how to say thank you.

On a hot, Saturday afternoon on an island off Manhattan called Governor’s, I found myself digesting the echoes of poets swirled in the air like tornadoes of deep thinking. Every year this happens right here, called the Poetry Festival and as I sat at a table with other writers called Poetry Teachers NYCI suddenly noticed a poet who looked quite similarly to one I have admired for awhile now.

His name is Kazim Ali and a previous lover graciously gave me his book, Fasting for Ramadan, several summers ago when she was observing this holiday. I knew very little about this observance of fasting and reflecting, but each night, when I helped her break her fast, she shared her stories and finally gave me his. I carried this book around each day, slowly slipping my eyes into each word, feeling its deep pocket of knowledge. This book is composed of Kazim’s journal entries during fasting, but to me, they were poems. Reminders of how to exist in a body that yearns. In a body that needs even when something is taken away. He wrote about the discomfort in an honest, exploratory way.

Growing up with Jewish parents, I knew a little about fasting. We had to engage in this once a year during the holiday of Yom Kipper and I found it deeply deeply hard. I’ve recently been called a “labrador” (like the dog) for my constant hunger and desire to eat. I like to celebrate my appetite and have always found it difficult to go without.

But I understand the meaning behind fasting. We remove/take away in order to understand why we desire it.

Kazim taught me this.

And on this hot Saturday on Governor’s Island, I saw him. This poet who breathed pain and discovery into pages I kept at my side for a summer. And still open every so often to remind me.

What to say to someone who has had such an impact on you.

So, I told him how much I admired his writing. I thanked him for sharing these words which came from hunger’d body, observant body, spiritual body. I gave him some of my poems as an offering.

When we read, we don’t often get to tell these writers: Thank you. Or You impacted me in ways I am still articulating. 

And we must. Because they need to know. Words are bridges, leading us all to each other. To a deeper understanding. Encouraging us to travel through feet and with mind(fullness).

how to invoke religion while holding hands and sharing the heat of approaching summertime.

“I learned how to find the new moon by looking for the circular absence of stars…I learned God’s true language is only silence and breath.”  –Kazim Ali (Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities)

Last summer, I found religion in the journal of a poet who described his hunger and silence while fasting for ramadan. I walked around taking slow, deliberate bites of whatever was around me. Napped on napping trees. Kissed beneath enough moon shadows to call myself a believer of things. Tried a new cuisine called sloped Brooklyn. Became a smoker briefly because I liked the way my breath would tangle with the invisibleness of air. Had a short love-affair with mayflies. Played ukelele on as many benches as my skin could find.

Weeks wait to be found before summer begins but check out this air! One can call themselves religious just by breathing. Just by emptying the winter from lungs and exhaling bouts of lonely or shiver or hungry. Hours can easily climb mountaintops. Clouds wait to be deciphered into a language of picture maps.

This time is different. You may use the same words for things but meanings no longer need to be still and unwavering. You can memorize a prayer like love and it can be new each time. How amazing! How wonderful to climb hands into another’s and trace the elongation of breath traveling without passport to another country just by feeling your way. 

Bodies are like religious institutions. Stained glass. Memorials. Psalms and palms. Sermons threading together the meanings of things.

We fast (figuratively and metaphorically) to remember why we hunger so much. We gain weight when we allow our bodies permission to hold on to what finally nourishes us.

threshold exhumed

“The hunger is something you dig a hole in yourself to bury.”          Kazim Ali

All of this was ripped. Part of something else.

There are words, which used to be part of other things and now reside as this.

There is a pelvic blueprint, reminding me that even an x-ray can lie.

There is a swarm of vegetables shaped into a heart, symbolizing healthy love.

There is a body that can not be called male or female, rather satisfied and comfortable.

There is earth.

There is an Italian cookie. A newspaper. Modern Love.

There are trees and water. There is sun. There is a city bridge. There is a fortune. There is hope.

This is my vision board. This blue square of paper is a guide of desires, goals, dreams.

When I think about what I hope to manifest, I feel overwhelm. For so many years, I have buried my hungers so deep behind bones, caging them in.

Who/what am I waiting for.

I cannot stop with just this paper. It is a visual, but the rest must come from me.

I hold my left palm in such a way that it sinks, fingers lift up as though being pulled by invisible string. My palm is a cup I can sip out of. It is a bowl I can eat from. I can subsist on whatever fits inside my flesh. Parts of my skin, dry, pulls. There is a web of creases.

I am growing stronger on the outside, but if I were to photograph my innards, what musculature would gather?

My vision blurs, shifts, squints, takes in.

What do others notice that I do not; what do I notice that others can’t.

I want to see myself in this paper. Hybrid body. Floatation device. Loved. Traveler. A climb toward.

Do we ever reach that moment where reflection matches what we want or think we see.

Tell me how to get there.


Dear Kazim.

They thought I was asleep, but I heard her scream out at that star that may or may not have been a swollen airplane. She called it another place to live. She called it a high wire pause. Or was that me.


Dear Lidia.

I scrubbed my hands better than I have all year, before I plunged them into my body to rip out the mail. His name is ____________ and full of papercuts and improper postage. We are already in love.


Dear Rebel.

How about we stage a protest this year. Eat only syllables and postures. I will continue to challenge the disobedience of my breath and you can remind me that gender is a disco ball better left rotating.


Dear Poet.

You owe me a letter. But I will wait for your shadowboxing bellow. As I sit here, sore from an early morning bone stretch, no longer calling tomorrow a clean slate. Instead, a movement of magic.

where the poems hide.

You are no plagiarist of dusk./ Nothing in the sky equals itself.          —Kazim Ali

beneath bonecage, behind mother tongue.

“everyone keeps rubbing their exoskeletons into you and. you kiss openly on mouths borrowed on Friday evenings, but.”

swinging armpit hair and she called my smell prophylactic.

that exit off new jersey.

mornings and mournings.

di prima. bukowski. gottlieb. sexton. rumi. rumi. hafiz. cisneros. the forests frozen inside remix’d notebook of dissinger.

hunger strikes and binges.

purge of lightening and bald spots of hipbones.

the weep of marriage in me and broken beneath cracked summer heels.

and in the water.

and in this stolen garden in boerum hill.

mix tapes.

red dresses.

spun webs of spiders and fathers.

“how can you not notice this as a sign as please kiss me now.”

hallelujah (all versions)


christopher park.

“oh, just place that over there by the mold and wait and channel the frisk of queer nudity.”

in thickest dreadlock crafted before storm called sandy.

sparks of her fingers calming the shake of your lips.

drug busts and sober.

midnight snack of fingers and batteries.

thirst of drunk brain and polyamorous couple climbing their way in.


and ocean.

and music MAker.

and that man who smiled at the LOVE scribbled into notepad on a Sunday in cafe on Bowery.

yellow tablecloth.

banjo ukelele.

table setting of historically intricate women woven by 1970’s political protest.

mapplethorpe’s bullwhip.

that boy in my bed.

prescription saved in wallet from April (ignored and dim).


bookshelves and breath count


leaf walks and braided limbs in autumn under yellow branches.

acorns which hop.

mothers who rash and remember.

humans who hunger for thought.

your knees, pulchritude.

Dear Kazim,

Can we call this a loose number? If we derive from digestion and blood vessels, can you carve me an ore out of your ink’d teeth. I need to paddle now. Even in reservoir with blow-up kayak (dirty and illegal), I need to feel wave beneath my bones and chase the swirl of fish beside my gentle stroke of movement. I have relapsed off red lipstick and hidden knees that I know, I know, are far more pulchritudinous than even the moon: my lover of three decades. Kazim, I am unraveled. Can you write me a prescription for a good hem. Things grow slowly on me and when you remind me of peace within bites of communal gatherings, I still want to ask you to footnote that. Did something happen? The thing is, my wrists are hungry and yesterday’s morning was extracted from loose sky exhaling water’s crumbs and stirred chocolate and coffee and everyone is calling themselves a writer now. How about I just label myself as syllables.

located between violet and green.

Dear Kazim,

Do you know how many offerings of blue there are in the sky? I call them offerings because these hues arrive and they remain as a gift to our sight. There are many things that we forget to notice, such as what exists beneath our feet or the vast field of water’s reflection above us.

Kazim, there is a red hook. It exists in a watermarked area of Brooklyn. My soul sister and I follow the trail of salt and orange-scented horizon welcoming in the evening. Our toes twist into strands of grass that tickle and tease our summer calluses.

Here is where I collect thoughts. I ignore the scab on my shoulder from the weight of things I carry from borrowed home to borrowed home and feel gratitude toward the one who holds me on a night I feel my insides attempting an escape. I’ve been carving love letters to Brooklyn into benches and brick walls. I haven’t received anything back or perhaps I have……I’ve no mailbox anymore.

Let’s call this color squashed blueberry or sorrow’s lust. This sky is our rooftop and suddenly I feel home. 



change of address


One day I met a music MAker. We blew up time zones and border crossings with our souls. Then, a walk across a sewage line. Next, shared whiskey and a straggler from Bushwick. Some snow. Invisible letters. Tree bark saved up for words. Lots of stamps. Some singing. A uke. Guitar strings. A blur of sounds. This song.

i’m looking.i’m looking.i’m looking for…….

“Everyone is looking for something. This culture. They want it now; they want everything,” A woman on the 3 train speaks this out loud to me or the people beside her.

The listener is the one who listens and I’m listening.

We want what exists on the other side of what we have and when we feel like we suddenly have nothing, we will settle for anything. 

My father tells me a story of a man he once knew who was a prisoner of war for seventeen months. He paced around in a tiny cell, giving himself permission to feel self-pity for a limited amount of time: 7 seconds per day. This restriction kept him stronger.

“And if he only used four seconds one day,” my dad explained, “he couldn’t use ten the next day. There was no storing or saving.”

I awake in a bed that is not my own, covered in sweat, my back a place of fire and unforgiveness. Panic presses itself into my chest. I am collapsing even though I am laying down.

Currently, I am looking for (permanent) housing. But more than that, I am searching for the crumbs dropped by my future self to guide me toward this present-tense path. There is no GPS for spirituality.

In 1.2 miles, make a left turn on Enlightenment Road…..

I think it might be time to join Kazim and the one who talks about intentional peace. The writers. Perhaps I have already begun this fast. Perhaps I ought to pay closer attention to the language of moaned organs. When I fast, I will think about what yearns inside me; I will pay closer attention to the appetite of my mind and pulsating heart. When Iftar arrives, I hope to break fast with intention of renewal. Renewing this self into something that can remain.

Many of us do want everything. We buy. We parade. We live out loud on computer screens for others to catalogue the meals we ate or faces we make.  And if we surround ourselves with these things, maybe it says:   I am ok. There is no suffer in me

Or maybe we should turn everything into one thing. One thing to want. Wonder what that could be. Write it out. Manifest if through.

how to seek asylum from the clots in which we are made from

Dear Kazim,

Several years ago, I dripped some of my cells onto a manuscript of poetry for a class I was taking called ‘The Long Poem’ . The title of the collection, on blood and the tantrums of memory, traced several disordered blocks of thought that gathered from the language of blood’s memory. It didn’t feel like a choice when I cut open my arm again in order to drip my body’s paint onto the cover. I marveled at how dark my cells were and how they splattered into various shapes like maraschino moons.  My lover at that time didn’t understand why I would harm myself in this way. I tried to explain that these poems derived from my body, so why shouldn’t I honor these pages with the freed plasma from within.

Kazim, you wanted to know what lives between the inhale and exhale. I’d like to answer you that I think it may be love. Or I think it might be strength. No, it must be hunger. We are vehicles; we are animals; we are mechanisms for history. We are meant to repeat the patterns of breath control in order to make room for translation. So we translate and we reconfigure and we analyze and we grow.

This earth is one giant waiting room, Kazim! We take our tickets and wait in and out of patience. We begin as strangers, then remove our clothes and climb inside each other’s wombs and crevices in order to understand our selves better. I am finding myself through these humans I find shelter in. They remind me that these poems are breathing for me and through me and with me. I just want it to be my turn, Kazim. But…as I wait, I find that the adventures continue. If I left, I would never have met your words, nor the human who introduced me to them.

The clots unsnarl. I drip my cells onto each city block. I search out my next sanctuary and poem my through each nanosecond I breathe in.