what do you live for?

(Inspired by my students. Inspired by the writers who don’t even know they are writers, until they write.)


I live for that line. The combination of words that, when placed together, shake and stir minds. Knowing words are already there, waiting and breathing. Bones breaking and forming until. Until I pluck them from books or mouths and create a combination that unlocks everything.

I live for the moment all my veins and twists make sense to me. The moment my body speaks back in a dialect I can finally understand.

I live for my father, who never closed his door to me, even when I was at my worst.

I live for the book I haven’t read yet.

I live for the books I haven’t written yet.

I live for the moments I have yet to experience. And the art I’ve yet to see. And the border crossings I’ve yet to cross.

I live for my passport, which one day I will fill up.

I live to free the parts of me I have put on hold. To give them time and space to speak up. To give my body and mind a chance to re-introduce itself.

Yeah. I live for that.


these clouds, a collision of applause

maple walnut peanut butter

my dad

moleskine notebooks and extra fine black ink pilot pens


modern love

crown street home

kazim ali’s poetry


my skin


wrists without serration

u.s. postal service


those warriors of gender and the ones I am still searching for…

music MAkers


my soul sister

the moon!

the scent of campfire

my ability to poem

poetry teachers nyc

pancetta bruscetta rivera herman (I and II)

that fallen tree against the lake at prospect park


the contagion of elephants

collaborative art forms

yann tiersen

hard-working lungs

a resilient mind

an appetite

when I am [able to be] present

moving on

white rice


farmer’s markets

community gardens

NY Times

creative circle

C & Peggy

found he(art)s



Unplugged and Deactivated.

What would it look like to see something and not say something?

Sometimes in life, one must draw the line.

A little over a year ago, I joined a club that everyone was already a member of. It’s a club I don’t need to name, rather I’ll describe it in flashes:

I just made the best dinner for my boyfriend. [insert photo]

[insert photo of many other meals because it seems we are a society obsessed with what we eat and documenting]

Who wants to see ___________ with me tonight? LIKE for a response back

LIKE if you LIKE me

[insert photo of abs, cleavage, couple kissing, new baby, new outfit, new haircut, new new new new________]

And what finally ended my membership to this not-so-exclusive club:

[Here is me meditating: Insert photo] And don’t forget to LIKE LIKE LIKE because look at ME; I’m MEDITATING]

There was a lot of hesitation involved when I joined. It felt extremely uncomfortable to look for friends or “request” them; wait for them to “accept” me, maybe even reject me. Some “friends” DEfriended me, while I did the same to others. For over a year, I became programmed to react on screen. When someone upset me, I sliced poems onto the screen. When I missed someone, I voyeured and searched through photographs it felt awkward to view without permission.

Hours spent scrolling down, self-loathing and getting sick off the fumes of narcissism all around.

I am of the Encyclopedia Generation. My family would get a new volume in the mail every month or so and it was quite an occasion to sip the photographs of parts of the world I’d never heard of. Through these books, I learned about leprosy, wild bush women and various weather patterns I never experienced in suburban New Jersey. Only now, can we just type in a few key words and see massive amounts of photographs attached to these words and learn every thing there is to know about it. Things are faster; no need to look through a lengthy index or wait for next month’s volume to be shipped out.

When I saw a great movie, I called up one of my three best friends (sometimes on three-way conversations) and we’d talk about it.

If I got a great haircut (or devastatingly awful), I’d head on over to whoever’s house and reveal. We didn’t have the Internet, no social networks. Birthday invites were through the mail or handed out at school. If you wanted someone to be your friend, you asked them. (Gasp) In person.

For years, when mention of this “club” came up, people would be shocked to hear that I wasn’t a member.

But….but…how do you keep up with your friends’ lives??????? How do you know what’s going on????????????


Then, I gave in. Put up some photographs. Promised myself that only a slice of me would be enlisted in this club. No personal things such as: how that job interview went or who I just had tea with or who I am sleeping with or a photo of that peculiar mole on my left breast.

Though on stage I have absolutely no boundaries; on screen, I needed them.

So, I advertised shows and performances. I thanked publishers who published me. I put up a line or two of poetry I was working on. I made friends. I learned about events that I wouldn’t have known about.

I lost hours, hours, hours of life that could have been spent straddling trees, weeping at paintings in museums, or learning how amazing people are in person right in front of me without a screen between us.

My friend count is less now. The invites will probably dry up. The world of FACES on screen like self-published BOOKS of our lives will still exist; I just won’t be a part of it.

I have done this before. Gone cold turkey from drugs, sex, certain people and other behaviors. There is that natural mourning period.

But think of all those poems that got locked inside me because I was mesmerized by some photos of a friend of a friend who isn’t even a friend of that friend’s baby or dinner date or new apartment or or or.

2013, I am ready for you. The year before you offered me some beautiful, unexpected sights and offerings. I got a whole book of poems published; I moved into a new apartment; I finished my graduate degree; I met the most amazing poets, music makers, listeners and lovers.


I lost myself in there. As a kid, I wasn’t a part of many clubs. I wasn’t invited to many parties. For a little over a year, it felt kind of like I was a part of something. More specifically, I felt like I was one of the popular kids never without a place to sit and eat my lunch.

Now I know what it’s like. I can go back to being the red-haired wallflower poet. Still doing the same things, creating and exploring and loving……you are just going to have to ask me now to tell you about it.

Actually, not much has changed.

a gluttonous thanks (the non-vegetarian version)

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.



Peanut butter.


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.

Happy Thanksgiving day of gratitude. Happy realization that thanks may be given everyday, not just the ones announced on calendars.

survivor’s guilt

My mother and father are Jewish. So is my sister and her husband and their child. My cousins are Jewish too. So are my aunts and uncles. I am an atheist.

I grew up feeling guilty even when there was no cause for it. It is in my blood, (or this is what my ancestors say).

To wake up in an apartment with free warmth and free hot water and electricity in every room, lurking from every outlet, with a bed and clean sheets and windows without cracks and a working refrigerator keeping my perishables safe where my vegetable drawer is full from the farmer’s market where my closet has hangers hugging shirts and jackets and my floor is clean without holes or water damage and there is a roof above me and it appears secure.

To wake up.

To wake up with a father just one state away and a mother just a bus or train ride away and a sister just a bike ride away.

To wake up with love dripping from my wrists and hiding behind my ears and whispering from my calendar.

To wake up with a job to go to. Two jobs to go to. Four…including the ones that don’t always pay me.

To wake up without a cough or suspicious flu in my body. To wake without the need for medication. Without the need for hidden drugs in boxes, tucked away in the back of closet.

To wake.

I am an atheist and I believe in nothing and I believe that maybe I can believe in something someday when the haunt subsides. When the guilt goes away. When I start to really imagine life without having a secret affair with death.

To survive when others have not is not a feeling of relief. It reeks with the aroma of unworthiness. Music plays and all I can hear is why me why me why me why me why me why me why me why me why me why me why me why mewhy me why me why me why me why me why me why me why me.

Must I believe in some thing in order to make sense of this?

an acceptance speech

Thank you. I mean, I was not expecting this. This comes at such a deep surprise. I am just shocked! I am so, so shocked. Me. You called my name. I was really ready for you to call someone else up here. All those other women/writers/artists/poets/queers/scribes. So talented! They should be up here. Really. Really. I am just blown away. Blown. Away. Shocked. Did I mention how shocked I am?! (beat) What? Oh. This? Well, I happen to have a few notes down. Some names. This piece of paper happened to be in my pocket. I mean, I guess I just carry it around for moments like this. You never know, right? Well, I was nominated. So, I should be prepared a little, right? I’m shocked! I just didn’t expect to…oh, the music is already starting? OK, just…just let me name off some people who you don’t know, people who I barely acknowledge throughout the day. Let me mispronounce my agent’s last name. Give me time to thank people who I have yelled at due to overstress and lack of manners. Can I just thank the person who made today possible? I mean, that person who liked me before my name was in lights, on books, on stages, in auditoriums, followed by four stars and praise? (beat) Oh, umm, I forgot to write that name down. Well, how about I thank my teachers who I never appreciated at the time it mattered most: when I was in their classroom. Wait. I need to thank my parents who I tend to forget about on ordinary days and well, I guess I often use them as fodder for my writing. You know, no good writer had a happy childhood. No one wants to hear about family dinners or a supportive, non-threatening mother. Oh! I should thank my partner. Not the one I’m with now. The one I am really in love with. I’d like to thank the mistresses, the ones who filled my bed when all I wanted was an orgasm without the conversation. Can I thank them too? I’d like to thank all the ones who helped me to workshop this into something so much better. Taking out those semi-colons definitely made a difference! What would I have done without you! I should thank my best friend..umm..well..I guess we don’t really talk much anymore. But…but..it’s just because we are all so busy and. Shocked. I…I am still so shocked. I was not expecting this! (beat) Oh, the music is getting louder now. Well, hold on a minute. I need to thank my publisher. My mentor. My babysitter. Planned Parenthood for sliding the scale down to something I could afford. I’d like to thank my barista. My driver. The 24-hour bodega that always has what I need. So many people to thank! I said my parents, right? And my wife? Well, we will probably separate after this. That always seems to happen, right? Who else? Shocked! (beat) Well, I can barely hear my own voice now. That orchestra is quite loud. I’d like to thank the orchestra. And..and..my trainer. Thanks for telling me to stop eating. Emaciated looks great on me, don’t you think? Oh! God! I must thank God. None of this would have happened without God. (look up) Forget world peace, a cure to cancer, AIDS, those other diseases. You prioritized. I got this award! Thank God!! Thank God. Bless you all!