The Sum of Calendars

I am trying to let go of something

–Tracy K. Smith


It feels like cold sore body gristle cracked molar memory of sixteen to nineteen

Misshapen elastic mourning its taut, its firm, its locked box casing

It feels like that time you learned Lucille Ball died while on the way to family Thanksgiving or Grandma’s grave or synagogue or some other place that triggered loneliness

You awake from a dream where all your teeth have been replaced with slurs. You try to sound out help or hungry or not now but all that comes out are four letter words bleeped out on the radio

Remember when your body was new. A gift-wrapped holiday. Upright and without all its springs popped. Yesterday, your veins started scratching their way out of each thigh. Morse code of aging. You want to call them beautiful; all that comes out is malnourished spider legs.

You are trying to let go of something. Of every organ which has grown slightly off-kilter. Of your misshapen brain, congealed due to improper adolescence. Of every time your welcome mat was set on fire.

One day, you will go on a bike ride. Your ears will be unplugged, just waiting to surf over wind and traffic. You will notice that your muscles can take you away but also bring you back home. You will lose your breath but something inside you will locate more. You will cry because every time your body moves, it remembers. It remembers. You may howl because sometimes you feel like a cone snail or a saltwater crocodile but you just can’t seem to commit to danger, so you keep pedaling. With every block, you let go. Back there, fingerprints from that time. Three pounds of hair, a partially lobotomized fingernail, some skin ready to flee, spit, all gone. You are something else; you are everything you were; you are nothing from before; you are all of it; the sum of calendars. You are still here. As you check your imaginary rearview window, you can see its blur miles behind you. You really wanted to let go. You were really hoping it wouldn’t follow. So you keep pedaling; you keep panting; you keep pushing your way out of __________ .

on relocating

What is it to move? We need no suitcases nor giant truck full of our belongings to engage in this verb.

To move is to extend body into another place.

To move is to take up space.

To move is to spread language like slow-churned butter onto walls and over potholes and between bricks on buildings.

To move is to understand where you began and where you have lead yourself.

Recently, I have relocated. Not to a faraway land, but a different part of a familiar borough. With ceilings far longer than arms’ reach and backyard and sun drenched walls. With built-in bookcases by fairy-tale landlord. With smells of poetry and granola wafting within each room.

As I packed in preparation for this new space, I found myself touching everything I own and asking why it still exists. In the land of New York where closets are deemed as “an extra bedroom” and square footage is comparable to some people’s weights, it can be difficult to hold onto things. So, I created piles: to keep, to give away, to leave behind.

I come from a long lineage of “hoarders”. But please do not be mistaken. We are of a people not fit for television reality show; instead, we hoard memories. And the dust that gathers on recollections can be fierce and overpowering.

Just yesterday, my too-good-to-be-true-but-he-is landlord spoke this advice: Sometimes it’s important to just let go of things. Ask yourself if you are ‘in need of it’ or if ‘it defines you’. And what that even means. In the end, sometimes it’s best to just photograph the ‘memory’. Because even if you throw ‘it’ away, the memory still exists. No garbage can can take that away.

the caloric intake of a memory

(first published by great weather for MEDIA)

Does this memory make me look fat?


You ask yourself this, posing into your dusty mirror—slightly warped—purchased for less than twenty dollars at bodega four blocks away from your apartment—two apartments ago.

But really, she speak out loud, take a look at this excess? I’m sucking it in in in, can you see the ribs of my memory now?

You start each day the same. Peel skin out of bed, warm enough to be called a coffin or mouth, but it is just a bed, sheets purchased by your lover, color of August sky minutes before thunder (shade of sheets, not your lover).

You engage in two minutes of yoga-inspired plank position, where you hold your body up in push-up mode, similar to push up without the up down rotation. During these two minutes you try to rid yourself of the impressions of dreams suctioned to your thighs. You just know that during your sleep you gained at least three ounces from that nightmare inspired by your childhood, ages eleven through eighteen.

You breathe. But even this concerns you, as you find with each inhale you are breathing in dust and dead skin and that’s got to weigh something.

You exhale and slowly lift yourself back to ground, which you notice has not been swept or mopped in at least a month. You look at the gangs of hair haunting your floorboards. That’s got to count for something, you think. You subtract two numbers from your total weight for the detached strands and skin cells no longer weighing on you.

Coffee comes next.

Water is free, so anything predominantly made with it must be okay, you think. You think.

Suddenly, a memory. Of your mother. Sitting at kitchen table no longer in possession of any of your family members (sold/given away….when…garage sale?…). She is hunched over in night clothes—oversized T-shirt and thin shorts—drinking instant coffee out of mug that could have been called bowl, color of white and stains. You are across from her, fidgeting with your body: fingernails, hair, plague of your protruding secrets.

This memory is unclear, so it contains less than one hundred calories.

But then you begin to ponder longer. You cannot recall if this is the morning you head off to school with suicide note in back pocket for later.

You cannot remember if this is the day before you slip your tongue down ___’s throat for the first time solidifying your queer.

Was this the morning you ran away, to that park, the one with your initials dug into two benches, the one where your mother confessed years later to fearing she’d find you hung from a tree?

Suddenly, this memory has doubled. Tripled in caloric value and it’s at least seventeen grams of fat now. The bad kind of fat, too.

You sip your coffee.

You fidget for three minutes, non-stop, in order to burn some fat away. You suck in in in your skin, trying to forget.

After coffee, shower.

Here, you must be removing something.

Here, you scrub. With loofah. With pumice. With fingernails. You dig at your skin knowing flesh is like earth—you dig and dig and dig, yet the bottom seems unreachable.

You masturbate. This is not to turn you (reader) on. This is not to turn you (human) on. This is simply to dig more out. More numbers. More excess. You pull out your orgasm as though it is that magic trick with scarf up sleeve. You watch it drift down the drain.

Minus five pounds?

After shower, you dress. Here, all the hard work of removing and thinning is wasted. You climb more threads onto your skin than any mathematician could possibly count. You put on pants that suck it inin in. You button up shirt that hides it. You put on scarf that conceals it. You wear jacket that zips all of it in.

You leave. Hunt the earth as though none of these numbers count. You smile, engage in laughter knowing it is an exercise worthy of at least ten calories depending upon the length.

The memories keep coming. Each time, you excuse yourself to the washroom to purge. Force finger down throat to puke up your adolescence and your twenties and those few ones in your early thirties. You keep all that bile in toilet, taunting its smell with your resilient inhales.

Breathing in and in and in.

Because it can be difficult to flush away what once was and may still be.


Experiment #3,403: Create a word that hasn’t existed before this moment. Break the rules with crashing two words together or make a sound birthed between your lips for the very first time. See what arrives.

Traumasement – (noun)-  the hidden area of one’s mind/body where haunting memories are kept.

Winter. Several years past millenium. I sit in style of meditation. Swallow fist of hangnails and crooked knuckles as I unhinge clasp toward traumasement, peel away cobwebs like puffs of sticky smoke and begin to address. Begin to read the footnotes of misery.

Here, in the traumasement, I sniff dust like invisible particles of cocaine, coughing up bloody remnants of the bones of my memories.

tell it like you remember

It was a Sunday, but it may have been a Thursday. It was cold enough to forget what sweating felt like or it may have been summer. There was a rainbow in the sky or printed on someone’s shirt. There were birds flying toward another patch of sky. Or it may have been empty.

There was a pile of letters on the ground as though a postal worker had fallen and all this paper represented the remains.

Someone sprayed graffiti on a building or fence and it read:   Never Fall. In Love.

You had just eaten a lunch of seventeen sandwiches or cold soup or it may have been breakfast time and all you ate were coffee grounds and haunts from sleep.

It was sometime after 8pm. Before midnight and nowhere near 11pm.

Everyone you passed smelled like buttercream and anise. Frosted black licorice. Your tongue was sore from licking itself.

You were not in love for the first time in over a decade.

Your teeth were like picket signs in your mouth in search of a cause to bite into.

Someone may have asked for your phone number. Or your order. Or if you could move aside because you were blocking an entrance.

Did I mention it was cold out?

It was definitely February. Probably March. It wasn’t October.

There was talk of poetry or philosophical medical jargon.

Someone was playing an instrument or it could have been the finely-tuned chorus of harmonized voices in your head.

Nope, definitely some strings.

You were wearing elbows and fingernails.

No one kissed you but you could taste the breath of another on your shoulders.

At some point, your wrist reminded you that time is never important. Numbers only exist for those who can add. Sometimes time is just about what your appetite and eyes call for.

There was a rainbow and it existed in three hundred and thirty-four shades of burgundy.

day 29: edit away the disturb of loneliness.

“Be good and you will be lonesome,” said Mark Twain.

Silence can be so loud, you have a difficult time connecting to breaths. However, silence can also be a song you memorize and never forget the words to. It’s melody will become like a harmonized history of everything you ever called beautiful.

They called you good. They said, You agree to too much and you give in.

So, you stop. You fold your tongue into intricate origami contraptions. Your taste buds turn into swans and kayaks and butterflies and boxes.

There is so much generosity beneath your fingernails, which is why you bite them. With each spit of keratin across the room, you are spreading this munificence everywhere you go.

Your yawns do not need to be introduced. You can laugh at a joke that remains inside you.

Why is loneliness such a whisper? Have you even memorized the various octaves of your sighs and gulps? Scream out your alone and be inside the gloriousness of solitude.

day 27: tracking.

It took you three thousand, two hundred and eighty-five days to get here. You fell in love three and a half more times with six people. You lost a pregnancy; you lost three gloves. You gained weight, several new words and two college degrees. You cut your hair; you lost your hair; you bought some hair. You learned about mountain top removal and composting. You read several books you cannot recall and you wrote some books. There were fourteen blackouts: several from various weather configurations, one due to a past due bill and the others connected to your inability to curb your alcoholism. You took a bath. You learned how to knit. You purchased a mattress and almost fell off a fire escape due to your inability to curb your alcoholism. You became sober. You cooked the most delicious meal for yourself. You learned how to banter. You took one thousand and ninety-five naps. You grew an affection for hard-boiled eggs. You had a biopsy. You moved nine times. You applied for health insurance; you acquired a primary care physician. You gained more weight. You fell in love for an evening. You purchased a pet. You lost your pet. You learned how to play a musical instrument; you lost seventeen friends. You traveled overseas; you took a road trip. You contemplated lipstick. You purchased two succulents. You tried Nattō. You had three affairs minus the six you do not mention. You still bite your nails. You still collect stamps and phone numbers. You still forget to breathe sometimes. You still fall asleep hungry some nights. You still think of _____. You still do not know how to crochet or apologize correctly. You are still alone; you are constantly surrounded. You still desire stillness. You are still learning. You are still drafting drifting dreaming.

Day 19: connect

Reunion with your past.

Complete the sentence of a memory, but do not add on. This is defined as closure.

Romanticizing ex-lovers only elongates the haunt. Connect with what still lingers and then find your way through and back into the present.

Your past is a stomping ground. That dive bar you used to frequent with the best fries and local beer. You always forget about the time that man grabbed you or how about the time you got sick from that burger you ate from there. Your memory leaves out the details of what went wrong. When it comes to your past’s memories, do not overstay your welcome.

Reconnect, but only to create a punctuation mark to an affair. Do not linger. It is not only disrespectful to the present, but your future.

If you must, choose a date circled in your calendar from several years earlier when you spent sixteen hours alone, covered in soil and fumes of campfire. Remember the howl of mayflies and panoramic slideshow of constellations at night. Remember you read poetry to the hidden wildlife. You roasted marshmallows and fell asleep to the whistling wind.

There are bits of past that deserve a rerun; these are the moments that you can bring into your present and stitch into your future. These are the moments that do not plague you. Instead, they become a reminder of all that you are capable of being.

day 16: dream.

You dream you are a fountain with water the color of birds and hunger. The air whispers abstracts of books you’ve forgotten to read. You are visited by a former love interest with palms full of saffron and Gabriel García Márquez magic. Your breath tastes of overripe bananas and nettle. You crave seaweed and sonnets. There are no walls, only doors with windows for knobs, so you cannot leave, but you can see out. See through. There is wood. Seven spiders wearing rouge and running shoes. There is emptiness. Or, a feeling of it. You hunger for dashes. You thirst for chandeliers and train tracks. None of this makes sense and yet, suddenly there is clarity.

day 15: re/in(carnation)

“People don’t become what they were brought up to be, people become themselves.”
Sarah Schulman

You walk into a room and swallow as many cellular structures as you can. You ask yourself: was this table, etched with unclear floral arrangements, ever someone with limbs? 

Furthermore, you wonder: how much of what we once were parts of what we are right now.

You have begun to romanticize reincarnation as though it were a new love interest. You bat your eyes toward flashes of memory. You are unclear if these are your theatrical trailers of lives once lived, or just scattered bits of movies and conversations you’ve devoured on lonely nights.

When do you officially become?

You were brought up to leave your elbows behind when eating at the table. Back erect and hair untouched while food fondled your lips. You were brought up never to cuss or complain. You were taught homosexuality was a sin, so you left yourself behind for two decades. You were told to keep your hair long in order to be approachable. You were trained to walk away from who you felt you were.

Or are we perpetually becoming?

You decide humans are always humans and do not reincarnate into inanimate objects like stones or light bulbs, but trees and water are a grey area, since they move.

So, you may have been drops of water in that lake you swam in upstate this summer. And you may have been splinters stuck inside the tree you straddle in the summertime during moments of mourning. And you might have been a slice of paper in a notebook that someone somewhere wrote poems in once.

Perhaps we are in constant modes of arrival.

Perhaps we never arrive, instead we transform into various shapes and sounds; there is no stopping point; there is no complete. There is just being.