day 6: poems out loud.

Here are two poems I read at Parkside Lounge at an evening celebrating the great poet, John Sinclair.

Several years ago, a poet said to me: Write the poem that will get you in trouble. So, I immediately thought about the first time. Freshman year of high school. I was still practicing Sylvia Plath’s name on my tongue. I was falling in love with Bob Dylan and Lou Reed and I had enough sadness to melt the sun into a puddle of tears. I read a poem of mine in front of a room full of strangers during a school assembly. Teachers who did not know me started worrying for my life. The guidance counselor called me in. Everyone worried about me and my safety. Do you want to hurt yourself? Do you have a plan?

I had no idea the power of words until that moment. I didn’t exactly get in trouble, but I did get noticed.

There was that time I thought I hated men, so I wrote a poem that would taint my breath for years. It was one of the first poems I ever read at an open mic. Strangers called me angry.

The one I wrote about the only boy I ever loved. It didn’t get me in trouble, but those words haunted my palms for years.

I’ve written poems that have outed my sexuality, my identity, various jobs I’ve accrued that I’ve left off resumes. I was never looking to get into trouble. Instead, I just wanted to feel heard. Like that first time at the assembly when finally people started to see me.

Words clarify the blurriness of our existence.

I smuggle poems all the time: in my pocket, against my hips, stuck to my cracked heels. I’ve swallowed so many that I have a permanent ache in my gut. I’m not looking to harass anyone’s eyes or brains. I’m only looking to cause a commotion with your one-way thoughts. I want to twist your mind into questioning what you think has only one answer to.

OK, maybe I am looking into getting in just a little bit of trouble.


Media and prescription bottles tell me that the voices should not be encouraged. There should be consistency within the leak of our pensiveness. But where is room for doubt? On an evening in a basement full of so many books, I got paper cuts from breathing, I was told by a poet that “love is a place you can go for the rest of your life.” And I wanted to weep against my bruises. And I wanted to ask: but how can you be so sure?

I want to believe in a love that can exist far beyond the grey cloud thunderstorm cold shoulder puddle splashes. I want to believe in a love that makes room for silence and bad behaviors and wrong turns and indigestion and allergic reactions and doubt. It can be easy to find the right words on a Saturday or a Wednesday. In the heat of bodies curled like erotic perms, it can be easy to say “the right thing.” To choose the right voice from within to give to another.

But convince me you’ve never pushed down a voice so far down that you choked. That you suffocated so many syllables, all that came out were gurgles of drown.

Convince me love is drawn on every map, so there is no way of getting lost. How can you when there is a GPS on every fancy phone and most automobiles and if you don’t know which turn to take, a pre-programmed voice will.

Doubt is like seventy pounds of cheesecake in your gut and you are lactose intolerant so no matter how delicious this creamy was, you feel weighted; you feel confused by the asphyxiation in your brain.

Sometimes doubt is born out of its antonym: conviction.

Sometimes these voices are so strong because they remind us of how potent life is.

I have spent more than half of my life unsure about mornings. I have used ropes and pills and drugs and silence and darkness and starvation to attempt an end of alarm clocks and open doors.

Doubt. It is a powerful mechanism reminding us the necessity to slow down, hear these voices and weave gratitude into the wavering. Weave in the echoes of question marks.

Is this good? Is this healthy? Is this right right now? Can I be present while living like this?

I want to believe that doubt is a doorway toward a conclusion. I want to believe. I want to want. I want to remain.


wound collector

We met on a heatwave where our freckles floated right off of our bodies and it took several blocks before we could find a sturdy bench to house all of our moistened, loose skin. She asked me questions like: when was the first time and how long before the last and what feelings did it release in me and how does it feel when people touch them or ask about why they exist.

I rested each arm– one at a time — against the cold, soiled concrete ledge. She wanted to know about my tattoos and loved the way that they appeared like sliced-up stories on my flesh. She kept apologizing for her camera. I told her that I no longer apologize on behalf of my bones, so she shouldn’t have to pardon the plastic used to point and click me into focus.

All of these things are how they are supposed to be, I said.

She photographed my creases. The places on my forearms and wrists where I tried to disconnect. I was going to mention my hips to her, but they were so quiet, I forgot all about them. While I remained still, the mosquitoes took advantage of my sugared sweat. I watched welts pop up like internalized kernels, which began to itch my skin into a new color.

We stopped calling this summer a week ago, I screamed out to the slender flies. These scars are mine; they are not meals, only poems now. 

This was the second time today I converted my scars into sentences.

Before we parted, we hugged and I wonder how much scars weigh and which one of us is heavier. She told me the color of my red is so beautiful and suits me. I wanted to tell her the aroma of her history moved me in a way that would drip into many poems to come.

even in doubt there is conviction

Dear Air.

I call you this because I do not see you. And I’d rather call you something that maybe you haven’t been called before. I write letters to you but they pile themselves into my palms and my arms shake. My wrinkles drown beneath the words I do not send you. But if you are all around me then I just may leave these notes on my body. You will find them as you wrap yourself into around me. Forgive my misspellings or unintelligible gasps. This language is heavy and I am tired and I am tired and I am tired. My prayers are edible and I forget to chew and there is choking and sometimes the spice causes me to lose control and when it is bland I rub my sweat into its soundlessness. You will never find me on my knees and my hands do not clasp and I do not wear beads or count blessings. The songs are only about the soil I wish cluttered around my bones because blood is too thin and much more grows out of dirt and clay.

Dear Wind.

I call you this because I hear your hum. And even in my tears, you climb into my salt and press them away. The other day, you lifted me up from path toward underground subway. My toes flew for a moment. If I threw paint against your invisible, you’d be stained glass. You’d be oil slick puddle of rainbow. Believe? Does it matter? I feel and this sense does not need to be in buildings or engage in holy. I do not need to memorize your songs; I have my own. I will not starve or separate or cling. The thing is, I’m still here. I’m still here.

That is enough.

question the existence of maybe

Maybe you can call out sick because today could be the day you find where those roots end and earth truly begins.

Maybe bodies arrive sick and limbs break off when air becomes too aggressive.

Maybe that human houses two genders or three and really, so many of us do.

Maybe that touch does not feel as good as you say it does.

Maybe I never understood but now it is too late to ask why why why did I leave you.

Maybe it is not that water turns the sky blue, but the sad in our skin reflected from below.

Maybe when you asked me where I was from, I should have said: paper.

Maybe we have carved too many scars into buildings and memories.

Maybe the way that she loved [me] was the way that she was loved.

Maybe existence is about silence and if you must tell, alert the trees; they keep secrets.

give up on monogamy with another and begin solitary love affair with brain

emicrania cara

you followed me home last night
or more like the early morning
pounding yourself into me

raged and runny
you leaked expired rust throughout
my cerebral cortex

I am phonophobic now so how can I dance
instead I weave into musical notes of traffic
feel the weight of evening
hammer against skull
genetic, you

do I need to file a restraining order, migraine?

depression is organic like
kale &
rice flour

brain wants to know
where it derives from

gather loneliness like exotic lilies
notice the color of sad
bouquet of grey

there is really nothing wrong with calling
lock on front door:

I am not in the mood
for a pounding

instead, how about documenting the
alphabetics of lobes:

at least when you leave me
the rest of me will die too


a disrobe

turn to hide the symptoms


I cannot say “I love you”
outside of text, poems
a whispered orgasm phony like blessed sneezes.

[i must turn around for this]

I attempt to sing its syntax
insist upon deep-throating its intimidation.

the la-la-love of it
weight and burst of musical initials

{too much}

and i could never carry a tune past shower stalls and
bike ride shouts

can you possibly love me after this?

almond milk eyes
drink my crunch.

where did that ceiling come from?

asbestos kills

add to that:
this day
last night
a haunting of unknown infiltration

perhaps i was touched
toward this moment.

my body wants to window
wants to reflect
wants to close
wants to rise
wants to streak

gather up these tiny squares while i disrobe
lay bricks over the numb
until the sound of choke