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.

hello (dear 2016)

Dear 2016,

I know. It’s too soon. It’s too soon to sweep you up as though we were two souls growing fat and thirsty in anticipation for each other. We just met. I will disappoint you and you will make me long for the year which just ended.

But how about we touch a little. Like over-the-shirt fondling of secrets. I’ll give away my four favorite vocab words and you can give me a sneak peek of August or even March.

You can mention I’ve gained weight–my mirror already told me so. You can tell me that I will forget how to breathe properly. And I will tear up. And I will scream open my seams and need repairing.

You can mention that grey hair only one person knows about and the fact that I lie about the length of my sorrow.

I get it. You’ve gotten a lot of requests. Expectations, you clarify.

Everyone wants you to be better than last year and the ones before that.

I want you to be limbless, so you couldn’t possibly pick up a gun or handle weapons of any sort. I want your mind to be like a disengaged jaw–wide open– to people of all colors of all religious beliefs.

You want me to back off when I beg for a hint of November’s results. I just want to know I’ll be safe. All the queers and gender non-conforming folks and the wombs of the women who need full access and rights to their body.

You tell me that it’s just the first day. The earliest hours. How can I possibly know all this? you say.

I know. I just…I cannot handle more blood coloring up the black-and-grey newspapers. And all this warmth feeling up the earth. Should I worry? How can I protect it?

I hear you. I mean, I sense your invisible fingers prodding me. Begging me toward patience. But. 2016, can you just sneak me a little hint? How about Hillary? Or the Syrian refugees? What ever happened to those girls, stolen by the Boko Haram? Do we find them, 2016?

Can you…can you tell me about the rising cost of living? We need more affordable housing, 2016.

And how will you protect our speech and how will you pay better attention to the warning signs of terror and how and how and how will you resolve all the bodies buried and left for dead, suffocating our soil? Tell me.

We are all struggling for breath, these days, 2016. How will you fix that?

I know. I’m sorry. Yes, I see that line of people behind me. Wanting to know. Begging for answers as well. But. But I just need to know….will I figure myself out this year? Will translate the ghosts and hidden cupboards in my body? Get this gender dislocation in order? Is this the year? What? Can I not inquire about myself just a little? I didn’t think you’d answer. I mean, I didn’t think I’d make it to you. But. Here I am. Here…we are. So, tell me, 2016, how are you going to save us now?

before and then. after.

“I tried to concentrate on who I was before I became no one.”   –Roxane Gay (from “An Untamed State”)

Before, there were no roots. No deep breathing. Breaths just arrived naturally like high fives and appetite.

Before, there were no secret entryways carved out into closet walls. No scooping out of innards. Because then, everything seemed intact.

Before, there were no pronoun discrepancies. No body dysmorphia dislocation elocution elasticity. Because then, gender was pronounced in ink without eraser tip.

Before, blood was just blood. Gathered inside body like footnotes.

Before, breasts were waited on. Welcome mat in place for slightly delayed arrival.

Before.

And then. And then. Statements became questions and questions became concerns and concerns became diagnoses.

After…. there is still room for footnotes and nests to form in the crevices where the echoes are hushed. And all of this becomes just another poem. Another shout.out. Another misread op ed.

Or. An opening. For what arrives later on.

it’s ok….actually…..please don’t smile.

WARNING: This post may cause abdominal pain. And it may increase digestion. And those who read this may develop bed sores on their bed side. Side effects may also include: increase of oxygen to most parts of the brain, teeth whitening, freckle recognition, harmonized memories and unambiguous thoughts.

******               ******               ******                  *****

Resting against my face is not a smile. I used to take pills to push one into my skin like the imprint a foot makes in the sand. But there were all those side-effects and suddenly a smile just wasn’t worth all the small print tumbling me into nightmares, dry mouth, loss of sexual appetite and on and on.

I walk on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn from home to subway and three different humans (all male-bodied) stop me and say, “Smile!” as though I had forgotten how.

On the train, I study the commuters who travel like I do and try to decipher the language of their faces. I realize that my lips are turned downward. I lift one side, not quite into a smile but less than a frown. Then, I stop myself. Who am I manipulating my lips for?

I enter a room and collect a bouquet of “How are you’s”. I answer wisely: “Well” or “Good, thank you.” But what I want to utter is: “Troubled, at times” or “Feeling stifled by language which I cannot connect to myself” or “Traumatized by my trip here” or “Okay, but I’d really like to be better.”

My father reads my blog. Tells me my posts have grown sad. I want to tell him that my words are all from the same seed. That the soil they live inside is sometimes colder and sometimes rotten and sometimes neglected but always feeling. I want to tell him that I am a writer and words cannot all be yellow with three dimensional, rotating suns singing in unison. Sometimes syllables shake and have to sit down.

I just don’t want to fake it anymore because in that fake there is tragedy. I want to frown in plain sight; how terrible it feels to be in hiding.

At night, our faces can rest. No one needs clarity when the lights are turned down and we travel into REM. We can wince and we can furrow and we can twist our flesh into sorrowful sighs. And how beautiful and how real all that is. To just rest in a face you really feel without having to make someone else more comfortable.

It’s okay……really…..please…..don’t smile…..just be.

nebraska (a short story)

The ladder existed in the middle of a field swarming with chiggers and ticks. It was a day in June I would have titled: denim cut-offs sky with acid washed pocket clouds, had I thought long enough.

Leigh did not like heights; she could barely stand on her tip-toes without feeling excerpts of vertigo.

This ladder was buried eight feet deep into the ground. Held by cement and sturdy earth. She told me she was doing this to get closer to the sun because—and here is where I must quote her, “because when we whisper our truths to the sun, they are burned into us like ritualistic brandings.”

photo by Raluca Albu

 

We had only known each other for twelve days and she announced her queer after an evening of shared mead. I can still feel the fermented honey drinking my tongue.

Where she came from, she told me, there is no room for declarations such as this. You are born into the gender you are assigned. You are to marry the opposite of what you are.

I told her that where I come from, they extended the land perimeters to make room for the additional boxes declaring the array of humans that exist.

Of course, I come from New York City.

I watched her ankles tremble. Even her blond hair shook like corn stalks in the wind. I stood at the bottom, ready to catch her, but I knew she wouldn’t fall.

And when she finally got to the top, she kept on climbing.

dear lidia.

Dear Lidia,

I am bloodied.

He asks, “Paper or plastic,” and I choose noose.

Dear Lidia,

Somewhere between page five and the end, you mishandle my organs; I’ve put up four dozen MISSING posters all over Brooklyn in search of my lungs.

Dear Lidia,

My genitals have relocated themselves to my wrists behind misspelled tattoo and fourteenth scar. I rub them against humans shaped as time machines traveling me away from here.

Dear Lidia,

That photograph.

Dear Lidia,

How many ways can a child die and still breathe through teeth.

Dear Lidia,

I’ve lost track of all the mattresses which turned into monsters.

Even with all that flailing, I still count bed sores.

Dear Lidia,

The painter.

Dear Lidia,

That gun.

I’ve got a bullet hole beneath my right knee from that time that time that time.

Dear Lidia,

I’ve hemorrhaged out your ISBN.

Someone should have cradled my tongue before I castrated it.

Dear Lidia,

Napalm.

Dear Lidia,

The one with eyes, color of my childhood lampshade or emerald.

Dear Lidia,

The Vietcong man with the mosaic’d brain.

Dear Lidia,

My mother.

Dear Lidia,

Me, dressed as Charlie Chaplin, age 8.

Dear Lidia,

The photographed soldiers near Brooklyn Bridge, wearing masks to cover the missing in their faces.

Dear Lidia,

Each time I took my clothes off I became less of an onion and more like a shallot.

Dear Lidia,

How many languages speak the same version of ‘no’ and yet I an never quite master the accent on the right syllable.

Dear Lidia,

The writer.

There was that time that time that time that time.

Dear Lidia,

There is no such thing as a happy ending, even when giving a happy ending.

Dear Lidia,

The filmmaker.

Dear Lidia,

How to love.

Dear Lidia,

The womb.

Dear Lidia,

How to heal what rots what blooms.

Dear Lidia,

Did I ever tell you that I title my blood, war, because my body is in battle and yes, my cells rent their hunch to soldiers looking to punish my gender.

Dear Lidia,

I just. Can’t be. Girl. Anymore.

Dear Lidia,

I prefer to bag my own groceries because then I can understand the weight of ingredients and then it will be my city scum on potatoes and collard greens and then I will be reminded of all the ways

one attempts

to live.

how to pay attention to a body.

all photos by mike geffner

all photos by mike geffner

Here’s the thing: I’m not always so present in my body. We’ve had a tumultuous relationship over the years and although we are on speaking terms right now, there was about a decade where we just ignored each other. Passive-aggressively passed by, barely making eye contact.

Sometimes it felt like a language barrier, not quite having the right words to say, unable to connect. This tends to happen. We had a few interventions, even started collecting dictionaries in order to search for more words to speak out. But it’s been a long, long journey toward understanding the ‘right’ ways to pay attention to each other.

On a Friday in Queens, I walked from the 7 train toward an art gallery where poets, music makers and performers of various disciplines gathered for an event produced by The Inspired Word performance series. I was not going as poet, rather performance artist, lending my skin out to strangers and friends to be referenced as The Human Canvas  (Graffiti’d Body).

Here’s another thing: It’s difficult to present a piece where much of your body is exposed with the intention not to titillate. What I wanted people to contemplate were the various ways in which bodies are like buildings. Buildings which we tag with our name or images or bits of contemplations. How skin can be weathered like bricks. What one would write or draw if given the opportunity (with pen, ink, marker) to tag another’s body.

The humans were shy at first, but so was I. None of these people knew how deeply uncomfortable it was for me to be dressed in such drag. Red sequined tube top worn as skirt. Chest scooped into a black bra, a contraption I haven’t worn for almost two years. Bra has since been replaced by a binder, training my tits to flatten and disappear. All beneath yellow police caution tape.

001

The rules were: You may write or paint anything and anywhere. Some wrote their initials. One wrote a sound: ZOINK!. Another wrote part of a poem. There were designs, declarations (will you gay marry me?) and symbols.

People were shy at first; perhaps we are just not used to people saying: hey, want to write on my exposed flesh?

Throughout the night, people timidly approached my skin. Many asked first (which I appreciated, though it was certainly not necessary; the permission was granted the moment I walked through the door). One said, I don’t know how to paint. I responded, yes, you do. And then, I put some paint on the end of a brush and handed it to her. Just……put this color on me and see what happens, I said.

She painted: Let’s make love, not war.

I smiled and said, Hey, you’re a painter now!

273At the end of the night, my partner arrived, and he approached my skin quietly, using paint and marker to tag me.

Being the only one who knows my gender in its entirety, he said, “I’ve never seen you like this.” (This meaning skirt and fluffed-up breasts).

This piece is political, but in a space like this where I speak only if the audience asks questions, its more about being silent and observing the ways in which people approach a body.

I could feel myself being ogled at times, and I knew this was part of human nature. Outside of spaces like this, I practice androgyny. I am far less and more of the in-between.

Here’s how I pay attention to my body now: I enforce encourage dialogues. With myself. With others. I ask questions of myself. How does this feel? How do I want to be today? 

What felt comfortable yesterday won’t always feel that way today.

So, I encourage my body to be more open. To be more out loud. To speak up and out. To perform on and off stages. This reminds me that the silent treatments only prolong stagnation in a body.

My body has housed me for over three decades. The shape has changed and I’ve got quite a few scratches and signatures on it now, but it is also a speaker box. And I intend to project.

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Featuring at Queer Com: dear cervix and other love letters

QueerCom-800

QueerCom: Dear Cervix and Other Love Letters

Dear Cervix and Other Love Letters” is a musical retelling of love in its many forms: first love–inspired by vibrators and Alice Walker, electronic love, unprotected love and Freud. Featuring performance artist and poet, Aimee Herman.

The Peoples Improv Theater

Pre-purchase tickets HERE

The PIT – Underground
123 E 24th St
New York, NY 10010

Saturday, June 27, 2015 at 11:00 PM

Check out all the other great shows at this festival ALL weekend!

 

Saturday, June 27th, 2015
(click show links below to purchase pre-sale tickets)

Striker Theater
2:00 pm – Panel
3:00 pm – Melissa Nierman: Life After Life
4:00 pm – Chris Pappas: A Homosexuals Guide to Love and International Travel
5:00 pm – Spooners Screening
8:00 pm – Baldwins / Big Black Car
9:30 pm – The Kennedy Center Honors Rihanna / Pop Roulette: GAY AND PROUD
11:00 pm – Steel Petunias

Underground Theater
4:00 pm – Zach Ames: Becoming Taylor – A Gay Mormon’s Journey to Find His Inner Drag Queen
5:00 pm – Cara Kilduf: Queerbait / TBA
6:00 pm – Funny Ha Ha Funny Queer
7:00 pm – Electoral Dysfunction
8:00 pm – North Coast
9:30 pm – Jay Malsky: Elaine Stritch Duets / New Team Honey Bear
11:00 pm – Queerly Canadian / Aimee Herman: Dear Cervix or How to Find Love with a Ukelele and Some Poems
12:00 am – Judith Improv Jam!

Sunday, June 28th, 2015
(click show links below to purchase pre-sale tickets)

Striker Theater
3:30 pm – Self Help / Space Evaders / Tickle Party
5:00 pm – Short Form Jam!
6:00 pm – Lucas Hazlett / TBA
7:00 pm – Molly Horan: For The Love Of Kalinda / Matt Smith: A Friend Of Dorothy (Zbornak)
8:00 pm – Street Behavior Screening

Underground Theater
5:00 pm – Derek Smith: Meat & Greet / Nikki Vega: Meat Eater
6:00 pm – Token Straight Show
7:00 pm – Parker Denton: Delusions of Grandeur / Michael Montalbano: GayBitch : A Song Cycle
8:00 pm – Jack & Karen / Best Betches / Alison Levering: Super Straight!
9:30 pm – Underground Cabaret: Anything Gay!

the sexual orientation of my hands

My hands cannot remain straight.

I am constantly aware of this each time I try to cut a piece of wood using mighty band saw. I am wavering.

I’ve never wanted to be more straight in my life. Here, in the midwest flatlands, where nyc sirens have been replaced by scratching paws of raccoons living inside the walls of this house called victoria, and crickets and frog gulps and ticks singeing beneath flames, I am deeply aware of the way I measure and move.

When I use electric sander to smooth out the wood, my hands dance freely. I do not need to move in straight lines, instead I glide in circles.

But when drilling holes, which must be perfectly symmetrical from one side to the other, I notice how deeply un-heterosexual my line is.

Does this make me an incompetent not-quite-but-wish-i-was carpenter. Must things really be so straight all the time?

When I walk, my stride shifts. My crumbs, if dropped, would create a jagged pattern documenting where I’ve been. When I speak, even my words curl, somehow making their way into coherency, but definitely not (and I assure you) through a straight line.

Perhaps I only want to be straight because I think this is the direction things should go. But so much of nature is not straight. Even the fields, perfect one-mile radius on each side, may appear straight but if studied long enough, one would see it’s homosexual (queer) lines. Because of footprints and the tall tall grass. And the ways in which the earth just shifts sometimes.

OK. I’m cool with my homosexual shake. My meandering zigzag lines. Even with the uneven slicing of saw, I still installed some beautiful, smooth shelves. Installed in free-standing cupboard, originally meant for coats. Now, a home for ceramic plates and bowls.

the caloric intake of a memory

(first published by great weather for MEDIA)

Does this memory make me look fat?

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You ask yourself this, posing into your dusty mirror—slightly warped—purchased for less than twenty dollars at bodega four blocks away from your apartment—two apartments ago.

But really, she speak out loud, take a look at this excess? I’m sucking it in in in, can you see the ribs of my memory now?

You start each day the same. Peel skin out of bed, warm enough to be called a coffin or mouth, but it is just a bed, sheets purchased by your lover, color of August sky minutes before thunder (shade of sheets, not your lover).

You engage in two minutes of yoga-inspired plank position, where you hold your body up in push-up mode, similar to push up without the up down rotation. During these two minutes you try to rid yourself of the impressions of dreams suctioned to your thighs. You just know that during your sleep you gained at least three ounces from that nightmare inspired by your childhood, ages eleven through eighteen.

You breathe. But even this concerns you, as you find with each inhale you are breathing in dust and dead skin and that’s got to weigh something.

You exhale and slowly lift yourself back to ground, which you notice has not been swept or mopped in at least a month. You look at the gangs of hair haunting your floorboards. That’s got to count for something, you think. You subtract two numbers from your total weight for the detached strands and skin cells no longer weighing on you.

Coffee comes next.

Water is free, so anything predominantly made with it must be okay, you think. You think.

Suddenly, a memory. Of your mother. Sitting at kitchen table no longer in possession of any of your family members (sold/given away….when…garage sale?…). She is hunched over in night clothes—oversized T-shirt and thin shorts—drinking instant coffee out of mug that could have been called bowl, color of white and stains. You are across from her, fidgeting with your body: fingernails, hair, plague of your protruding secrets.

This memory is unclear, so it contains less than one hundred calories.

But then you begin to ponder longer. You cannot recall if this is the morning you head off to school with suicide note in back pocket for later.

You cannot remember if this is the day before you slip your tongue down ___’s throat for the first time solidifying your queer.

Was this the morning you ran away, to that park, the one with your initials dug into two benches, the one where your mother confessed years later to fearing she’d find you hung from a tree?

Suddenly, this memory has doubled. Tripled in caloric value and it’s at least seventeen grams of fat now. The bad kind of fat, too.

You sip your coffee.

You fidget for three minutes, non-stop, in order to burn some fat away. You suck in in in your skin, trying to forget.

After coffee, shower.

Here, you must be removing something.

Here, you scrub. With loofah. With pumice. With fingernails. You dig at your skin knowing flesh is like earth—you dig and dig and dig, yet the bottom seems unreachable.

You masturbate. This is not to turn you (reader) on. This is not to turn you (human) on. This is simply to dig more out. More numbers. More excess. You pull out your orgasm as though it is that magic trick with scarf up sleeve. You watch it drift down the drain.

Minus five pounds?

After shower, you dress. Here, all the hard work of removing and thinning is wasted. You climb more threads onto your skin than any mathematician could possibly count. You put on pants that suck it inin in. You button up shirt that hides it. You put on scarf that conceals it. You wear jacket that zips all of it in.

You leave. Hunt the earth as though none of these numbers count. You smile, engage in laughter knowing it is an exercise worthy of at least ten calories depending upon the length.

The memories keep coming. Each time, you excuse yourself to the washroom to purge. Force finger down throat to puke up your adolescence and your twenties and those few ones in your early thirties. You keep all that bile in toilet, taunting its smell with your resilient inhales.

Breathing in and in and in.

Because it can be difficult to flush away what once was and may still be.