“So far it has been sex and leaves that keep me alive” —Renee Gladman
Leaves are pressed between pages because we just cannot handle saying goodbye to them even if just for a winter. So we thin them out and capture the red or green which turns brown and the ends perm but even in February you can visit that leaf and touch its skin and tell it about the time you found it on a sidewalk so calmly sleeping beside an ant and chicken wing and you will say that it was its shape that caused you to remove it and bring it home. You will tell it that it looked like a dream you once had about spider webs in bathtubs and a sun dripping from a tattooed sky and in your hand, it looked like it was smiling. In April, you will remove that leaf from old journal and tell it about the time you fell in love so deeply it was as though you and love were constantly climbing trees, jumping from branch to branch to the scalp of where the tree itched most. And you built and you ate and this leaf will listen and understand because it was once in love too.
Spring is here now, it will whisper through its softened veins. And you will find more of me.
But then you will say: But none like you. Because you have been pressed so close to my words for so long there is no need for speaking sometimes. You just rub my body like Braille and know my movements.
The leaf will bring you back to that sidewalk where you first met. You will notice no ants nor chicken bones. The trees are still nude, but slowly budding. You will notice a yellow daffodil to your left. It is so bright, you squint and the leaf jumps out of your palm and toward the earth.
Be inside this, the leaf says. Walk along a new block where leaves will soon grow. Wash your eyes out; get ready for their colors. They won’t stay, so memorize and be in their moment while they remain for you.
New York is familiar now. I recognize corners and smells. My favorite still: west fourth street or grand army plaza on Saturday. And the scent of halal trucks stirring up the hunger in my belly.
New York is not exactly home, but it is where my mail can be received and it is where I write poetry and it is where love can be found and harm and passion and overwhelm and museum and music and memory and there is still new to be found there is still new to be found here.
New York is where I fell once, split open my chin and received nine stitches. New York is where I fell in love and fell out of love and fell in love again (and the pattern continues). New York is where I picnic and nap outside on patches of grass (where it grows) and study the moon at night.
But sometimes. Sometimes one must leave in order to remember that maybe it is more home than one is willing to admit.
Far away is where leaves may be found and they are musical.
Or perhaps right now, they look a bit more like this:
I do not have to travel very far to find this musical instrument beneath my feet. So, I dance above them and listen to their harmony. And if I’m in the right mood, I push myself on top of them and roll against their hardened veins and faded colors and smell Winter fumes seeping out.
When I travel, I notice the sounds all around me. In New York, honking and sirens and reveling and buses stopping and starting again and children and and
In the country, or where homes are bigger and transportation is above ground, I hear crickets and various multi-colored birds flapping their wings and tire wheels slushing against wet ground. I hear my father. I hear peace.
New York Brooklyn may be the love of my life: one that accepts my weight gain or moodiness, my mismatched outfits, my hairy legs, and my anxieties. But it is still necessary to go away sometimes to remember how good it feels to miss it.
Far away from Brooklyn, I’m listening to music. A band of leaves tapping against my window. Tree branch. Howl of wind. I’m having an affair (pre-approved) because New York and I are polyamorous. This state slows me down. Removes my schedules and routines. I am younger here and that’s ok sometimes.
I once poured milk all over my body for a performance. I cannot recall its intentions, but it led me toward another bout of lactose intolerance or another love affair– I cannot remember which. It was thick and the smell remained for hours post-scrub. From the corner of my dairy-drenched eyes, I noticed a human wearing blond dreadlocks, inconsistent knots spewing out of her scalp or brain. She had to be a visitor, I thought. No one exists like this anymore, I thought.
Sacrifice can be found in early morning wake up calls to clean up beaches swarmed by devastation. Blame the wind this time. Blame the humans who do not recycle, who do not chew before swallowing, who do not cook their food properly, who kill without concern, who focus too much on Facebook, rather than faces and books…next time.
To be no(body) is to swarm a room without a notice. To flap wings known as arms, all scratched out like liner notes. To bend knees and straighten and bend and straighten until thighs are hardened like soul. To be able to notice a man whose belly breathes outside of himself, sitting in the corner with his shirt untucked, with his thoughts all slurred. To be no(body) is to stare without being asked to stop.
Mourning in the morning looks like this: cup of coffee to my right, Bon Iver all around me like dead skin cells floating (which I cannot see, but feel like ghosts landing). Sunrise pushing light against the leaves outside my window. There is rust on those leaves. I want to lick them to feel oxidation gather inside me.
When I speak (lately), only lies come out.
A truth: After the hurricane, I collected corpses. Leaf corpses. They were light enough to carry home. To press inside Audre Lorde’s book of essays. Their veiny ends popped out and yesterday, I carefully rescued them from compression and noticed their colors. Blotted red. Red like forty-seventh layer of earth from below not red like my hair. One is yellow like hydrated urine. One is spotted green.
I once poured soil all over my body for a performance, with thin plastic tarp below me to catch the earthworms. I wanted my filth to be visible. So I mashed the dirt into my skin. Forced it beneath my fingernails. Rubbed it into my hair. I swallowed it. The grit remained inside undetected cavities. Sand and rocks and organic additives. Then I took a sponge, waiting in water, and wiped it all away. My body became mud. A puddle of sludge. My bones were a stage of earth and water. I was nude and more honest than I had ever been before.
Sometimes when I breathe, planets blurt out.
Bones. Fat. Veins. Scar. Scratch. Roots. Mother. Remnant. Scar. Flaw. Fat. Wrinkle. Liar. Homo. Thighs. Daughter. Hazel. Curls. Knots. Scar. Fat. Fondled. Wrinkle. Knuckles. Belly. Fat. Callus. Flaw. Hurt. Angry. Scar. Scar. Scar.
things to do
things to think
things to catalogue
perhaps an appointment must be made to regulate blood cycle
hair growth in hard to reach places
interruptive coughing sprees
and that lump
how fat is fat is fat so fat
when you notice my fat fat fat
suck out its glycerine and
use as lubricant
it is spring now and trees end their monthly rotation of nudity in honor of yellow leaves, sap and wind