How to Stay Informed

first published by great weather for MEDIA

 

Forget the headlines, translate the ink left weeping on your fingertips. It can be difficult to turn the page. They title it war as though it is different this time. You locate a run-on sentence on page nine, so you hitch a ride on one of its commas. They misspelled DEMOCRACY. Whose news is this, anyway? Afterwards, you search for an antonym for FREEDOM and all you see is red, white, blue. Just stop reading. Instead, walk outside and photograph everything that doesn’t move. You still need to stay informed, so you skip to the end and scoop out the middle. You ask the stranger beside you to read it to you. Coffee spills over the paragraphs and in the blur, you feel free again. But when it dries, your brain paralyzes from another re-run of violence.

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Upcoming Performances

I’m excited to read some new work…….hope you can make it!

Tuesday, November 21st, I will be reading poems at BIG WORDS, ETC reading series at 61 Local located at 61 Bergen St in Brooklyn. The event is from 6-8pm. Celebrate some wonderful writers exploring the theme of 5 more minutes! 

Friday, December 1st,  I get to celebrate Three Rooms Press’s Prose! Poetry! Party! at Cornelia Street Cafe located at 29 Cornelia St. in NYC from 6-8pm. This event is $10, but it includes a drink. What a great line-up of writers including Meagan Brothers, David Lawton, Jane LeCroy, Karen Hildebrand, Jane Ormerod, Robert Gibbons, and more! Hosted by the marvelous Peter Carlaftes and Kat Georges.

Upcoming Performances!

My poetryband Hydrogen Junkbox featuring David Lawton, Zita Zenda, Starchilde and I will be performing on Friday, November 3rd at Cornelia Street Cafe from 6-8pm. It will be an evening of poetry and music. Come hear some of our new songs!!! The night will also be featuring Obsidian and Matthew Hupert. Plus….a limited open mic, so bring something to read if you dare! It is $10, which includes a drink.

Cornelia Street Cafe is located at 29 Cornelia St. in NYC. 

THEN…..join me the next day on Saturday, November 4th for a Brevitas reading at Parkside Lounge located at 318 E. Houston St. in NYC for a smorgasbord of poets reading short poems from 2-6pm. Two drink minimum (they have non-alcoholic beverages as well).

You are a Rarity!

first published by great weather for MEDIA

 

I am waiting for the 4 train at Fulton station. Bodies surround me like a parade of run-on sentences. We are all experiencing this madness of human congestion together. I am pressed against the wall because there is nowhere else to lean. A human walks past me wearing legs longer than Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. Another passes me by and if I were to press adjectives shaped as boxes into their skin, they’d all combat each other. Some humans just cannot be labeled. They are rare; they are unclassifiable.

Or. Maybe I am looking at this all wrong. All humans cannot be labeled. We are all rare; we are all unclassifiable.

In a recent article by Laura Haines about the complexity of gender, “Not as Simple as XX or XY”, she wrote, “…rare is not a reason to dismiss possibility or to dismiss a real person’s humanity. Rare still exists. Rare walks around and has feelings, faith, needs, and rights. If anything at all, rare should move us to expand our horizons along the planes of love, grace, and acceptance.”

I spread this quote onto the board at school and ask my students what this means to them. We break down the various meanings hidden inside rare: unique, different, other, special.

I ask them: Are you rare? Do you want to be rare?

This conversation comes out of one that arrived a few weeks ago when we were discussing the openness of identity. Can someone choose their identity? I asked. And can it change? Or must it be static?

When we are approached by something or someone we do not understand, it can be difficult to know what to say. It may feel like a challenge to learn them. Sometimes we just walk away or we make assumptions. This just creates a further gap between us.

A student answered, “It’s confusing when I don’t know how to approach someone.”

I said, “If we judged every book by its cover, we’d be severely disappointed. The best parts are the words. You miss out when you don’t even take a moment to peer inside.”

In an interview, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates said, “You are your body” and in class we talked about all the ways we are pushed out of it. When we do not look like someone recognizable, we are isolated. Called names. Misunderstood.

In a world where we are replacing our tongues with loaded guns and speaking through them, I fear that we are forgetting the beauty of rarities. When I don’t understand something, I ask questions. A lot of them. I want to understand. I want to learn the language of as many identities as I can; in fact, I am still learning mine.

I want to be rare and I want to live in a world where oddities are celebrated, not removed.

Just think of every time you learned a new word and it brought you closer to seeing more clearly, to articulating yourself more and the world around you. People….especially the rare ones…can offer you that too.

Learning How to Jump

Every bridge I have ever jumped from has talked back to me.

The story of my body has seven alternate endings and a fold-out atlas stapled to the middle. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, but when I turn to the page I want, it is missing.

The first time I jumped, it was several hours past midnight. Somehow the sun had confused itself again with the stars. The sun fractured into neon confetti and fell from the sky. As I jumped, what appeared to be illuminated starfish stuck to my skin. I survived with two scraped knees and a cracked tooth.

Have you ever spent an afternoon weeping over the dismemberment of Pluto?            I have.

The story of my body can be unwrapped in chapters, but they are disordered, of course.

The second time I jumped, the cables and bolts from the Brooklyn Bridge came undone. I slid down, down into the water and climbed toward the ocean’s floor. I ate lunch with a mermaid with braided buildings in her hair. She begged me to stay forever; her voice sounded like smoke and hummingbirds in love. When I ran out of oxygen and conversation topics, I floated back up dripping a trail of salt and sandwich crumbs.

Allergic Reaction

first published by great weather for MEDIA

 

 

It all began with an eyelash. Perhaps poison ivy found in Marquette, Nebraska. Or maybe some dust mites.

After returning from a two-week trip out west, I found myself in the ER of a hospital room in Brooklyn, covered in curious and extremely itchy red marks. As usual, I do my best to pretend away my body but when the blotches spread to my eye, my spouse insisted on a medical intervention.

As we waited, I tried my hardest not to itch, so I forced my attention toward the television above me. A new game show where contestants could win up to one million dollars just for naming that tune! I had twenty dollars in my wallet and two college degrees.

I always know I’m really sick when my appetite goes away. I usually dream about dinner while I’m eating lunch, so after spending an entire day with maybe 100 calories in me, I knew something was wrong.

I stared at the welts of varying shapes on my arms, legs, two on my belly, gathering beside my hairline. I imagined being this itchy for the rest of my life.

The smell of the waiting room was a mixture of fast food, sour cologne, and August sweat. I turned toward my mate and said, “Remember that eyelash? I can’t remember what state that was.”

“Minnesota, I think.”

“Yeah,” I paused. “I wished I were dead.”

I’m unclear where the tradition started that a stray eyelash gave permission for one wish if blown off the tip of a finger. But I feel like it had always been there.

I started to cry or maybe I hadn’t stopped.

“Do you still feel that way?”

“Not right now,” I spoke.

“I think it was from the dog’s fur, actually. I don’t think it was an eyelash.”

When my name was finally called, the nurse weighed me and asked about height and habits. Then she sent me back to the waiting room until the doctor was available.

Recently, an almost-stranger grabbed my forearm and asked about the state of my skin. “You get attacked by some zoo animals?” they asked.

I can’t remember any time I understood my skin. It was never smooth and unbothered. And if it was, those memories have all dug themselves away.

When my name was finally called again, I was sent to a room with beds beside each other. “Take the second one,” a nurse instructed.

A young, long-lashed physician assistant approached me. I removed my sweater, so she could observe all of my itchy constellations.

I watched her burnt caramel eyes approach a diagnosis.. “Any idea what this might be?”

Suddenly, I panicked. I’m paying $150 to diagnose myself?

“I’ve been traveling the past two weeks, so I’ve experienced different environments. Been outside a lot. Maybe…poison ivy? I’m extremely allergic.”

“Everyone is, really,” the doctor said.

“I don’t know. Maybe bug bites?” I don’t mention the eyelash and my fear that wishes (if wished enough) do come true. I don’t mention my fear that these welts are the beginning of my end.

“I’m gonna put you on steroids for a few days and some Benadryl.”

“But you don’t know what this is. But—”

“They’re all treated the same,” the doctor interrupts.

I used to be allergic to milk. Then, perfume. For a significant portion of my life: men. On and off, I’m also allergic to any derivative of happiness.

I’ve wished on eyelashes my whole life. Over three decades of birthday candle wishes. Two or three shooting stars. I have no memory of any wishes coming true.

Day three of these unconfirmed mountains of itchiness and I do my best NOT TO ITCH. My spouse tells me they are fading. I wish I could wish this itch away, but I’ve sworn myself away from fallen eyelashes and my birthday is a long way off.