An Assignment

for Adam (and always Rebel),

tell the world 1 thing you think they might never know because it is purely you and not an ounce another person         I’m so fearful of dying and yet I think about it everyday.
then tell of 2 reasons which your experiences have directly informed in your being unique to that thesis        That time when I was fifteen but also before that and then again at thirty-five but also the subway tracks and that rootftop no one knew about and the collection of stickers, rocks, postcards and pills, plus that time that time and when I hoarded so many secrets in my body everyone called it weight gain but I knew the truth.
then tell 3 fibs as to disguise again. they must directly abort your truth on purpose as a test to the reader       1. When I was eight or eleven, I ran over a small child with my bicycle which was somebody’s cousin in a well-groomed neighborhood in New Jersey where the adults competed with the size of their swimming pools and the children competed with the size of their fists. 2. I never really graduated from high school, but still sat beside my alphabetized best friend at the ceremony and when they didn’t call out my name, no one seemed to notice. I waited many years before trying out college and by then no one seemed to ask for proof of what came before. 3. I love myself.
finally, propose 4 items of intrigue. those can be from your process as you go along and find a need to vent about, or a nocturnal fog that leads us (the readers ) astray, or a picked-over analytical debut of what it all means, or even an offering of some sort, an out-of-the-way muse flicker, if you will.       1. In Colorado, I lit my secrets on fire. She stood beside me and I explained to her what that smell was all about; she loved me anyway. 2. I don’t know anything about truth; I’ve been lying for longer than I’ve been standing, but I know that it is so much easier to walk away and I’m interested in challenges right now. 3. I know that I am walking around with a crowd of voices inside me, and I can only speak one of their languages. 4. I know that mouths are like ashtrays, full of the rubble of smoke and ash of what is left behind. 5. I know a dirty word and it rhymes with everything that is difficult to pronounce. Like life. Like this.


where were you before you got here.

“A liar can reproduce the feeling that a wilderness does. In Sufism, ‘the pupil of the eye’ is the owner of each member of the body, even the heart, and each part becomes a tool under its lens. It is in and through and with the pupil of the eye that the catch locks between just-being and always-being. The less focused the gesture, the more true to the eye and the heart it is. You are progressing at one level and becoming more lost at another.”       –Fanny Howe.

Here, I move forward. From this distance between gender of collarbone and gender of calves, I am noticed. I notice.

Everywhere in this body, trees. And all the branches that curl around me attached to the others are not attached to me.

All this skin– that will soon be paper– drips of rain and afternoon excursions. Sap replaces blood. Grass is my footwear.

I am itchy, but wait for a darling poet to lean against me, and rub out my knots.

This quest for love has gotten me lost again. This map is torn at the corner and missing a slice of middle america.

I’ve used my passport enough times to understand how to present it.

I’ve been hired as a muse. I get paid to read poems and _________ .

How many clicks of heel or appointments of analysis or carvings of life into flesh to prove containment of love for myself.

I asked them to fall in love with me again but my letter got lost and they keep moving further and further into the wild. There is no internet access in the ocean.

Meditate ten minutes every mo(u)rning, then fall asleep from the germs housing a riot in your body. Awake eight days later to lunch of salt-water diet and handkerchiefs.

“For some persons, meditation, contemplation, prayer indicate that there is an emptiness already built into each body and it is that which (paradoxically) makes them feel at home in the cosmos.”     –Fanny Howe.

How not to get used to all this. Stop reading local newspaper and internet scroll-downs. Stop passing by handsome humans without asking them for coffee. Make the first move sometimes. Live inside present-tense, realizing the past can still guide you but does not have to define you. Where there is empty can be filled. Do not wait for another to fill it. Every breath is a possible movement toward self-kindness and forgiveness. This body does not have to be labeled. It can gather up a respective blur from each intentional push away from gender-normativity. And when love is found, they will appreciate the way your bones articulate their political movement. There is no such thing as stopping. Everything continues… continue on.

tell me something you promised you wouldn’t tell

You told me during the hours of one day ending and another’s approach.
You explained it was because of your eleventh year of breath-control and that time.
You wanted to illustrate the reason you need to be choked.
You check-in to places to convince others you are going places.
You have never loved while loving while being loved while making love.

Sometimes I wish I had driven with you in rented taxi to airport.
Sometimes I think about bi dissecting my sexuality.
Sometimes I need to stuff my body with plasma to make sure it still churns in me.
Sometimes I need to talk about drugs to stop myself from doing them.

You said it was always something like love but could only exhibit it through hate mail.
You falsified your resume.
You cheated on your diet and lied about last night’s dream sequence.
You wished you had been a drifter instead of an academic.
You’ve never been monogamous.

Sometimes I dream that you are in front of me and we are eating calzones on your rooftop.
Sometimes I think I might have lost my cells on your mattress.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if my hair went away.
Sometimes I need to be abstract so you will ask me what all of this means.

“the truth is romantic”

for M.M.

I prefer dandelions to roses

I stole a tube of lipstick once and pants and

When I am nervous, I bite the flaps of length on my fingernails, I drink coffee, I pretend I am a boy, I pretend I am ok, I write hate letters into my body, I write a poem, I speak a poem, I fall in love.

I want to carve trees like my body and ask them to be my mirror

I’m afraid if I bring my hair back to its original colour I will be invisible again

The truth is I am having an affair with the tree outside my window. My apartment is too small for its branches and bark to squeeze in and find warmth in my bed at night. I watch snow slap against its leaves. I study the branches, fallen yet still attached. Phantom limbs still haunting. I feel like maybe it loves me back. I feel like maybe it can love me unlike anyone has (or can). I will call it Arbutus. I will call it Sapped. I will call it Rings of Future Parchment. I will call it when I am lonesome. I will ask it it’s preferred pronoun. I will ask it if it prefers green tea to earl. I will ask if it is hungry. I will ask it to climb out of the earth and run away with me.

I cannot forgive my mother

I never loved you

I never stopped

The truth is I am sensing decay on my hip. The truth is my hair is falling out because of the red because of the pull because of the knots because of that time I decided the dirt needed to remain to remind me who I am.

I want to get rid of these things. Haul them toward the corner and allow passersby to rummage, jump into, steal my life

I’m planning a run-a-way

I am addicted to photographs of (other people’s) homes because I still haven’t found one yet

The truth is when I learned of their upcoming divorce, I weeped. A silent, dry weep because I was surrounded by bad lighting and the aroma of punch cards and workday. Through (their) divorce, comes confession of real love, the kind of love that surpasses jewelry stolen from the earth and ceremonies and wedding cake and registries and 2.5 statistical children. The kind of love that acknowledges the inequality of queer love surrounding them. So a piece of paper is turned to confetti and (their) love still screams just as loud. No, LOUDER.

I am not sure I am entirely comfortable with “she” but I do not want “he”. I want to be called slash/ or inbetween/ or undecided/ or animal

The truth is my body used to be shaped as a mailbox on corners without the blue without the metal. And now my body is shaped as a form letter and now my body is an unexpressed apology and my body is a collision of accidents and my body is in need of a bath where water comes from ocean not faucet and tub is really just another body engulfing me.

to be no(body)

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 booksnext 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.