in search of a superhero on the 4 train

dear black boy on green line, manhattan bound from the bronx,

I can still hear the music of your voice in my ears, but what to call a melody of screams. I have housed that fear, but never in that pitch and never out loud.

I did nothing.

I gave you my eyes, hoping they would stop your father, the long monster. I called him this, monster, because he is one.

I did nothing.

You dropped every spoonful of salt from your body through your eyes, begging to stand. You just wanted to stand. Why can’t I stand, you screamed. But the monster wouldn’t let you. Your father. I did nothing.

He called you son, while hitting your head as you screamed: “You said you were going to punch me in my neck.” I did nothing.

He said, “You are the reason everyone is staring.” And you continued to drop cups full of salt from your body as we all lifted our feet not to get wet from the drown of your fear. Your father, the monster, said he was going to punch one of us and called it your fault.

I/we did nothing.

I waited. I waited for someone else to do something because how long can one watch someone else’s trauma without reacting. Without doing something. We were all just bystanders waiting for another to step up.

I/we did nothing.

I kept waiting for someone to strap on a cape and save the day. I wanted to strap on a cape and save the day.

But I did nothing.


I think back to Kitty Genovese, a Queens woman who was stabbed to death just outside her home in 1964. Her neighbors watched during this attack. They watched the person leave, then come back and rape her. They watched and they did nothing.


Who or what are we waiting for?

When I finally got to Brooklyn, I walked off the train, headed above ground and cried. I cried for the boy and I cried for his cries. On that 4 train at 6pm, everyone on that train let him down. His calls for help were ignored.

I immediately reached out to my friend–a poet and teacher and the one who holds me accountable every single day for the tasks I hope to get through each day. I told him of this event. My hands shook and chest echoed.

I did nothing, I told him.

What can be learned from silence? At some point it must be cut into and turned up.


When silence creates pattern remove the middle and engrave the opposite.”


I’ve been carving up all the silences in me since I was a kid. Trying to tell on the fright inside me. Speaking up is a way of moving through.

dear black boy on green line, manhattan bound from the bronx,

I want you to know that there are many monsters out there and some even reside in our homes. But there are also superheroes, humans who smile without a need for anything back. Humans who do not punch or abuse with words. Humans who heal.

mathematics of beauty

Days do not end, they bloat. They infect. They fall down and get all scraped up and bloodied and then a scab forms and it gets picked at by a different day and then a new scab forms and then and then a scar. Days are like scars. Persistent and showy.

Today may be the final day of this earth. But enough about that.

On subway train where students are high off the fumes of Winter Break, I overhear a lecture on beauty.

Enter the Professor. Assumed (since he sits down for this lecture) to be about 5’11. Young but eager bones. Brown, short cropped hair. Brown skin. Narrow mouth. His shoes are scuffed. He speaks:

“She’s eighty-five percent Puerto Rican and the rest is messy. I’d say she’s a 7.”


Enter the student. Not me, of course. I am the observer. The auditor of this class. I’m not receiving a grade, so I just kind of sit, out of view.

The student is much shorter, also sitting. 5’4, maybe? He has on a handsome necktie and his pants are too short. I notice his socks, off white but once white. His shoes are newly polished. He speaks:

7 is good, right?”

Professor: If you got a 70 on your test, would you think that was good?

Student: Depends on if it was a hard test.

Professor: A 7 is ugly. She’s too short. Like 4′ ll.

Student: What’s wrong with that?

Professor: I know lots of 8’s but I’m looking for 9’s. 10’s don’t exist unless you’re reading like Maxim or somethin’. Those girls aren’t real though.

Student: I’ll take a 6. They’re fine too. What about half numbers?


And I immediately hate myself for thinking this, but….I wonder what number I am. If there is a decimal point, can I be rounded up and what number would I give myself?


Well, I’m not too tall, so there goes the 10. My breasts are small (thankfully…though I wish they were smaller). That would drop my number down for others but bring it back up for me. My hair is red like a house fire. Numbers up once again. Oh, but there’s all those scars. Numbers down. I’m promiscuous sexually open! Numbers are fighting each other. They remain in place. I’m well-educated. Numbers back up. But I’m guarded and have major trust issues and there’s all that trauma and and numbers are plunging. I’m clean. I cook quite well and I have a healthy appetite. Numbers up for the former but the appetite does lead to expanding body. I’m ok with this, though others may not be. Numbers down. I don’t like jewelry or expensive things; I prefer cheesecake and books. Numbers up (though some may want me to lay off the sweets). I don’t have a six-pack and my legs are hairy and I prefer Woody Allen to Tarantino and I don’t chug beer and and. Numbers are in the negatives! I love giving blow jobs but not to biological penises. I’m fatty. I’m impulsive. I’m moody. I’m I’m I’m…

not a number.

have you seen my ghost?

I need to know how your night began. I want to know if the bottle of vodka sat half-empty in your pink-splattered bag or if you purchased it new several hours earlier.

I still had pizza on my breath: cornmeal crust, unconventional cheese choice of ricotta, some basil, and was that sausage or ground beef? I carried my guilt of $3.95 a slice coupled with anorexic wallet and pressure to make rent in a few weeks, when I noticed you.

You had been crying so hard that your nose was runny and how could none of those police officers offer you a tissue?

I’ve had nights like that, I wanted to whisper in your ear while simultaneously rubbing your back. Nights where I couldn’t remember the 26 letters creating the lyrics to the alphabet. Nights where I woke with fingerprints, not belonging to me, on my body. Nights where slurring replaced eloquence.

I wanted to yell at that police officer: Did you ask if you could look through her bag?

Who is your emergency contact? When was the last time you laughed so hard, you needed to change your underwear? When was the last time you were sober?

The last time I used, my drug of choice was given to me as payment for dog-sitting. I didn’t know it would be the last time and maybe it’s not, but it’s been five years.

A difference between alcoholism and drug addiction:
You can walk into a store and shelves are stocked with a variety of your addiction from Spain, Oregon, Canada, Brooklyn. You don’t need to use a fake name, meet in a dark alley, purchase through a secret handshake. Liquor stores are everywhere, kind of like Starbucks.

I notice pizza sauce on my finger and if I lick it am I being gluttonous or one step closer to catching whatever disease is invisible on my skin?

Life is risky.

It is Friday night and you lay like splattered paint against the sidewalk right off W. 4th Street. Before this, I was in a small room or attic with six other supportive queers in a writing group. Before this, you were_______________________…………..