then. now. now. then. then.

He asks, “What do you collect?”

I say, “Rituals. Mothers. Loose tea.”

She wants to know why maps coat my walls as though these paper grids were paint.

I say, “I got lost somewhere between sixteen and thirty-two and need to be reminded which directions and roads will lead me back.”

“You must confess how you got your hair that color,” they sing.

I say, “Plasma, sex and rejected genetics.”

He whispers, “Tell me what distracts you away from then.”

“Easy,” I slurp out. “I eat cross-outs. I memorize bloodstains on my mattress. I finger the silence between my gender and my hairstyle—”

“I just don’t understand,” they interrupt. “What does blood and silence and the haunt between your legs have anything to do with—

“Tell me what you think when you look at my knots and curls,” I instruct.

She responds, “Pretty. Feminine. Lucky.”

I tell him that injecting a different box into my body doesn’t have to change the length of my hair.

He asks me, “Do you hunger for happy.”

I say, “I appetite for multiple choice and window panes.”

She tells me that I am too feminine to be called anything other than—

“And what distracts you away from now,” he interrupts.

I tell them, “Naming tomorrow.”

shopping for facial hair.

(photographs by/of Ana Mendieta)

We sit on a saturday in a part of brooklyn where farmers gather and, with coffee and crushed-up pretzels on our breath, we shop for facial hair. You wonder what it will be like when yours grows in; I wonder what it will feel like against me.

There are men with six o’clock shadows at noon and there are men with beards long enough to braid or bunch up into knots called dreadlocks. There are men with grey stuck to their dark. There are short ones and red ones. There are beard/moustache combinations. There are intricate moustaches that curl up and those which curl downward.

I gaze at the hairs you’ve got, the ones I’ve named, the ones I’ve poem’d about.

We sit on a bed sheet in the middle of brooklyn bridge park on a thursday where humans wait for outdoor movie to begin and, with ice cream and curried popcorn on our breath, we shop for facial hair. You wonder if yours will have interruptions of silver like you’ve got against your scalp; I wonder what it will be like to kiss you with new texture against your skin.

There are thick ones and beards like confetti sprinkled over cheeks. There are hipster beards and shadows of ones still growing. Facial hair becomes like cloud formations for us, as we search for images we see in each one.

I shop for chests. Wonder what it could be like to have a shirt that fits me exactly the way I long for–without intrusion of curve below collarbone. Men take off their shirts this time of year and we lust after the shape we desire on ourselves.

We point to the ones with slight musculature. I notice variations of nipples and ones with hair like a standing ovation all over chest. I tell you that maybe one day I’d like to have that one or that one. You tell me that however my body exists, I’ll be just as handsomely beautiful.

We sit on a concrete bench not too far from the chanting Hare Krishnas on a wednesday in manhattan and, with pickles and no-sugar-added sour cherry juice on our breath, we shop for our gender, ripening against our bones. You tell me that tomorrow, if I decided to wear a dress, you’d look at me just the same.

With our painted toe nails from that time we sugared our tongues with rainbow ices beside neighbor’s garden, we search the crowd for others like us. The ones experimenting with all the ways in which one could exist.

i like your hair.


These roots are well-traveled. Find them on bathroom floors and curled against the upward slope of staircases. I have detached many threads on ferry trips and early morning commute subway rides. When the man beside me creates musical interlude of keratin clip from fingernails, I rip knots out of scalp and drop my own acquired and collected bits of fibrous proteins.

I like your hair.

It was once less cherry. It was not always bloodied and bright. It used to be lighter. It used to be feminine and fair. The curls were once more potent. It did not always have its own calling card. There was a time I introduced other rainbows into it such as blues and purples. There was a pink period. Brief stage of orange. Do not forget the burgundy. It has never been all black. There was that time I shaved it all away.

Can I touch it?

A lover rubbed my pieces together between her wide, musical palms and traveled twists into my hair. She summoned the bees and borrowed teaspoons of wax to keep it all together. These dreadlocks still remain and some have birthed new ones. I visit them on evenings when my fingers are bored and looking to explore old textures. They feel like rope or scratches. They remind me of maps, encompassing moments and detours.

Is that your real hair color?

I once fell in love with a human because of their hair. It was the puff of brown smoke emitting off large scalp that first wooed me. Then words and the music which followed. My hands would get lost in the thick, brown aroma of meals migrating. Another human lured me in with spiked mohawk. Died black then red and climbing in varied heights and shapes. There is something so romantic about texture. The culture or religion of hair. Prayers caught up in each flake of dandruff or underscore. One lover had a patch of grey competing with earthy brown. Another preferred to bleach.

All of this is borrowed. The color (from a tube and bottle). The length (from time and persistence). The curls (from the ones that came before the ones I met). It is political and personal. My hair is mismatched and much of it derives from lack of attention and planning. Combs are a foreign object and coconut oil has become like air breathing its way into each split end.

Yes. This is my real hair color. If real means born from yesterday and the many days before it. If real means what feels best to me. If real means what makes me feel most alive. All of this is dead past the roots, so why not experiment. So why not question what it can do. So why not explore the lineage of its flexibility. Why not.

what are we trying to break into.

I am in-between the sentence-structure of my body / flattened raw on one side and hairy and grey and elephant and embodied and wouldn’t it be easier if ———

Hair is just an arrival of death growing from life drenched with peroxides and scissors. The dreadlocks arrive during the months when poems possess more importance than comb-outs. Everything continues to grow, but it must stop because it has been many years and the length remains the same. 

Call yourself a planet because all this space derives from punctured cells and this floatation device called gender is permitting you to wander now. Or wonder now, Elliptical Orbit. With each person you are with, your body moves differently. There are rules and permits and directions and menus. Your body rarely trusts another to understand how to approach it. Until…….

Some may think they can track your shapes until you go against the rotation. So rotate. All of this may be disrupted and you can install a shelving unit or rod. And you can call your body a ferris wheel or movie sequel or skyscraping thunderbolt or serrated verb.

Who are you attempting consistency for?


That rain out there sounds like applause. The leaves and traffic, scattered grass and monogrammed concrete are all performing stunningly tonight. An encore suggests the city listeners are appreciative. The ones with the box seats are the poets, the fearless squirrels latching onto plaid-pattered screens, pigeons with slippery wings and breath of barbecue steam. Deep inside that puddle beneath your window, a curl floats like an emaciated tugboat. Engine of railroad lineage. Propeller curves and footnoted presence in books and dream sequences. This does not have to be a tragedy. Nor will there be a prologue or feast of sequels. Each storm is its own language. Also inside that puddle is a limb. Cannot call it arm or third of leg. It is collaged and hungry, sipping on rainwater from imaginary straw made of molecular mosh-pit. There is a table of contents decoupaging the skin. How lovely how odd how wet this all is and then clothes come off because synthetics leave too many imprints and reminders of factories. The earth desires nudity, so it drenches; it floats umbrellas away from wrists and curled fingertips. This should be a performance. This should induce romanticism. We should be triggered by its miasmic reminder of the last time.

an exchange of no longers

They leave behind their underwear. I’ve got yellows and waistbands. I’ve got stains and rips

They leave behind sores and un’apologized sexually transmitted diseases. Some let you know before entering; some feel the need to leave this on your skin like permanent shadows

They leave behind concert tickets and blown out eardrums and broken down umbrellas with detached wings and a shirt still stained with their overpriced scent

They leave behind recipes from family tree or internet databases and a tiny jar housing their favorite spice on your shelf and a jar of unmarked, unused ingredients from that time dinner was supposed to occur

They leave behind words promises lies secrets absolutions contemplations all that hair clogging drains and webbed in corner of bathroom and on pillowcase and remember that time you pulled their hair out of your    your

They leave behind photographs and luggage tags and luggage and postcards and paintings and books and poems and poems and poems and poems and poems

They leave ghosts of rust on finger from that ring purchased alongside peaches or plums from New Jersey flea market

They leave behind that scar on your wrist from

They leave behind

They leave

(it’s just) hair.

I am twenty-three. Living in a state where I curve my body in such a way to resemble a scoop. A ladle, attempting to gather friends and experiences. On a night called Saturday, I remain in the bathroom for much longer than one should with plugged-in plastic hair iron, trying to turn my curls into heterosexuals.

Or simply: straight.

And on this particular night, I notice a difference in the way I am perceived. My smooth strands slow down the blinking and suddenly I am hating myself because: I. Feel. Pretty. And that hatred rises from the fact that I am feeling this way just because my knots are gone.

Many years later, I attempt this unbending of hair once again. I take heated iron to hair and remove the volume twisting around my head like red wind. I take coconut oil to smooth away the stubborn locks. When I look up and into the mirror, someone else exists. This is not me.


What is your hair regimen?

When I was younger, my grandmother treated my curls like delicate trophies. Don’t ever cut this, she would tell me. But if you do, please save some for me.

This led to years of hoarding my cut ends in plastic shopping bags each time I clipped away length. Even now, a small bag full from my last haircut rests in a box marked alter even though she is no longer here. I still keep my curls for her.

My relationship to my hair is spotty. Sometimes I feel enlightened by it, while othertimes it is more of a burden. Hair is what I notice first on the humans who pass me by. It is what often attracts me to another. I fall in love with their hair: afro, mohawk, mullet, bleached or shaved…..then, I start to fall in love with who the strands belong to.

Media tells me that curly is just not as pretty as straight. This is why we go to salons and spend our money on chemical straighteners. But the curls are really just like tangled words, a nest of magic, knotted gestures.

I never brush it. And I’ve been told shampoo should be left behind. Maybe these curls look messy to you and perhaps your fingers get caught when you rub at my scalp, but I’m quite content with this chaotic mane and I think I’m going to stay far away from its heterosexual counterpart. My hair was born to be crooked and queer; I think it’s time I just let it be.

map out body hair through stares and winces

My arms were beginning to hurt. I was pressing them so closely to my side that I felt like a butch Barbie doll masquerading as a femme, walking stiffly.

A song came on and the raspy, computer-edited voice of a pop star chanted out: put your hands up/put your hands up. And everyone’s hands went up while mine hot-glued themselves to my sides.

This is not you, I kept telling myself all night. I am wearing high heels that are binding my toes together and I feel one step away from falling and why can’t black, high-top Converse sneakers be an acceptable choice of footwear at weddings?

My lumpy skin is pressed into place inside a black dress that I keep telling myself is masculine. However, that dark purple suit I tried on was far more hunky though challenged my economic class far too hard.

My rebellion…my ME‘ness remains hidden beneath my arms in the dark blond strands that run out from my skin like eager marathon runners.

At a wedding full of red-lipped beauties and breasts cascading out of low-low-low cut dresses, I am an anomaly. I almost pass. A stunningly tall woman compliments me on my shoes. She starts listing off multi-syllabic names of designers.

Are those Floreasdfasdfasfd Hserernasdfk shoes? His latest Italian line? Where did you get those? she asks.

Payless, I mutter.

As we all take the dance floor, I am feeling sexiest when I am dancing alone, jumping up and down, being messy with my dance moves and losing myself in the rhythm of the song. Suddenly, I feel my breasts stage a runaway as my bra lifts up, pressing against my breasts in an awkward and uncomfortable way.

All I can think of is: I can’t even wear an undergarment correctly.

While I give my suffocated feet a rest, I sit at my assigned table and watch everyone. I realize that these women in dresses are also humans housing their own insecurities and that as they take over the dance floor, it doesn’t really matter who’s eyebrows are threaded or skin airbrushed or legs cut up from shaving with dull razors. They are most beautiful because they are letting go.

In fact, it doesn’t take long before they remove their uncomfortable heels and exchange them for flip-flops.

After several hours of judging myself, I unpeel my arms away from my sides. I dance harder. I lift my arms a little higher. I take my shoes off and let my bare feet feel the cold, slippery floor.


The next morning, I was back in “butch gear” or just gender-less threads that make me feel as close to comfortable as clothes can make me feel.

Sometimes it is fun to dress in drag, or dress up as others might say.

Sometimes it is important to pay attention to these moments when we ask ourselves: who am I dressing this way for?

This hair beneath my arms and on my legs and covering other parts of my body is for me. When I press powder on my eyelids splashing on a color like sparkled grey or blue, that is for me too. When I pack a cock in my underwear on a night alone, just to walk several blocks in my neighborhood, that is for me too.

is envy a sin or stitch of fabric knotted out of sight

Breasts do not need to be symmetrical and now women are combining back to school shopping of folders, pencils and skinny jeans with breast jobs.

How long must we wait for a body to grow into itself before taking control of its growth spurt?

None of us will really know what 70 will look like if we keep sewing strands of botox into skin to see how dead we can really become.

All I notice is their skinny. Their flat bellies and I compare it to my folded one. I want to notice the strength of her laugh and the way she can lift my imagination into something far more colorful just by looking at me. All I notice is the starvation in her teeth and the way her hair looks ready to run away from her scalp due to lack of iron and oil. I want to notice her brain smeared against me from all her questions and contemplations and yes, I did know koalas weren’t bears but when you told me, it felt new. All I notice is that thick red scar by her shoulder and the way she shakes when her voice moves to past tense. I want to notice her strength found in each blink and breath. All I notice is her bones, jutting out like bamboo. All I notice is her shirt untucked and wrinkled. All I notice is her tattoo misspelled and infected. All I notice is her missing tooth, the roots revealing her real hair color, the way in which her eye contact droops downward. All I notice is the ways in which I notice her.

Everything is shaved. Razors practice manners when getting too close to the delicate parts. Aren’t you curious how long it could get? Why are some places permitted to grow tangled, while others must be silenced beneath smooth? I search for stubble; impatience never allows it to arrive. I used to use a battery-operated razor, moved to plastic when I preferred blood to be lifted out of legs too. Never waxed or plucked or lazer’d. A lover hisses at the stain of smell left on her sleeve. She questions the intent of my deodorant. I tell her I forget sometimes. My fear of cancer overrides the waft of fake flowers beneath my sweat.

You want to pull on this, I ask.
You want to suck out the juice of my day, I taunt.

Smooth is meant for sidewalks and orange juice and butter when it melts against charred bread. This body of mine is hairy and I am looking for a lover who has a fondness for itch and wool.

Bodies are being purchased in more ways than one. Envy is an instrument we use like a hammer to chisel ourselves into something better.

STOP……maybe we are all OK just like this…..

Happy Birthday, Charles Bukowski.

Charles Bukowski sips wine like glass shard woman

Charles Bukowski sips wine like glass shard woman

That woman screams out her name from my mouth.

I do this sometimes.
I don’t watch videos or look at pictures to push out an orgasm.

I think of words.
Shaped as women.
Letters shaped as skin.

She pushes her lips together like they are too heavy for her face.
Her teeth are perfectly straight line-up of criminals waiting to bite me away.

Women, Charles.

I am trying to get away from them.

I left the country with passport and two backpacks and folded clothing and empty notebook and extra ink and I just needed to find my way out of these women.

Their smell.

The salt and vinegar. Smell of nail polish remover or mascara. Grease and leather.

You like the pretty ones. The ones with inches against their heels.

I like the girls who look like boys. The dirty ones.
The ones who confuse men like you or challenge men like you or put men like you out of commission.

Oh, women.

I think about the one who dipped me in the Pacific and covered me with shells and dried kelp.
Or the one who never owned a bed, preferred bathrooms and barrooms and dance floors and car parts like hood or roof and alleys and brick wall blankets. Those women.

Women with wrists tied up like elliptical gifts.

Hair, sometimes enough to pull on or that stubble that scrapes or what gets shaved away that slides beneath me.

I left so I could write, Charles, because their sex is too distracting.

You and I, we are supposed to be alone, with occasional bouts of bodies releasing us toward our next poem.

They think I am capable of love, Charles.
Can I send you on over?
Can you let them know how we are?

That woman kisses an erection onto me.

* * *

My nudity is alarming at times.

Bruises form and I forget to ask why.

I used to be hairless.
All those men and women like that, you know.
They hate the challenge of hair.

Don’t want your pubes in my teeth, she says.

My cunt hides now, which I like because sometimes I don’t want it there.
Sometimes I want a different shape or Latin classification.
Not a mammal but a reptile. Or amphibian maybe.

Those women popped your pimples with their manicured press-on nails, with their crooked, nicotine teeth. They never asked you to stop being ugly. And if they had, you would have just sent them to get more beer.

That woman blinks slowly enough to translate the wind pattern of clouds.
She moves over me like a wave of grunts.

I fake three orgasms in seven different languages.

I yearn to grow hairier, to challenge her digestive system.

I order up another round of poems, place them beneath my body and use the still-wet ink as lubricant.

When I look outside my window, Charles, I see only the tops of trees.
Everything is dark, yet the sky is plum.

Yours in whiskey and women,