going home

first published by great weather for MEDIA

I hid inside the closet way before I knew about its implications. Had two in my bedroom as a kid, but only one which I coveted as my hiding place. In it, I fit my flattened pillow (shape created before I learned of its ability to inform pleasure when rubbed between my thighs), my radio/tape player and a poster, which my memory fails me to envision.

I listened to music, wrote in my diary, and ate food, which I snuck upstairs to my cave-closet. I thought of secrets, fell asleep, cried until I forgot how and chatted on the telephone.

I’m not sure how old I was when I decided to carve out a hidden passageway in my closet wall. You know, like they do in the movies. It was far more difficult than I imagined, realizing the many layers of wall, that caused me to eventually lose steam. But for awhile, my closet floor looked like a cocaine den, with the dusty innards covering the wood.

I’m not sure what I would have hidden in the walls if I had succeeded in my dig. Poems? Love notes? Recipes?

I came out of the closet metaphorically at nineteen. Literally at around fourteen, when my growing body could no longer fit comfortably. By then, I hid in other ways through drugs and secrets.

But this is not about that.

This is about what it means to go home. To remember the hiding places, the sticker and postcard collections. To remember the pile of notebooks with revelations and scratched out coded language. This is about the smells of childhood that still remain in the walls. To remember what it was like to morph into a different body and not be ready for its mutation. This is about milestones and misery.

Going home.

My childhood home no longer exists. Or it does, but is now inhabited by a different family with different problems. That hole has probably been patched up. And my purple-painted bedroom may be white now or striped. The yellow sticky notes I hid in various pieces of furniture in my bedroom are long gone. Ink faded so I probably would not have  been able to decipher its reminder.

I still have dreams that my room still exists. That it needs cleaning. That my mother finds my hidden stash of pills crushed up into powder to snort like the actors in those movies.

Recently, I got to experience the childhood home of my mate. Untouched bedroom, preserved in invisible plastic wrap. Felt fourteen again as I found myself following rules and curfew. Sleeping separately because of our queerness.

I have a bedroom in my father’s house, which I lived in during my early twenties, going to community college. Still searching for my self. There is a book shelf of the books I read at that time: horror and feminism, Plath and Salinger, writer’s market books and various dictionaries. When I visit, I can still see the twenty-three year old me struggling with my vocabulary. I was a lesbian then. Briefly a bisexual. I was a poet. Briefly a children’s story writer. I was a baker and a novice of hope. I was a recovering drug addict and a daughter. I was the past tense of so many things I still am but can no longer pronounce.

To go home is to be brave. To remember. To revisit the selves inside the self you are now. To study photographs and the accumulation of dust.

And then, to walk toward the real home. The one where you pay your bills. Where you can walk around in your nude and not have to call yourself anything but human or animal. To smoke pot or drink as much hot chocolate as you want without judgement. To remember all the homes that led you toward the one that finally feels like one.

Counting Steps in a Different City

28,251 steps. I hitched a ride on my body and chose toes over wheels to guide me from beautiful house on tree-lined street toward downtown Denver.

Men sleep on rocks, which outline the Platte River. I chew on Brooklyn farmer’s market fuji apple as I whisper a poem into the air, in hopes the wind pushes it toward them. I have not seen a pigeon in twenty-four hours and the air smells of grapefruit-suckled roses and freshly cut grass.

A woman stops me on 16th street in the financial district.

“Sister,” she says. “Sister, I’m eight months pregnant.”
And she shows me a belly that could be distended from housed human or intense starvation.
“Sister, do you have anything? Can you give me something, sugar?”
I nod. Apologize. Then, I offer her a granola bar, which she aggressively declines.
The homeless are picky here, I think.

I am wearing black high top converse sneakers. Tall rainbow striped socks reaching just above my knees. Jeans cut into shorts, cuffed. A loose, white t-shirt with various shades of blue and faded lettering. And a black vest. Throughout this walk, I am whistled at and I wonder: Is it the knots of frizz in my hair that turn these men on? The stench of menstruation emitting from inside my purple underwear? The undeclared pattern of scarred incisions on my forearms?

I keep walking. 17th street and Race. St Marks Cafe, home of the best peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie that is like eating a prayer. I opt for a cafe au lait with soy milk and a square shaped raspberry scone. Outside, I sit with first coffee of the day. Notebook gathers words. When all the caffeine has moved from clear mug to pale body, I continue walking.

I head toward Colfax for Tattered Cover bookshop. I search through poetry books, feel disappointed by the lackluster erotica section and move toward gay/lesbian/women studies shelves. Excitement puffs up my body when I recognize names from NYC writers in various anthologies. When we write, we don’t always know where we may be shelved.

A visit to past home on York Street led me to feel sick with sadness. Our garden was replaced with wood chips and impersonal ceramic planters. There was a wreath on our front door. No wind chime.

I used to think: If I turn off the radio, all the music and voices will stop talking. The music will pause until I rotate the dial back on.

Life, unfortunately, doesn’t wait for us to return.

I cross streets I used to cross with black-haired pup by my side; I am alone this time. I am occasionally interrupted by my shadow or a drip of sweat traveling from neck to collarbone. Cars don’t really honk here. Homeowners water their lawns. Garbage remain in cans and off sidewalks. The wind is a meditation, rather than a disruption.

At Cheeseman Park, I search for a bench in the shade. I grab a handful of nuts from the trail mix in my backpack. Suddenly, I am no longer alone. Two squirrels are close enough to pet and I decide to share my almonds. One squirrel turns into two, then three, and suddenly I’m surrounded. I fear being hijacked for my snacks as they hop onto hind paws and move closer.

“You’ve had enough,” I say, in the high-pitched voice I often use with dogs.

They are poor listeners or they speak limited English or they abhor rules and authority. So, I decide to switch benches. The soundtrack here is so subtly peaceful and I never want to leave; sometimes, I wish I never had in the first place.

arrival of sky-scraped body

Dear Colorado,

Remember when we first met?
My hair was not so red and not so long and not so knotty.
I arrived early in the morning with my sister after a long car ride from Brooklyn on Interstate 80 where meals were devoured with the speed of miles on green Honda Civic.

I had no idea how wide you were.

I heard all about those mountains, but didn’t expect to climb them or picnic against your grooves or kiss at the top of one on a day that I watched turn into night.

Your dirt is cleaner than the dirt I grew accustomed to.
And although you are land-locked, I took naps and carved poems into my notebook by Boulder’s creek.

I lived in five homes: two studios, two apartments and the bottom level of a home.

I fell in love. I earned a degree. I hosted an open mic. I became a freelance writer. I performed. I learned how to knit. I learned what kale is. I learned what quinoa is. I found community. I found activism. I found music. I found my self.

Denver, I’m aware of your parks (over 200).
Boulder, I’m aware of your bike lanes and poetic lineage.

Will you remember me?
Will you recognize me?

When I shake off the dirt of Brooklyn from my body/ I will ask you if I have changed/ And I might inquire if I’ve grown/ And I may want to know if it’s OK that I’ve returned.

Sometimes, we just need to leave in order to know what has been left behind…….