Kind of Like High School

first published by great weather for MEDIA

 

It is similar to when you are in high school. You are in the cafeteria and the smells of imposter pizza and imitation chicken nuggets lead you to almost forget about your deafening hunger. You’ve got your lunch and your over-stuffed backpack and your quintessential post-pubescent pimples and you’re ready to search out a table to sit at.

Usually, you’d be sitting with _______, but you are no longer speaking because of _________ or __________, but probably because ___________ said ______________.

So, you sit elsewhere and pretend that person who you used to call your best friend simply no longer exists. This friend who knows that you used to pick your nose and then eat your findings. Who knows that you had a crush on Judith Light from “Who’s the Boss”. Who knows that you sometimes forget to brush your teeth and hair. Who knows simply all of you (thus far).

You pretend to easily digest your lunch even though you ache. Even though this friend who was like part of you is like a stranger now.

It is like that.

Except this isn’t high school and the friend who held the other half of your BFF charm is your body. Yeah, it’s like that.

But here is the twist.

Cut to twelve years later or fifteen or twenty and you see this friend and you don’t know how to act. Can you just say hello after all this time? Do you pretend you didn’t spread rumors about each other and that most (if not all) were true?

Somewhere in my twenties I had a massive fight with my body and banned it from sitting at my lunch table. What I mean to say is: I ignored IT. Gave IT away to strangers. Handed IT over to people who didn’t even care enough to learn how many vowels are in my name. Dressed IT up, even though the lace was itchy and the push-up was too pushy.

It doesn’t matter why (that’s another month/another poem/another story), but what matters is I let go of IT. I stopped addressing IT, asking IT questions: Does this feel ok? Am I mispronouncing you? What is off limits?

After years of the silent treatment, I started to call my body QUEER. It felt slanted, but not exactly toward anything specific, just away from WOMAN. Away from GIRL. Away from SHE.

I covered up the parts I gave away. I ripped off my pronoun. I cut my hair. I grew out my hair. I asked my breasts to stop addressing me. I grew attracted to those who slanted too. I liked the ones who understood what it was like to be engaged in bouts of silence with their bodies. I liked not having to explain why I cried every time I was touched.

For me, I just wanted to erase everything I had done to IT. Hide the parts that had been broken into (by others and myself).

And then. One day—it happened to be a Saturday—I saw IT. We sort of made eye contact, but both immediately turned away. I almost didn’t recognize it; it had been so long.

*

When I was old enough to get a tattoo (18), my friend and I (who shared the same birthday) went to a small shop on route 9 in a strip mall in New Jersey, and got inked. She got a fairy on her lower back. I got the WOMAN sign.

I was not yet OUT (lesbian) but a FEMINIST and excited by my breasts which were finally growing on me. I wanted to look like her and all the other girls in my school.

Eighteen years later, I added to that woman sign because it didn’t quite speak the truth of how I saw myself. So, I added a MALE to the FEMALE and suddenly I felt a little better.

On this Saturday, where my body and I began to slowly break the silent treatment, I wasn’t quite sure what to say. So many years of reticence. I had forgotten how to approach it.

 

ME: It’s you, isn’t it?

MY BODY: Yeah.

ME: I…I’m not sure if an apology is—

MY BODY: There’s nothing to be sorry about.

ME: But I stopped talking to you.

MY BODY: And I stopped listening.

ME: Is it too late?

MY BODY: Why don’t we go for a walk?

ME: Can I…can I hold your hand?

MY BODY: As long as you don’t let go this time.

Rubber Spatula

For Lidia Yuknavitch because her words stir me up in all the right ways and reminds me the importance of being a writing misfit

 

I was taught at an early age the importance of a rubber spatula.

The tilt and twirl of handle between fingers, and press of rubber against bowl to scoop and flip. The folding in and out and around of ingredients. A rhythmic movement like thirteen yoga positions all arranged at once inside a metal bowl.

As I grew older, I imagined this rubber spatula as the ingredients inside me grew, and I needed a way to bend them. Mix raw into cooked. New into old. Memory into memory. Hurt into pain into disruption. Scar into blood into raw into still.

All of the ladies on the cooking shows showed me how to use the proper tools to cook. Cut using sharpened knife, with fingers curled in. Never to overmix. Paying close attention to order and pacing.

I don’t recall who taught me how to hide. How to stuff. How to forget what burns like bile into gut. Like ignored tooth rot. Memory into memory into memory. Collecting a variety of instruments to anesthetize the wrong angles of body.

 

  1. Grab a bowl larger that your sixth impression but smaller than your list of resentments.
  1. Add sugar, salt, drain the oil from your skin which collects like tally marks of your improper diet. Throw in some flour too.
  1. Make room to analyze your kneading pattern: how you hesitate to pound, how you shape and batter. Search for elasticity.
  1. Bake, as you stir in your contemplations of what has been lost or forgotten. 375 degrees. Golden brown. Swallow after chewing.

 

I stopped being a girl when it felt like a slur every time I heard it pressed against me.

 

The first thing I burned was peanut brittle. Tied apron to ribcage to catch the spills. Crushed peanuts as though they were my dreams. Stirred sugar into corn syrup into salt into water. Watched the bubbles lift up, copper liquid screaming from the scald. Too late for the butter. When we forget to pay attention, incineration.

 

I tried to describe it as this:

It was when he ran his spatulate privilege

into my muted body that I knew I would

never be able to move the same.                

(You know what I mean)

 

Also Known As:

Tongue Depressor

Fly Swatter

Paddle

Splint

Propeller

  

When bathrooms had symbols I could no longer prescribe to, I cut out my bladder and folded it in as well.                                        

(see blunt end of shattered spatula)

 

Prep time: Forty minutes to an entire lifetime and then what?

[indigestion and disillusionment]

 

Help me to understand the meaning behind all this stir.

 

the sexual orientation of hair

first published by great weather for MEDIA

 

 

“my haircut came out before I did”    –Anonymous 

 

1.

You cut your hair on a Tuesday when the newspaper revealed

fourteen different murders spread out in over five different territories.

On page eleven, there was an interview with a survivor of sex trafficking

who had just written a book, which seemed to receive high praise. The weather

outside could have been described as drab or B-movie-horror bone chilling.

But none of that mattered because you cut your hair from twelve inches or nine

to two or four and now you are no longer what you were.

 

2.

When you were seventeen, you grabbed the slightly rusted scissors found in

mother’s coupon drawer, stormed up to your purple-drenched bedroom and

began severing all the compliments out of your hair. You watched a puddle of

the only thing anyone ever noticed about you cover the floor. You refused to

watch as you amputated each strand, tufts at a time. And then, you turned around

to face your massacre and you smiled. Because now, the only thing distracting away

from your face is what really matters: your brain.

 

3.

Your parent sees you post-shear and asks why you always feel the need

to make yourself unattractive. You wonder why hair means so much to

others, when it contains no tongue and chords to speak and impress.

 

4.

Can be used as camouflage to hide and protect. You use this method to conceal

the parts of you which do not match the way you feel inside. See: vagina

 

5.

Before, when it fell past your shoulders, the whistlers called you beautiful and sexy.

Compared you to princesses and paper dolls. After, everyone forgot to look.

 

6.

You learn that hair has a sexual orientation because when you no longer have it, suddenly

everyone sees you asgay or queer or a dyke or butch. All the words that were always inside

you and had nothing to do with your hair.

 

7.

There seems to be a binary in the non-binary of queer measured by haircut,

so you give in. You spend two monthsdoing research. Going to LGBTQ events

to study the queer coifs that seem to be in rotation. You catalogue about five

different kinds, but none would work with the frizz genetically burned into your

scalp, so you leave your hair alone. Hope you are still seen by just your presence

in the room. You give it fifteen minutes. Then forty. You leave having uttered

only the exhales of your oxygen.

 

8.

When you move to New York City, you worry about your leg hair. And all the

curls and stench beneath your arms.It is summertime and all the other female

presenters are smooth like sanded-down wood. You sit on subway, hoping no one

will notice. Then across, you see a gender-experimenting human with hair to match

yours. When they smile, it reaches your face and you feel seen for the first time in this

siren-soaked city. You stop worrying about others. You throw away your razors, which

at this point had just grown oxidized. You stop putting so much pressure on your hair to

define who you are. You buy a dictionary and start learning new words to call yourself.

You came out of the closet almost twenty years ago, so you stop allowing its contents to

define you as well. When you enter spaces, you stop waiting for others to speak to you.

Because you are tired of waiting. Because you know you are a beautiful anomaly.

But so are they. With or without hair.

dial tone

I play a furiously combative game of phone tag with my body.

When my body finally picks up, call waiting beeps me out of line.

My body informs me that I am too elusive and not committed enough to my internal infrastructure.

 

There is an uncomfortably long [estimated 437 minutes] bout of silence between my body and I on the telephone.

My body is clearly housing a collection of disgruntlement.

 

I call up 1-800 Flowers and order a bouquet of 

just because with peonies and alstroemeria.

My body sends it back without hesitation.

 

I try again, knowing I have over three decades to make up to my body.

I paste letters to its skin. Create melodies for poems celebrating its bones, even the broken ones.

 

I make my body a meal of coq au vin; it reminds me its a vegetarian.

I bake my body cookies; it tells me it no longer ingests sugar.

 

I pay $4,700 for an apology in the sky. But it was windy that day and by the time my body looked up,

my words had swiped themselves away.

 

anniversary of breathing

Did I ever tell you of that memory, seeing “F” beside my name and thinking it stood for Friday. Thinking: this must have been the day I was born. To be defined by a day of the week, rather than smudged genitalia. Wouldn’t that have been something.

* * * *

(conversation between two)

I thought about labeling myself as a couch. Slipping that into my gender marker. 

Why?

Well, I’ve been sat on. My springs are loose. I’ve had overnight guests drape themselves all over me. Notice all these stains. Crumbs of lost meals. 

I guess that sounds like you.

Right? I had a partner call me wishbone once. Maybe I’ll just refer to myself as bone scraps.

* * * *

Today could be referred to as some sort of anniversary:

The day I ripped open my mom’s body.

Or the moment I breathed in the fumes of new jersey for the very first time.

& an accumulation of stretch marks and toiletries.

Or reminder of all the friends I’ve lost track of.

Just another reason to eat cake.

* * * *

An ode to me:

Everyday, before coffee 
& kiss-climb limbs against my other,
I 
inventory my parts to make sure they still remain:
all my teeth, or the ones which matter
gather up bouquet of knots left behind 
on pillow case
feel around for leftover meals 
clinging to my cheek
swallow all the yesterdays that 
have a difficult time being left

today,
i try not to batter my hips with
too much judgmental
too much writer's block
too much emphasis on the 
black hole of bank account

today,
i eat cake
because i am supposed to
because i want to
because i can call myself a couch
or a loaf of bread
or i can call myself door number three
and even if no one else notices, 
i see the evolution of breaths 
on my soul

the heroic body

originally published by great weather for MEDIA

 

When I was twenty-six, I gave my body away. But also at nineteen. And maybe twelve. Details are unimportant and have already been documented through ripped skin and hollowed tongue, so instead, I’ll make a mix tape of the trauma:

  1. Do I Move You?—Nina Simone
  2. Another Lonely Day—Ben Harper
  3. Colorblind—Counting Crows
  4. La valse d’Amelie—Yann Tiersen
  5. Burning Bridges—Chris Purkea
  6. Cleaning Apartment—Clint Mansell
  7. Change of Address—Marina Marina
  8. Fjogur Piano—Sigur Ros
  9. February—Gregory Alan Isakov
  10. The Rip–Portishead
  11. Dumb—Nirvana
  12. I Bleed-Pixies
  13. Son’s Gonna Rise—Citizen Cope
  14. That Moon Song—Gregory Alan Isakov
  15. Wake Up—Arcade Fire
  16. Home Again—Michael Kiwanuka
  17. Red Dust—James Vincent McMorrow
  18. The Winner Is—Devotchka
  19. Remember Me as a Time of Day—Explosions in the Sky
  20. Breathe Me–Sia

&

I’ll alphabetically list colors that could create a collage bright enough to illustrate it:

  1. alabaster
  2. bloodied knee from fist fight
  3. cysts
  4. denim
  5. exercise on a body after thirty-six years of sporadic movement
  6. forgotten grapes left in backpack from a camping trip, found six months later
  7. guitar string—the unplucked one
  8. how can one really describe purple
  9. illiterate notebooks, smudged from the rain/ someone left the windows open so now all that is left to read is / mold
  10. january sky on a friday four hours before snowstorm
  11. krystal meth [sic]
  12. left wrist after the breakdown
  13. marzipan
  14. nest of loons
  15. orgasm (the kind that means something)
  16. pie crust—overbaked
  17. quetzal
  18. radish
  19. something similar to yellow, but more like rubberband
  20. the inside of her kiss
  21. umbilical chord left unsnipped until first birthday
  22. very sour cherries
  23. what suburban new jersey looks like when you are high
  24. x-girlfriend’s mole
  25. your biggest secret
  26. zest from pomelo

or

perhaps it is even more accurately documented in this transcript which traveled from public bathroom floor to underneath chuck taylors to my hands, raw from —-

X: It meant nothing.

Y: Only if nothing means the carpal tunnel syndrome of wounds.

X: Pardon?

Y: The numb. Knowing there is something there, waking up. Trying to yawn out of skin, but—

X: It can’t.

Y: Nothing means nothing anymore. Everything is found. Known. Cut-up into an argument.

X: But. But it can go away.

Y: Only if away means a permanent disconnection of hypnotized raw. The uncooked symbolism of everything that has been taken.

X: Or given—

Y: Yes…away.

one day.

One day, you will rise out from the ghosts of your bones and declare your entire body a forcefield of beauty.

One day, doors will no longer be a vehicle for slamming or keeping others out, but the shape of a wooden welcome banner.

One day, you will walk outside and forget about the trauma of yesterday; instead, you will gasp at all the oxygen and color and music and calories awaiting to be consumed.

One day, you will not be afraid to keep going.

One day, you will finish all the books you had difficulty starting and then, write a poem for all the days that led you here.

One day, you will try out religion again.

One day, you will ask yourself out on a date and actually enjoy…no, savor… the company of your skin.

One day, you will eat without guilt, without mathematics, without purge.

One day, you will leave your declared sexuality behind and experiment with the language of all-of-the-above.

One day, you will dance in the middle of an ocean and flap your arms against the salt that has waited for your swallow.

One day, you will finally go to all the lands you read about in the Travel section of The New York Times.

One day, you will finish your novel.

One day, you will forgive yourself.

One day, you will learn how to trust men again.

One day, you will remove part of your body in order to feel whole.

One day, you will get married and it will not be synonymous with any other contract or relationship. It will be gorgeously queer.

One day, you will sleep through the night.

One day, you will recognize your body.

One day. One day. More.