City Porn (it’s not what you think)

first published by great weather for MEDIA


When Brooklyn felt too heavy to hold onto, I moved to Boulder, Colorado. There, I continued my undergraduate degree (which by that time spanned seven years) and gave myself permission to slow down.

The mountains became my new lover; I strutted my nude to them every morning against large window overlooking their height and contours.

Being away from New York allowed me time to see other ways of living. I breathed in the smell of earth, minus the impressively potent stench of urine. Buildings were uninterrupted by graffiti. Bricks were just bricks. Bars and businesses closed earlier than I was used to, but this just gifted me more hours of sleep.

As the weeks and months fell at my feet, I found myself longing for the smells and sirens of New York. During the day, I was present in Colorado. At night, I fantasized about Brooklyn and the boroughs that suddenly seemed too far away.

I began romantic entanglements with woman, and as we’d knock our lips together, I thought about 4th Avenue where I had a panic attack outside a gay bar and had to get nine stitches in my chin. I made love to a hippie, while imagining West 4th Street serenading me, signing its Stonewall history into my skin. I had a brief affair with a slam poet, but all I could think about was Prospect Park during Autumn with the leaves straddling several shades of red and orange and the music of their crunch against green and brown ground.

One year plus some weeks and months into my Rocky Mountain relocation, and I am sitting in a waiting room, about fifteen minutes early for my therapy appointment. I peruse the coffee table full of well-read magazines and almost gasp when I notice a surprising old friend: Time Out New York. At the time, I thought it odd to be sitting there, a periodical tease, flaunting its lit readings and gallery openings.

I looked around me as though I was picking up a dirty magazine, flipping to the centerfold. I felt so guilty, knowing once I opened it, I’d be reminded of all I was missing. So, I frantically flipped, before anyone came out.

Now, I am not exaggerating when I confess that I was sweating. Triathlon sweat. Walking across country wearing wool socks and an overcoat in August sweat.

It felt just like sex often does: every vein being tangled with, coupled with guilt and remorse. I scanned the museums, angry that I was missing an exhibition with Marina Abramovic. I noted my favorite novelist was doing a book signing. A new restaurant had opened in my old neighborhood. All the photos of all the people taunted me with their big city happiness. I was reaching my orgasm and it was actually real this time. I threw the magazine across the room, just before my therapist opened her door and gestured for me to come in.

I spent just over three years in Colorado and in that time, I lived in five different apartments: a studio, two bedroom where I lived with a hoarder, another studio where the building became infiltrated with bed bugs, a one bedroom with my partner and dog, and then the bottom floor of a house with porch, backyard and nearby ice cream shop. New York never left me, even though I tried to lose its number. I distracted myself with quinoa and kale (two words I never uttered before moving to Colorado). I became a full-time hippie, with dreadlocks and body hair and bare feet and……I’m not sure how any of that correlates to being a bohemian, but I felt free. Free‘er. 

And when no one was looking, I got out my Time Out New York, hidden beneath mattress, old Metro card, tiny bits of paper with directions to various city haunts, took off all my clothes and masturbated to the memory of my favorite city.

It’s been over six years that I’ve been back in Brooklyn and suddenly, I find myself daydreaming again of the city I disregarded. At night, when New York City finally sleeps, I reach underneath mattress and find atlas with dog-eared page for Colorado, fingering East Colfax Avenue and route 287, dreaming of the Rockies….

the gender of clothes (shopping)

I used to dress this way. I owned some skirts and I didn’t mind the jutting of wire beneath breasts–its intention to lift and raise and press firmly together.

Although I still draped myself in polyester pre-owned fabrics, I could also be found wearing curved-neck’d shirts and sometimes eye shadow (though I still haven’t learned how to properly rub it on). I owned some dresses and had shirts that could be called tops, purchased in stores that had no men’s section.

What does it mean to attach gender to a garment? This is not about wearing a tie (though I can often be found with one around my neck); this is not about wearing a vest or slacks or even converse or bandanas.

Yes, I often strap my breasts down as though they are wild animals and need to be caged. But it’s not about that either.

I guess I just want to be one of those hardcover books you find at stoop sales. No fancy jacket with summarized description of text. Not even a title or author sometimes. Sometimes there is a hint of its contents, but often the blurs become an androgynous unknown. You will need to skim and reread, question and annotate in order to really gather its intention and exquisitely intricate existence. There will be twists and turns, perhaps even a choose-your-own-adventure sort of thing.


My dad and I are leaning against a clothing rack as his partner shops for clothes in a small town in Connecticut. I love her enough to forego my hatred for shopping and stores that do not go beyond a size zero (even with hushed-in-the-back plus-size section). Surrounding me are thin fabrics, see-through blouses, and half-skirts. Studded bras. Cropped sweaters. Leggings and pants tighter than surgically stretched out skin. A woman named Jenica wearing name tag and headset, sings along to the piped in music. Jenica walks up to me and asks to read my body. I turn my arm toward her as she reads my tattoos. Then she takes in my attire, which does not quite match the feminized fabrics robotically hung all around me.

You like old things, Jenica says. I can tell.

Yes, I reply. I like when the elastic has been worn away by a stranger’s body with occasional life stains in inconspicuous spaces.

Jenica tells me about growing up in the Bronx. Missing only two things about New York: the ability to eat anything at all hours and the nightlife. I want to add to her list: Prospect Park, the benches along eastern parkway, the poets, the magical collisions of humans finding each other even amidst severe overpopulation, the music, the graffiti, the pigeons. Instead, I just smile.

I love that Jenica isn’t trying to sell me anything here. She doesn’t tell me how great that dress over there would look on me. Nor does she persuade me to try on that glittery pair of high heeled monsters closest to the door. Jenica and I have an unspoken agreement that I am just a visitor. There is no section that includes my body’s gender.

I think about clothes as I prepare to attend a friend’s wedding. Just wear a dress, I am told. I already have one, purchased for a different wedding from a different time that felt awkward then too. Although it still hangs in my closet, my body refuses its existence.

I’m going to wear a pair of fancy slacks, a button down shirt, tie, vest….

Suddenly I am interrupted by my sister. No. Please don’t wear a tie and vest. (As though anyone would even be looking at anyone besides that beautiful bride.)

I have been wearing ties for many, many years, but just within the past three or so I have been wearing vests quite regularly. Perhaps they feel like armor. Bullet-proof gender concealers. Slick and sexy flaps of open fabric. I feel most handsome in this.

I have never been a good dresser, and haven’t really cared enough to spend entire paychecks on denim or famously labeled shirts. I’d rather pay my rent or buy a book. But I am learning that since I want to be this smelly old book found on a Brooklyn stoop for 25 cents without title or cover art, I am often misread. So here is my synopsis:

Human arrives wearing red and scratches. Falls in love. There is a death somewhere. There is a collapse of language and after the fall, new words arrive. There is no rainbow or acronym or if there is, this Human cannot be found in just one letter or color. There are some fights. There is a contemplation of sanity. There are many meals and family and then Human relocates. Then Human chooses poetry over employment. Human lives in a yurt with another named Rebel. Human is a bit blurry and quite hairy and has so many knots that there are too many tangles to mention. There is an engagement. There are apologies. In this book, there are no clothes or defining hairstyles. Human prefers nudity. There may be a sequel.

a marathon of poetry

My dad says, “What you do on new year’s day is what you will do for the rest of the year.”

So, I am very careful on this first day, overanalyzing my thoughts and steps. Don’t think that, Aimee. Or: Be more mindful/kind/slow/grateful.

Day begins with warmth. An unzipped sky, blue nude. Wind still asleep as windows remain still and unbothered. Breakfast with another. With a Poet. With a scholar. With one who can match my appetite. This year begins with satiation. Then, a walk beneath subtle shake of snow from above. Slow-motion drizzle of icy beads. We part and I travel underground.

I spend eight hours listening to a marathon of poetry at one of my favorite theatres, surrounded by humans who offer me medicine I do not need healthcare to cover. My skin trembles away from my bones. This is what it feels like to feel alive.

Declarations. Mourning. Tributes. Music. Movement of a body drenched in synthetic skin. One who seizures out sonnets. One who disengages his jaw to let us all fit inside. One who removes his pants. One who no longer needs a microphone to be heard.

There are no promises this year, other than to be alive. To remain like a heartbeat in this earth a little longer. See what that feels like.


Sometimes it happens in a way we forget to recognize. You with a friend and your mouths are open, words arriving, weaving in and out of each other and the subway arrives without a wait. Without a delay. You both get on without acknowledging this moment: stepping away from the New York air into the dungeon of underground trains and not having to think about how long the pause will be.

Sometimes you meet someone. Here’s an image: you notice her bum or the way she laughs with vibrating lips or her accent or her haircut. Wrong gender? OK: you notice his collarbone or the way his pattern of stubble looks like a constellation you used to memorize or his neck, which is almost too skinny for swallowing and yet its strength is what impales your attraction. You’re not equipped for this. You are getting over someone; you recently lost someone; you are unemployed or just starting a new job and you are busy or you’re too tired or the possibility of allowing someone new to learn you is unbearably stressful. Yet here is this human and your body is magnetic when they are around, propelling you closer. And love? Love. Wait, love? Well, sometimes it happens when you just don’t want it to like breaths or weight gain.

Sometimes you have to travel over an hour just to receive a paycheck that is so low it seems spent even before you rip off the perforated parts. But you go back and forth several times a week; sometimes you feel like the earth is getting stronger but sometimes it feels like your language is lost or expired. You are weary and exhausted and you don’t even have enough time some days to take your medicine write your poems. But then you get a phone call because maybe you can write a cover letter and maybe all that time spent misusing your body and melting your mind led to these newer years of reclaiming your body and reengaging with your mind. So perhaps the paycheck will finally grow muscles and although your commute may be the same, think of all those books that can be read written just from all that waiting.

survivor’s guilt

My mother and father are Jewish. So is my sister and her husband and their child. My cousins are Jewish too. So are my aunts and uncles. I am an atheist.

I grew up feeling guilty even when there was no cause for it. It is in my blood, (or this is what my ancestors say).

To wake up in an apartment with free warmth and free hot water and electricity in every room, lurking from every outlet, with a bed and clean sheets and windows without cracks and a working refrigerator keeping my perishables safe where my vegetable drawer is full from the farmer’s market where my closet has hangers hugging shirts and jackets and my floor is clean without holes or water damage and there is a roof above me and it appears secure.

To wake up.

To wake up with a father just one state away and a mother just a bus or train ride away and a sister just a bike ride away.

To wake up with love dripping from my wrists and hiding behind my ears and whispering from my calendar.

To wake up with a job to go to. Two jobs to go to. Four…including the ones that don’t always pay me.

To wake up without a cough or suspicious flu in my body. To wake without the need for medication. Without the need for hidden drugs in boxes, tucked away in the back of closet.

To wake.

I am an atheist and I believe in nothing and I believe that maybe I can believe in something someday when the haunt subsides. When the guilt goes away. When I start to really imagine life without having a secret affair with death.

To survive when others have not is not a feeling of relief. It reeks with the aroma of unworthiness. Music plays and all I can hear is why me why me why me why me why me why me why me why me why me why me why me why mewhy me why me why me why me why me why me why me why me.

Must I believe in some thing in order to make sense of this?

there is a subway between my legs

My vagina has been recalled. I’m having a difficult time finding a box big enough or deep enough to send it back. How many stamps will it need? Should I include a post-it of instructions. How to treat it. I want to know if it will be discarded or distributed as recycled paraphernalia.

My cunt is a Basquiat graffiti tag…

I was recently asked to draw it. What does it look like and should I be thinking of shapes like diamonds or triangles rather than New York skyscrapers and underground trains. It’s been awhile since I used a mirror down there and it was tiny and borrowed and barely allowed me enough of a reflection to see far in.

My pussy is an incorrect charge on a credit card slip.

I think I was supposed to draw a flower like O’Keeffe or something drenched in pink like genitals doused in Pepto Bismol. I used a black pen. There is no need for colour. I want to imagine it like a silent movie in black and white and grey tones. Perhaps it is accompanied with a score by Phillip Glass or Yann Tiersen. It is barely friendly, more like a wallflower.

My vagina is an octopus with eight opinions.

And do I need to be connected to it and should I have a bond undisturbed by the ghostly fingerprints ruining its posture.

“I’m not quite sure we are on the same page body (sometimes). I need some time alone. I want to walk around today undisturbed. I am looking to try out some other options. I need you to be okay with this. I don’t want to pretend. Today…today…today I just want something else to be there in your place.”

My cunt is a hibernating bear defying routine. It is a reduced price sale item. Call it pummelo or clementine. Call it an elephant manuscript.

This does not have to be about gender. This does not need a doctor’s slip. Don’t post this. Don’t ask me what I mean when I ask you to call it a thistle blister. Today, you are a 3 train heading uptown. You’re mussed and written on. There are too many men in here. I kick them out. There are crying babies; I kindly ask them to leave. Anyone else still on, I push out too. Now, you are an empty train. My vagina is an empty train. I like it that way.

how native is your tongue

Two small Hispanic men walk onto the 2 train with a guitar and accordion. Their faces turn into spotlights beaming happiness, as their fingers begin pressing keys and plucking strings.

I have no idea what they are singing about, but it doesn’t matter. It is 9:28 am and I am being serenaded on my way to work in one of the most beautiful languages: Spanish.

I have fallen in love with Spanish tongues, slurring curled letters into my ears. When I speak, I don’t always pay attention to where my teeth go or if my tongue touches them or if my lips grow into a tiny circle instead of a pushed back parallelogram.

When I am on the subway, my metro card turns into a passport and I become a world traveler. I hear Portugese and Mandarin. I hear Patois and Hebrew. I hear slang and hybrid variations. I wonder if I stayed on long enough, if I could learn enough to call myself trilingual.

I have swallowed a lot of almosts. I almost learned how to properly play clarinet (though I really wanted to learn drums). I almost went to culinary school. I almost got married. I almost lost my life a few times. I almost went to Germany. I almost memorized a poem. I almost fainted the other day. I almost left Brooklyn (again).

In high school, I almost learned Spanish, but I was too preoccupied with trying to die and learning how to understand the directional pattern of my awkwardly growing body and some stuff about my mom and … and … and …

I’d like to practice my tongue roll. I’d like to learn how to read Neruda’s original work, without its English translation. I’d like to sit on the 2 train toward work and not only hear these men singing, but understand them as well.

I’d like to be bilingual.

JUST RELEASED!!!! to go without blinking

to go without blinking

Aimee Herman is a cyborg. Not in the sense of a mixture but: in her impetus. Her desire for a book to be a new kind of thinking and being in the world. As she writes in the startling Statement of Poetics that opens this passionate collection: “This body of text practices trilingualism and contraction. Theories include gender confiscation and syntax dissection.” I liked that. A syntax that records what happens to a body even more than the words themselves. And that’s just page one. Throw away “the color pink,” writes Herman, deeper in. And: “Gender is best received in a question mark.” In not with. I loved that. This is re-wiring where it counts: below the lexicon. Below the public-private register:” where the label was rubbed.” Until there’s nothing left but, as the writer says: “The most dangerous parts of me.” What those “dangerous parts” become, reconfigured, mutilated and grown again, is the text of this “sore” and “feminine” book. A book in which “words” and beloveds, of various kinds: “never stop coming.” What kind of cyborg is this?

—Bhanu Kapil, The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Naropa University.

Gizzards: a word my grandmother used to mean bloody, messy, entangled innards. These are gizzard-poems. Even if the important parts are blurred you can hear the sound of envelopes unlatching, you can become the redhead body for a while. Herman tells us do not approach the scars…disobey her and masturbate while reading this book. Then go snap a pencil in half. Yes, it’s like that.

— Jackie Sheeler, author of Earthquake Came to Harlem

Aimee Herman celebrates and contradicts our expectations in her disturbing juxtapositions of unexpected images. This is a book poised to define the poet’s title and premise: “How can one edit the typos found in scar tissue.” Reading these poems challenges our comfort zone and confronts us with an ever-moving visceral vitality. The poet’s lyrical scrutiny considers all angles and actions as in the “shape of angled knuckles surfing into / independent variable”. She is breaking through taboos of language we never knew we had. Her tangled metaphors morph into surreal visions. Unpredictable, a sexuality of the unexpected that demands our engagement even as the language soaks us ever deeper into inexplicable non-outcomes that riddle like questions in a Zen koan. Experimental and disarmingly playful, these lines are a testimony, a political investigation into a sensuality that refuses conclusion.

— Maureen Owen, author of Erosion’s Pull

Aimee Herman writes so often in the imperative because she and her world insist on the NOW of the body, society, and language. She brings us the world both embodied and cataloged, alienated yet familiar. Her words are a recipe for seeing differently. Blink at your own delicious peril.

— Daphne Gottlieb, author of 15 Ways to Stay Alive

Aimee Herman’s to go without blinking is a visceral, wide eyed, queer movement that creates “sturdy retinas” in those of us who participate. As we enter and perform this book by way of our bodies (our inhabitation) we are nervy-aghast, gasping, slobbering, terrified, aroused. Oh the confessions here– not only the confessions themselves, but the quality of confession amid the varying grits of the unveiled body. This is not a book of the stellar body. It is the core, guttural relation of body to page—it is body and page as planar path, “leaking teeth”—“a need to disrobe to satisfy.” Herman has shown us an unabridged vista of spaces and scenes where power, colonization, detriments and desires are exchanged. Nothing is held back here. We are cut by this book. We are conflated. We are ruined in the best possible ways. to go without blinking’s “tongue is too big for [its] body” and this is where its genius is.

—j/j hastain, author of prurient anarchic omnibus

Aimee Herman, a queer performance poet, has been featured at various New York venues such as the Happy Ending Lounge, Dixon Place, Wow Café Theatre, Perch Café, One & One Bar, Bowery Poetry Club, Public Assembly, and Sidewalk Café. She has performed at reading/performance series such as: In the Flesh erotic salon, Hyper Gender, Sideshow: Queer Literary Carnival, Mike Geffner Presents: The Inspired Word, and Red Umbrella Diaries. Her poetry can be found in Clean Sheets, Cliterature Journal, InStereo Press, Sound Zine, Pregnant Moon Review, and/or journal, Polari Journal, Mad Rush, Lavender Review, and Sous Le Pavre. She can also be read in you say. say. and hell strung and crooked (Uphook Press), Focus on the Fabulous: Colorado LGBT Voices (Johnson Books), Best Women’s Erotica 2010 (Cleis Press), Best Lesbian Love Stories 2010 (Alyson Books), Nice Girls, Naughty Sex (Seal), Women in Lust (Cleis) and The Harder She Comes: Butch Femme Erotica (Cleis Press). She currently works as an erotica editor for Oysters & Chocolate and curates/hosts monthly NYC erotica and GLBT lit readings. She can be found writing poems on her body in Brooklyn.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 156 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-080-4

$16 Buy it from Amazon

excerpts from a window peering through a life

In what year did they begin fire drills? Heads and knees tucked to chest to prep for bombs. I am not united in this front of skin and veins. I think back to those years where we were forced out of class due to called-in bomb threat or preparation for an inferno of flames to melt away the school. Why don’t families have drills like this? Or bodies? Before the cancer or depression or heart attack or mini-stroke, how about a drill?

Andy Flemming throws a three-piece dissected bee at me in science class. I am twelve. He calls me a screen door and I watch the severed insect slide down my paved chest. My three best friends at the time have elevated breasts, regular periods and body hair. They prefer tampons to pads and waxing to razors. Two out of three have already been menstruating for two years. There are no bras in my wardrobe; I wear undershirts. If it weren’t for my nipples, I’d have no idea where my breasts are.

My belly lies against red cotton sheets with limited thread count. I am crying. My fingers smell like my insides. A salt and vinegar soak. I am desperate for an orgasm, instead, my brain channels memories inappropriate for masturbation. How sad to be inside a body that can never be clean enough.

photo by June Liu

countdown toward finalities

file fingertips into sterling silver points

serrated like bread knife, hungry to cut away at words in need of further diagnosis.

work toward revision
enter the poem with questions

photo by Francesca Woodman

don’t make the reader feel dizzy

searched urgency

supper with sadness
press into carbon and oxygen and choke.

[NOTE: Imagine a word with limbs, long enough to be pulled or bent. Imagine a word with pre-determined illness or allergy. The metalanguage conceived in the spread out stanzas or found in the tightly-packed prose poems or couplets can be viewed as odors. A smell takes shape when rubbed against or mixed with the container in which it starts from: food, human, bottle.

think of poems as suicide letters
desperate medications

To exit: how it feels to be entrenched in these poems, write the pain of it, the journey, trauma, translated hurt-songs, scar chants.

{how to} walk off a stage or poem and be normal.

strap magnifying lenses against pupils/ detect hidden fibers defining each line

Get it before she dies and no clarity can be given.

Look away. Diagnose. Crush pills onto tongue repeat daily. Quiet the crazy creative emotive.

How sad to be inside a body that can never be clean enough

Practice the angular motion of disintegration

uniqueness derives from in-
ability to
see all

Notice a tree.
Write about it.

Its bark is infected like homeless mother’s limbs with skin weathered from winter and bed bugs.

Go outside.
Write about it.

I stare at an open field and search for the bodies held captive by tall wheat or poison ivy.

Visit amusement park for children called zoo.
Write about it.

I see an elephant and describe its skin as heated crust. I count each fracture disrupting the smooth. I call it monster call it mammal of wild grey call it me in the evening when enough bodies have rubbed against me to feel bloated and heavy, a swell of weight.

What happens to the spread of body, torn apart to make a statement?

Bones, carefully grown tissue formed by osteoblasts, or specialized cells, contain salt and strength, though not enough to fight away the sadness or sense of not enough. The similarities in these excerpts arise in desperation. We must destroy self or space around us in order to make a statement.


. . ………What cannot feel can still feel.