an excerpt from “meant to wake up feeling”

Currently, I am reading “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park, which is based on a true story from Sudan. A story in two parts: 2008, where we follow a young girl who spends day after day walking back and forth to get water for her family. 1995, where we become part of the frightening adventure of a “lost boy of Sudan”.

What are you reading? Need a recommendation?

Here’s a poem from my recent book of poems, “meant to wake up feeling” published last year by great weather for MEDIA

yurt

 synonymous with homeland         opposition of ribs made from concrete         soil and lattice wall       tension earth     animal insulates weather   dismantle for camel transport     there is no need to commit to this     sacred     circular     jurta     ornamental strength from cosmos or fire   kherga     expansion of tree shave     wool insulation         gifts from sheep     ropes     Russian or German or Turkic     xayma     compression of heavy     you     only two hours to make this home     pattern dragon metal   collapsible   stain heritage into alphabetized books     lyrical station of angular

an ode to my dad

 The calendar calls Father’s Day June 21st, but what committee came up with this date and why is it secluded into just this square?

Dear Dad,

I fit you into my suitcase when I traveled to Nebraska, when I searched for myself in Amsterdam, when I relocated to Colorado, when I visited Georgia, and visited Vermont.

Spread your words on the grasslands of Marquette, over the canals near Prisengracht, by the Boulder Creek, in Denver’s Cheesman Park.

You remind me to breathe. To write. To share what I write. To share how I breathe. You tell me that when it rains, it pours, so when it feels like pain is endless, there is always a reprieve. You encourage me to be out. To be kind. To be safe. You tell me not to hold onto gifts–to give things away without reason so they can enjoy things longer. You remind me to eat. To explore. To love.

You live inside my present, instead of reminding me of the ghosts of my past. You do not judge or hate. You welcome and encourage. You create.

We do not pick our fathers. Or our mothers. Or siblings. But I feel by far the luckiest that you’re the one I call Dad. And you’re the one I call friend. And writer. And reader. And everytime I forget how to remain, you’re the one I call to remind me. To stay.

what it means to remain in stillness

During my long trek through undergrad, sitting in a range of undersized desks housed in campuses spanning from NJ to CT to NY to CO, I found myself in classes that stretched my mind in directions I never expected to go.

Two communities colleges, a college in Brooklyn and then a university in Boulder, Colorado. Years of searching through my mind to find myself. To remain sober. To challenge myself. To fall in love. To fall out of love. To lose my mind. To gain parts of it back. To disagree with professors. And then, to become one myself.

During one semester in Boulder, Colorado, I took a meditation class. I always wanted to be that person with a practice. One who could turn off life and the voices in my head in order to sit in stillness.

We began each class sitting in a large circle; there were many of us. The instructor, a strikingly beautiful older woman with long brushstrokes of grey hair, would guide us into the meditation. There we sat, trusting the space and trusting each other. In silence. Recognizing the infiltration of thoughts and allowing them to flutter past like buzzing butterflies.

I was the one wearing frizzy red hair, housing a gut of frustration, with my eyes open.

I meditated by watching.

I know. This is not the way it is done. But I have a difficult time with rules and being in groups and being still.

Watching humans being alive in this meditative state is so calming. I was envious of their lack of fidget. Each time I closed my eyes, a strobe light of trauma arrived in my mind. My panic would force my eyes open, as I realized that everyone else was far better at keeping to the rules.

I grew enamored by the array of skin, folding of limbs, welcomed palms resting on knees. I watched the sun pour in from the window and highlight the dust particles floating around us like auras of spiritual awakenings.

The teacher asked us to keep a meditation journal. We were expected to meditate outside of class and write about the experience.

What came up? What were some challenges? Any moments of enlightenment?

I remember a particular journal entry of mine. It was during a time when I felt very displaced from my body.

After handing my paper in, my teacher took me aside after class and asked me if I was okay.

“Yeah,” I said, trying not to fondle her hair with my eyes.

“I was taken aback by what you wrote. You seem so young to have had a hysterectomy.”

I didn’t know what to say. I quickly traveled in my mind to remember what I had written to make her think I had had this procedure.

“I….I didn’t,” I said to her. “What made you think I had?”

“The way you wrote about your body. The pain. The [gutting].”

Now, I realize why I feel so much more comfortable writing over speaking. When I write, what I want to say is far more direct and articulated than when I just talk it out.

At that time, I didn’t spend much time thinking about hysterectomies. Now, many years later, I’ve begun researching them, realizing a desire and need to actually get one. It’s far more complicated than this white box, which welcomes my text. It’s about gender. It’s about that displacement. It’s about pain.

But this is not about that.

This is about ways to be still. Maybe meditation is not quite for me. Yoga does it sometimes. Though there is movement, there is silence and stillness within each pose. There is recognition of life and strength with each stretch.

Biking does it too.

And writing, of course.

Often, it is just about reminding myself that I can be. Still.

dear rebel (with regards to dressing the dead)

Dear Rebel,

Here is what you asked of me. You asked me to think about love. Then a body without dressing. Then death. Then words to send this person out with.

I think of gauze. The word and the cloth.

I think of a handkerchief to sop up the salt coming from me. Dripping onto the body. Creating a reflection of water one could not possibly swim in, but a lifeguard will still be needed to catch the ones who try.

I think of a zipper. To hold in what tries to flee.

“Be still,” I will say, even though there is nowhere for a body to move when it is no longer living. “Be still as I dictionary your skin.”

[I use this noun as a verb because it feels more like an action to inscribe every word and its meaning onto flesh that may no longer breathe, but it listens. It may no longer respond, but it imprints.]

“Be still,” I repeat once more.

I think of blood. I think of all the blood I extracted from my body. Wasted it onto bandages and hiding places. Now, I can’t even donate what I’ve got; it’s too tarnished and tongue-tied.

I think of that time I went with a friend when she wanted to donate her blood. I was jealous that hers was better than mine. Afterward, she let me eat the cookie and drink the juice they gave to her. I still have that pin, shaped as a drop of blood, that she gave me after giving.

I think of my friend, the oil painter named Lindsay, who asked me what is really meant by “the one” when love is mentioned. She questioned the validity of a soul mate. I think we have many ones….the ones who mate with our souls in that moment. And when they are gone, we change. And when we meet another, they become the one for that time.

I think that some moments last thirty-seven years or just two years or just a few hours.

 

***

Dear Rebel, we are meant to write. We are meant to wake up writing. We are meant to wake up questioning this as well.

When I was in Nebraska, I thought about all the ways I’ve been hiding myself. I took drugs. I had promiscuous sex. I lied. I denounced. I painted my skin in toxicity in order to scare away the ones who wanted to breathe against me. In Nebraska, I tried a different pattern of breathing. In Nebraska, I learned how to play brave. In Nebraska, I dictionary’d my soul.

I also think of music in the key of C minor.

an affair with fingertips

You count fourteen crime scenes in your fingerprints. Perhaps more, but your eyesight is raw and does not cooperate with squinting or glassware.

On left pointer, a slice from paper. From book about contagious diseases during the mid-80’s.

Thumb is bent; you lose track of the swirl that seems to be slightly off-kilter in comparison to the others.

Your thumb, you conclude, is the rebel of your hands.

Ring finger on left hand is contemplative. It is nude of silver or circles and wonders what it would be like to weigh more.

Right hand is more weathered. Pre-arthritic but preparing for the worst. These are the fingers you are most intimate with. These are the fingers which pull out your language. These are the fingers you balance your imagination on.

You spent eight years ignoring your middle fingers, then gave both away (one at a time) to all the men who stole your spit and soul.

Your mate fondles the callus on finger on right hand. Rubs it like a fortune teller’s glass seeing eye. Says there is enchantment in the hard skin, created by all that you’ve created.

religion of the outdoors

You tell them you are a recovering atheist. The urge to believe in things gets louder each day but here you are in the flatlands where landscape is brown and green and all you want to believe in is the ability to persist.

You speak to a man called Ernie about a religion designed by a persian with the foundation of one god amongst all, but if you told him of your homo, he’d tell you to find a way out of yourself.

You become obsessed with the wings of flies and the ones who you slur into death from the smokey musk of your incense, which you are now burning several times a day.

If you ever moved here, you tell someone, you’d work in the library. Surround yourself by the flavor of books and spend your hours alphabetizing and reshelving histories.

You are haunted by the sound of your “hippie” being pulled away from your skin. An other wants to know if you are inside an identity crisis. You say, no, then yes then……I just don’t which word I am anymore.

You decide to live inside the story you are writing and feel the gentle weight of your protagonist’s hand slowly rub your back. Reminds you to remain.

You study the sky and its pattern of flight. Its pattern of storm and ominous. In this moment, the thunder gathers. Last night it shocked the sky in pink currents.

You marinate your tongue in various dialects of red wine. Rosé. Merlot. Cabernet. Slur.r.r.r.r.r

Then, the rain arrives again. Tornadoes warn, so you and the other poets and painters search out a safe spot in your “home” which is only guts, no skin. Sky is a dangerous blue. This rain, overweight and angry, is romantic. You want to make love, but you are barely ever nude here, except to check for ticks and bites.

You take cover. Create a tent from poems and memories. See how far it gets you.

cutting.

No one taught you how to cut your hair but on the seventeenth year of your lunglife, you grabbed rusty scissors from all those times your mother cut open packages of meat and cut away your knots. Your length. the girl from you.

You heard a scream and wondered if your follicles could feel. You stopped, briefly and listened to where the howls were coming from.

Scissors? Your fingers?

Your mother, just on the other side of the door, which had opened without your knowing.

Your mother, with frosted tips because that is what mothers did back then. They highlighted parts of their hair to make up for the parts of themselves they couldn’t.

Your mother, who grabbed scissors and gasped at the river of curls colliding on the floor of your bedroom, messy from an episode of rage several hours earlier.

Your mother, who bled out words of anger, spoke, “Why do you make yourself so ugly?”

You look in the mirror and then at her. To mirror, then her. See the genes of her genes in your face. Shared ears of protrusion. Shared spots on face called freckles. Shared mental illness.

You do not pause, before jumping into the pool of hair below you. You try out your swimming postures as you butterfly and breaststroke into the waves of girl against wood. You flap and spread your skinny arms, coating yourself in tangle.

And then.

And then.

You drown. Forgetting your inability to swim.

Your mother? She is too caught up in the state of your scalp to save you from the flood of your suffocation.