that day and by the time my body looked up,

my words had swiped themselves away.