inside the hollow/& found/& found

What an abstract thing it is to take your clothes off in front of a stranger for the very first time. It isn’t really what we planned on doing. Your body almost looks away from itself and is a stranger to this world.”  

Richard Brautigan, from “The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966”

[for lindsay]


Elliot Smith knifes the ghosted speakers hidden in radio, blowing lyrics like incense smoke. Musk of patchouli rhythm curls around your bare shoulders, nude because it is too early for sleeves and folds.

Wrapped around your thighs is a green blanket from early adulthood, when your skin was taut and taught to moisturize in preparation for now.

There is a crowd of strangers in your bedroom, which is two rooms away from your kitchen; they are in there too. And they are named window and door frame and parquet flooring. And dresser and wardrobe and even the drilled holes meant for hanging are watching, too.

Call this dancing, but really you are just bending your knees slowly and then straightening. Tilting like a carnival ride to the left then right and back again. It’s from the music; this has nothing to do with foreplay or tease.

Your body blinks closed; it cannot watch this. And then, the slow drip (leak?) of skin away from bones.

A song about Omaha, which you’ve never visited but imagine is bright and vast, kind of like your throat.

Your nudity is parched, so you drink a leggy glass of milk, though you are allergic and begin to spoil from within.

You forget your lines. Were you supposed to gasp now?  Your moans sound like choking and maybe you are. Maybe your nude is one giant allergic reaction.

How to get back from all this?

Elliot howls behind screeched guitar chords about drinking stars or kissing shotguns; you aren’t really listening. And also, he is the only one you hear.

Yes, that is an elbow. And how about that hip. A field of tattoos. Scratched in and scratching their way out.

This body is grey, gray, grey. Like earl. Like elephant. Like ail.

This body is sound machine. Alarm clock. Concerto.

The strangers leave. Body grows clothed. Elliot grizzles cold and fades out into the perfumery of oil and carbon.

how many versions of nude are you?

modigliani portaitIt was just after breakfast, though all that existed inside me was half a mug of coffee with almond milk and a clementine. I was on my way to a place I never thought I’d enter: a giant building full of saunas, pools, rooms to sweat out and disrobe from the toxins tearing up our insides. I was beside one of my favorite humans, a writer with a similar soul to mine. She had been to this place many times, preparing me to just bring my swimsuit to which I replied: I don’t own a formal bathing suit. So, I put something together that would permit me entrance into a swimming pool, and prepared to be cleansed.

At this place, the humans are given uniforms. I called them costumes, to permit the drag I was about to encounter. Pink shirt pressing against unpressed chest. Shorts. Tiny green towels.

Men and women were separated. Men got the blue shirts and I asked aloud if there might ever be a time when a third option might exist. You know, for those unwilling to pick a side.

First, saunas. This space was absolutely beautiful. Each one looked like a hut and the temperatures varied from 120 degrees Fahrenheit all the way to almost 190. There was a pink salt room and one full of jade, containing calcium and magnesium with infrared healing elements. When it got too hot that no more sweat could exit my pores, we entered the freezer, which was only 40 degrees, but covered in ice.

As I sat, I thought of my body as a calendar. All the days that have been ripped up and X’d. Moments of significance. Moments of clarity. Living in New York City has caused some bruising. I could feel the colors lift out of my skin. It’s too dramatic to call myself healed, but I was beginning to feel less……unfurled.

We changed out of sweaty costume and into bathing attire. For me, sports bra and boxers with tank top to cover. We headed outside into the pre-Winter air toward heated pools with massaging jets on every side. The water washed away the sweat. I watched some of my poisons float away. Then, back to changing room to remove wet suit from body.

We had worked our way toward nude.

So….we take everything off? I asked.

This is one of the reasons they separate genders. In the pools and saunas, everyone merges. But in the nude spaces, no mixing aloud. Though I would not use the words deeply comfortable to describe my feelings toward being coupled with the WOMEN ONLY space, I knew being surrounded by nude men would only deepen my discomfort.

So, I disrobed completely and headed out.

I did not grow up in a household where nudity was celebrated. This doesn’t mean we were raised to be ashamed of our bodies; I just always remember covering up. Wearing robe from bathroom to bedroom post shower. I was never given a sex talk and there was NO internet back then. I had many questions back then (still do) and the times I was naked with friends were few and far between and always included some level of perversity that we never talked about.

We entered the enclosed space full of various pools and saunas. Everyone was nude and although I was wearing my glasses, I tried not to see too much. I was immediately brought back to high school locker room days before I knew I was gay. I only knew how uncomfortable I was changing around other girls. Afraid they’d notice me peeking. Secretly comparing my body to everyone else’s. Wondering why mine looked so dissimilar.

In this space, no one sucked in their protruding bellies. No one walked backward into the pool to shield others from cellulite or stretchmarks. There was no apology in these shared waters. We reveled in our various versions of nude in the most erotic and beautiful way.

I did my best to contain my stares. But it was difficult. I am so deeply in love with and moved by bodies. There were no six-packs. There were no air-brushed versions. These bodies were real. Stunning, in fact.

Because I am me, I searched for queer bodies. Though I started to wonder if anyone looking would even call mine this word. At one point, I did feel stared at, but my friend suggested it might be from our combined tattoos. I suddenly realized, at that moment, we had the only skin that had been inked.

I did not think about my breasts all day until I put my shirt back on. Pink costume with sweat stains. I felt deeply aware of how full my chest felt. My nipples were trying to upstage me. I had no binder and my sports bra was wet. This is when I realized though there was a time I would channel my inner-hippie and walk around bra-less…..that part of me was no longer.

My breasts feel enormous, I said to my friend. I am so used to pushing them down.

And I’m so used to you not having any, she said. I became further reminded in this moment of why I love her so much. She sees me as I see me.

Then I wondered, was I seeing those women in their nude as they wanted to be seen? Unapologetic folds and exquisite excess. Wild and free. Is this how they wished they’d be viewed with clothes on?

I cannot control the stares of others just as I have a difficult time controlling my own gaze. I struggle with how inconsistent my nudes are. I am far past my 20’s and I still have no idea how to be nude sometimes.

still am unsure of how I want to be touched.

My attractions and desires are shifting. My emotions are fumbling to control themselves. Sometimes, I am an inferno of question marks all guided at myself.

Maybe I need to be in more places like this….where nudity is not necessarily about sex but healing and purging. Maybe this is how I will exchange some of my question marks with more permanent answers.

can ghost be a gender

I wait for a woman whom I haven’t seen in many years. She is crossing the Brooklyn Bridge; I am below it with book in hand and chalkboard-colored sky above me. Something has swallowed my entire body and I am suddenly invisible. Rain drops against the pavement around me. I feel the temperature drop several degrees. I am hidden enough to watch a man turn completely around, interrupting his brisk stroll to check out a woman with extremely visible legs cutting open the air with every hip-sway.

Sitting, I wonder what would happen if I removed my black pants. Took off faded brown/red corduroy jacket. Threw vest to the floor. Pulled paisley tie away from neck and hung it against the chair. Removed grey button down shirt to be left with black bra and un’matching underwear. Kept on black boots. And glasses. And do I want this?

Is it in the measurement of skin visible that reveals oneself? Is my gender just a ghost trying not to call too much attention to myself, blurring the lines of masculinefeminine without making too much of a statement?

I am crossing the street toward the 3 train and suddenly I hear kissing noises arrive from a man hiding inside his car, waiting for the traffic light to change. I think those sounds are for me.

I start to panic. Did I measure wrong? I look down and notice that I am wearing what I tend to wear everyday. Tie. Pants. Button down shirt. Vest. Hair is loose. What is he kissing? Is he noticing my obscure gender? My neck is exposed. Is that what he sees?

A mosquito bites my hand twice. A gesture of extreme lust for the blood rushing inside me. How long has this fly been traveling and was I its first choice? Fingernails begin to itch at the bumps beginning to form and I wonder if mosquitos ever think about their gender. Do they long to differentiate themselves from the others?

I am ghostly due to my inconsistent arrival of costume…my need to jump off maps in order to be untraceable…my hidden personas that arrive in the late evening or in dream sequences or memories…there are too many breaths here and I need to slow down in order to catch/study/understand them all……

remove all curtains: breaths are meant to be fatty and uncoiled.

A full-figured tree pushes its belly out at me outside tallest window in Brooklyn. I am gaining weight as though it is an Olympic sport. The threads of my underwear have come undone and each strand has become like a hair tickling my inner thighs. What are these monsters loitering against my chest. You call them breasts; I call them heavy and without wisdom.

Go on. Attach yourself to either one and drain out its mass.

A young woman in my class tells me she prefers being fat. She is far happier without bones scratching against subway seats. I notice the way I have been sucking in my stomach for over two hours and the way that hurts my skin’s feelings.

Breakfast does not have to occur only once in a day. I eat until I get it right. Supper is consumed three times.

When a woman brings me a small box of salted caramels in the late evening, I take small bites. When she is gone, I eat the rest and sleep against the contrast of sweet and salted stains upon my lips.

Let go of my nipples; instead, please bite into my hips. They are far meatier and less confused about whether or not they should really be there.

My diet consists of eating food.

I dream. Last night, I could not lift my face. My legs unlocked themselves from each knee and just stopped agreeing with my steps. My hair dripped fat like slightly undercooked bacon. My shoulders were marshmallow’d. I awoke alone in a bed where my body missed its protective layers. I ate another chocolate.

If I photograph my lunch, will you stop asking me what/if I ate today?