dear richard brautigan……(a performance)

Sometimes we pick up a book at the exact moment when those words were truly meant to be read.

Last summer, the inspirational oil painter in Seattle called Lindsay, reminded me of a writer called Richard Brautigan. I asked Lindsay to recommend one of his books to me and after reading that (The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966), I couldn’t stop myself from reading more of his prose and poetry.

Since then, I have been writing letters. To Richard. On pieces of paper, receipts, blank pages in books I happen to be reading, in my notebook, on benches, on the palm of my hand when there is nothing else and I don’t want to forget my words to him.

These letters are sometimes inspired by his words, but often they are just a one-way conversation about what I may be thinking at the time: death, loss, love, poverty, gender dislocation, an old crosley radio, a stolen meditation pillow and the moon.

On Tuesday, March 29, I will present some of these letters alongside the brilliantly marvelous singer/songwriter/magical wonder called Rivky.

WHERE? Dixon Place located at 161 Chrystie St./ NYC

WHEN? 6:30-8pm 



Aimee Herman & Rivky


Dear Richard Brautigan is an epistolary musical adventure to the Beat writer from one poet to another on how to remain; how to be human amidst the traumas of war; gender dislocation; shattered love & expired lives.


Aimee Herman is a genderqueer writer, performance poet & teacher with two full length books of poems.

Rivky Gee cherishes her Yiddish roots & is seen performing for those on the periphery & in the underground Hassidic culture. Rivky’s work fuses together the new &the old world in the way that only NYC allows, in its effortless & electrifying contrapositions.

Tonight, (november 13th) I read some letters to Richard Brautigan.

It’s been awhile since I’ve taken the stage to read my words. Since that life-changing writing residency in Nebraska, I’ve been simmering. Marinating in first draft novel land. Rooting and settling into new home with best mate. Grading papers and storing food in my body for the wintertime.

& reading. Reading on the train to work and reading while walking to the train to work.

Falling in love with a writer called Richard Brautigan.

As a letter writer, I thought he might be the perfect person to send words to. Though he can’t write me back, his words already exist in many stories and poems. It’s up to me (all and his other readers) to decode them.

So, tonight, I take the stage and read some letters. Perhaps play some ukelele. Hopefully, Richard will be listening.

If you’re anywhere near NYC with nothing to do, please join me:

LAMPROPHONIC reading series:

@ Bar Thalia, 2537 Broadway, NYC   8pm


EMMA BUSHNELL is an MFA student at Brooklyn College and has been published in Bodega Mag, Bustle, and Full Stop. She was a founding editor at Nouvella Books and is currently a reader at Catapult.

FRANCESCA GIACCO studied English and writing at Barnard College, and is currently pursuing an MFA in fiction at Columbia University. She lives in New York, where she is at work on a novel.

AIMEE HERMAN is the author of two full-length books of poetry, “meant to wake up feeling” and “to go without blinking” and currently teaches writing in the Bronx. Aimee has been published in numerous journals and anthologies including: cream city review, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetcs (Nightboat Books). Aimee’s biggest turn-ons include properly-used semi-colons, farmers markets and nutritional yeast.

ARDEN LEVINE is a D.C. native living in Brooklyn, New York. In 2015, her poems appeared in AGNI, Rattle, Sixth Finch, Free State Review, Bodega Magazine, The Delmarva Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Underwater New York, and were featured in Emotive Fruition (special collaboration with NPR’s Radiolab) and the New York City Poetry Festival. Arden is a reader for Epiphany, holds a Master of Public Administration from New York University, and consults to nonprofit organizations.

GLYNN POGUE is a writer and dreamer from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. She spent the past two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cambodia, where she ate fried tarantulas and bargained in the local market like a pro. Her prose has been featured in Essence Magazine and the UK’s Oh Comely Magazine. Glynn is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at The New School.

EMILY REMS is a feminist writer, editor, rock star, playwright, and occasional plus-size model living in New York’s East Village. Best known as managing editor of BUST magazine, Emily is also a music and film commentator for New York’s NPR affiliate WNYC, and was the drummer for the all-girl punk band Royal Pink. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in the anthologies Cassette from my Ex and Zinester’s Guide to NYC, and her short stories have been published or are slated for publication by Rum Punch Press, Lumen, Prose ‘N Cons Mystery Magazine, and PoemMemoirStory. Follow her on Twitter @emilyrems.



FLIRT  |flərt|  verb

to behave as though attracted to / but for amusement rather than / an experiment with superficial / without committing oneself to/  a deliberate exposure of/ to open and / a flicking of feel

> > > > > > >

Dear Richard,

I held onto another’s limb to steady myself underground. There were no available poles or doors to lean into, so I found the nearest human to flirt my balance against. First, I grabbed their wrist which was red and tinged with many punctuation marks, as though rebelling against José Saramago. Then, they unraveled their tongue like a carpet for me to wipe my fears on. I hooked my right knee onto theirs, clasping cotton to denim. When I coughed suddenly, without warning, they caught my germs with their palm. Fourteen, they exclaimed. Excuse me, I uttered. Fourteen germs, now connected to the lines of my fortune etched into my flesh. And you’re welcome.

Richard, I cannot claim to understand any of this. I only know letters and barely that. When the subway conductor announces my stop, I disengaged from their bones. Already, I felt mourn. I never got their name nor did I ask for their handle or hunger pains. I simply walked off, with a piece of their wrist still embedded beneath my fingernail.

finding love again through the bottom of a glass of language

Dear Richard,

I was not expecting this. I gave up men even before I began, but there is something in the simplicity and omission of your words that causes me to feel as though I should remain. So, I guess I will for now.

I write four letters to you in a book that your daughter wrote, which was all about you. But also about her. And also about loss. And searching. And the hesitance to find.

Did I ever tell you about the time I scratched my name into someone else’s womb just to see how far my fingers could stretch. Or the time I got lost on a railroad track in massachusetts and the only thing that brought me back was the trembling of metal beneath my wrists.

None of this is simple, Richard.

You set fire to telephones and I set fire to memories. But I have gathered up all the ash and resin of months and dates in order to understand. In order to be in my body. In order to keep reading you.

but also because of this.

[for Lily.]


You asked me when I started writing. Where did it begin and what caused it.

I mentioned Lou Reed. Bob Dylan. My sister’s old boyfriend, my favorite, who encouraged me to poem and to hippie. I mentioned that assembly freshman year of high school when I read a poem that caused all the teachers to warn my parents that I might try to Sylvia Plath myself. I mentioned open mics and giving up my dream of being a pastry chef.

But also because of this.

I started writing when my razor’s blade grew dull. And I started to write when I ran out of girls to kiss. And

I write when I binge on too much food, and feel the need to purge something.

Here’s the thing:

I’ve been writing letters to this old, white guy named Richard Brautigan, who keeps feeding my book shelf.

And I think of my student who asked me: Prof, why do so many writers off themselves? 

And I said, because so many come from tragedy & addiction & too much sadness to be cured by prescriptions, and it is the writing that keeps them alive, until….it just no longer can.

So I write to stay alive. Until I no longer can. And then maybe someone who needs a reason to remain will find me. And I will feed their bookshelf. And we all can just keep saving each others’ lives. One poem, one story, one page at a time.

an overheard conversation between richard brautigan and aimee herman

It was a day unlike Wednesday, but it was Monday or was it Sunday. It was definitely sometime around 4pm and 3:15.

Richard: I started out this day thinking about the exhaust fumes from cars fighting their way to a parking spot in Hawaii and now I am wondering why the cost of cantaloupe has gone up.

Aimee: I call them candy-lopes.

Richard: I had a lover who lasted through one nocturnal whose hair smelled like the ripest of cantaloupes. She was studying botany and when I kissed her, she told me she could feel the rash my mustache would give her mouth. She smelled like a harvest.

Aimee: And did you give her a rash?

Richard: In more places than just her lips.

Aimee: I started out this day thinking about that library you wrote about. I wanted to find that tall door leading into the house for books and bring you one.

Richard: Poetry.

Aimee: No. The other one.

Richard: You done with it?

Aimee: I’m scared to peek at its end.

Richard: I wrote letters. Mailed some. Gave others away to the wrong ones. Sometimes I’d write suicide notes and stick them beneath seats. I never signed them, of course.

Aimee: Why not?

Richard: Because they weren’t mine.

Aimee: I found one of my suicide notes in Connecticut.

Richard: Was it beneath a white oak?

Aimee: Yes. No! In a tiny drawer, second one down. Purple. Purchased at a garage sale somewhere east. I didn’t recognize the handwriting, but I recognized the name.

Richard: Did you want to edit it?

Aimee: Yes.

Richard: Tell me about the painter. Didn’t she bring me to you?

Aimee: No. Yes! She reimagines rooms. When I met her, I was hours away from an interaction with ticks. I was also desperate for a recall.

Richard: What do you mean?

Aimee: I mean…we were in a town full of three hundred people. Or less. And I was this blank page. I kept wondering what words I could fill for them. Who I could be? You know I come from a city where we are forgotten. Or–

Richard: Unseen.

Aimee: Yes! No. Seen through. Or unheard. No one looks up anymore, Richard. But she does.

Richard: The painter.

Aimee: Yes. Yes!

Richard: Tell me what she looks for.

Aimee: An answer. But there are so many questions.

Richard: Do you know, I spent days in my youth obsessing over a family who brought their furniture to a fishing hole. They’d sit on big, comfy chairs as they dug their line into water to see what they’d catch.

Aimee: And did they catch much?

Richard: Always. And you know why?

Aimee: Ummm….persistence?

Richard: Because they were comfortable. Tell her she needs to settle. She needs to bring her chair with her wherever she goes.

Aimee: Really?

Richard: Aimee. No. Yes! She’s a painter! So, I imagine she can paint this chair. Paint this comfort. Paint what she needs. Paint her answer!

Aimee: And then she will find her fish.

Richard: Right. Or whatever it is she desires at the end of her line.

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.

in the dark of the brain, find Foucault

violence is a garment on the body (Bhanu Kapil)

I just want you to know where it comes from.

imagine a pit of soil
watch out for the earthworms
spiders larvae the wingless the roots

watch out for delicate stems and snapped off

brain like a garden
it reeks
squashed rhizome

imagine a mother dipped in razors
measure chemicals and lose track of

try to belong here
here with the lopsided poets
here with Brautigan and aroma of Plath’s poison
here with Hemingway and Woolf’s drown
here with Mishima and Thompson’s bullet
here with Berryman and Kosinski’s suffocation
here with Sexton and Gogol’s starvation
here with mangled metaphors and disillusioned stanzas
here with your own tongue swallowed on the eve of resolution

want to memorize your pill collection
cut you open
put lips to bloodied forearm and cracked clavicle and climb over the edge of any bridge before the costumed men carry you toward the rubber and drool