sharps: notes from a dormant cutter

previously published by great weather for MEDIA


I spent much of my teen years in a romantic entanglement with sharp objects. I hoarded staples–stretched away out of magazines, paper clips, safety clips, razor blades. I practiced various forms of mutiny on my skin. I felt in control, even though the only thing I was in was a dark cavern of sadness. meant to wake up feeling back cover crop

When I was sixteen, I met a girl called J with short, yellow hair like bristles of wheat and criss-crosses of sorrow all over her face. She’d scratch her cheeks and forehead with her fingernails, trying to invisible her pretty away. We met at mental hospital number three and although we both starting ‘dating’ two crazy dudes also in the psych ward (mine, a hallucinogenic boy who took too much acid and couldn’t trip his way out), I was really just in love with her.

At seventeen, in the back of math class, I took stretched out paper clip to the palms of my hands, because I was desperate to feel anything but numb. I counted the shapes my blood made, dripping out of my skin like morse code.

I loved my blood because it reminded me I had something alive inside of me. These sharps were like cat-calls to my skin: Hey, baby….follow me home. How about I show you a really good time?

There were days, weeks, even months, I tried walking away from sharps, from the bellows of scars which had begun to howl off my skin. But any addict knows wanting to stop and actually quitting are two very different movements.

One may reference the state of my forearms, where sharps and I dated on-and-off for fifteen years. We had a tryst two years ago, but the whole time I was thinking about someone else. Someone I hadn’t quite met yet.

They diagnosed me: cutter. Called me manic depressive, though I never reached those highs. My mom locked up the knives and suddenly sharps and I were like Romeo & Juliet, sneakily searching for ways to tangle in the night. I became very good at picking locks.

Razor blades were my mistress, disrupting relationships. We made love in numerous positions, invited in other toxins called pills and cocaine and called it an orgy. It was thrilling, but I was dying.

Now, it seems New Yorkers are hoarding box cutters, altering people’s faces and (false) sense of safety.

I will always be a cutter, just like I’ll always be a drug addict. But I’m not active. These tendencies are dormant and though I’m hopeful that they’ll remain asleep inside me, I work hard to keep away from the taunt and flirt of their haunt. I never thought I’d be frightened of something I was once so in love with. But I am. Immensely.

Sometimes, I envision it. Sitting, sandwiched between two other commuters, on the 4 train back to Brooklyn, with chalk dust on my fingertips and pant legs. Some human brandishing a box cutter, corroded in anger. Why are so many of us so angry these days? Some take it out on others with knives, just like I used to do on myself.

In this imagining, I can feel the unzip of my flesh, parting, making room for the rush of my blood. The panic. The true pain.

I asked my creative writing students to channel Baudelaire and Virginia Woolf in “A Street Haunting” and become flaneurs. Their experiment was to go to The Strand for a pencil. But if they never made it there, it didn’t matter. The emphasis was on wandering. Getting lost. Viewing life not from the glare of a cell phone, but from the unencumbered gaze of their eyes. Most of them had never been to this epic book shop before, so I was excited for their adventure.

At the end of class, a student came up to me and said, “I don’t think I can do this assignment.” I asked why. They explained that due to the slashings, their dad didn’t permit any trips outside of school and work.

On the train ride home, I traveled with fear curdling my veins. I became hyper-aware of the humans around me, particularly jumpy each time someone dipped their hands into their pockets.

I broke up with panic years ago; I’d rather not revisit its sensations of terror. I don’t want these slashings to stop me from existing. From traveling underground with strangers. From being a flaneur. I spent far too long trying to carve my way out of this world. I will not allow someone else to try to do the same.

which way is *here

“All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.”–James Baldwin

The reason this all feels like sick exiting body is how it feels when it comes out. Feeling is such pain. Feeling is realness. I forgot I was alive until I carved out all the salt preserving my letters. These words became my lunch and its leftovers, supper. These stories are meals. These stories keep me awake, alive and remaining.

if this is anguish, what direction leads to its opposite.

“I have brushed my teeth.
This day and I are even.” 
………………………………..Vera Pavlova

Dear SS,

I’ve ransacked your journal. The library sold it to me for one swipe and you’ve already taught me that skin can be trusted.

You call love suicidal and I am reminded that I die a little each time I feel something.

Each time you write about sex, you label it as a knockoff of pleasure. I try to think of the last time I felt and how good one can get at pretending.

SS, all I can think about is rice these days and how it fills me in a way no human ever has; what kind of person does that make me?

And what is it to be tired the moment one wakes. How urgent is blinking.

Are we forever connected to everything we give birth to: sadness. a child. a sentence.

You ask: what do you think about all day? Moisture. Employment. How many lies I lied about. The shape of the last human I loved. What fears I fear tonight. Rehearsal.

SS, if you were beside me, I’d ask you where your focus is and if you believe in the forgery of bodies.

You wrote, “I fear I have never used my body” and I fear mine has only been used.

You mention delicacies and I’d remind you that survival is one as well: particularly textured, sensitive, susceptible to illness, expensive and tricky.



“only be afraid of the words you’re not saying”

They prefer darkness to loneliness. And when they speak, there is a hiss of moan.

A cockroach crawled slowly on the floor of my bedroom as I typed words out of my brain and into computer. My body tensed and screamed itself open. Quickly, I covered it with an empty brown mug, turned upside down. I expected it to scurry beneath my bed, but it allowed me to capture it.

This reminds me of the last time I saw a cockroach. Ten months ago right before springtime. Just after a break-up with a lover that left my skin charred and exposed. There was no need to chase this insect away as it had died before my eyes found it. Fear aside, I scooped it up and flushed it into the walls or wherever toilet water goes.

This time, though barely moving, it was alive. After brave roommate trapped it between porcelain and paper, she brought it outside. Go, she instructed.

Cockroaches were around during the dinosaurs. They have survived atomic bombs and wars. Gentrification and global warming.

try. I try to find an attribute attached to them, offering more than just disease and contagious fear. Now, I realize they are a reminder of resilience. And each time they find me, I am in need of this reminder. When lovers leave, we are tricked into thinking something is wrong with us.

So we make lists of what we should change about ourselves and when I write we, I mean, me.

There is elasticity within all of us. There is only so much that we can bend and twist until we find ourselves tangled.

And by we, I still mean me.

Although these cockroaches are difficult to look at, so is truth and loss. Survival is deliberate and these hissing species always find their way in. So when you think all of this is too difficult to bear, channel the cockroach. If they can remain, so can you.

And when I write you, I mean me too.

planetary floatation device (a collaboration with Rebel Diaz)

for the humans building levees in Boulder, Colorado and especially for the one driving around wearing rebel cape

Boulder is under sacrament; what was inwardly gathering is making its way through the street. A city submerged and there is something about Boulder every time, something about its cracks and crevices that make it animate, alive, being. Makes me sketch my own body over its terrain, to lie down in its topography, the curves down my side along its front range, my belly its basin, my veins and sinew down over its expanding creeks. When it was burning, I too, felt the burn off of other, dead, dried out selves and with this

with this

with this

I feel the washing away of man-made. I feel a baptismal flushing over every man-constructed roadway, we were not symbiotic with land so what amassed is releasing, christening concrete, carrying free radicals downstream, toxins of manbuilt frothing up a layer of foam, crashing against magnesium levees. This is a language we have yet to learn. Is it wrong to root for the river flowing?  I am this bodycity, detoxifying. I am forgiven with its destruction, ashamed of the warming we cause

through this

through this

There are enough trees to build a boat around this earth and when we carve out the bark into planks of home, we can float ourselves out of here. Unravel the maps you’ve been hoarding beneath your tongue. Your spit is the lacquer that will lubricate the lacerations from this flood.  Follow me out.

and over

and over

Over there, a bearded human of glowing heart proportions steers a metal animal with rubber limbs and engine steam. Calls out to the ones who cannot swim to jump in jump in jump in. Listens to blue lips, lies down on blue shag of alone, takes time to heal. Another sits wide open, familyless, exposed in his empty room. The sky may be one giant cape to cover up what we’ve done but even the clouds cannot help but weep when reminded of this devastation.

so weep

so weep

so weep your creeks further, wider, over more than man-made, across aroma of Nebraskshit, 1800 miles to curly stoop made of crowned sediment and rooted in I-am-here I-am-here I-am-here (for you). Your water is biblical so wash away indents of childhood, remind us, we are the sacristy, the rooms which hold sacred vessels. Remind man-made of heart-made, of lying down in floods of reflection and loving it; remind us that these are the moments we should never forget


an epidemic of suicidal

I never remember the first time; I can always recall the last.

It’s happening.

Younger and younger, humans are finding weaponry in order to flee from this earth that was supposed to seatbelt us in. Is it not tight enough to save us from our selves?

This earth made a promise to keep us warm, to keep us cold, to keep us. 

The humans are leaping off bridges and ledges and fire escapes. They are tying themselves away. They are flinging their organs into oceans and rivers. They are using bullets and powders and needles and starvation.

Have we run out of ways to scream help in the six thousand plus languages that exist?

I was fifteen. I was seventeen. I was nineteen. I was twenty-four. I was twenty-seven. I was thirty-four. There are band-aids and ointments. There are lovers that try to hold us in and there are medicines that try to numb us through. When I think about what has kept me here, I think of words:

father. poems. language. books. ink. the moon. 

But it doesn’t always just go away. We cannot just ignore the statistics and death notices. We cannot blame it on just one thing. So, what is the solution and how can we strap on restorative capes and save the ones who dangle.


In the summertime, I would wear long sleeves. I felt too defined by the scars that scraped away the anonymity of my past. When I started pushing the fabric up past my elbows, the questions would arrive. Lovers would ask me where the scars came from. Strangers wanted to know my pattern of cutting. I felt sarcastic and angry; I didn’t want to answer. I didn’t want to give anyone the power of understanding me. 

Now, I answer. Sometimes I do not even wait for the questions; I respond to the graze of others’ fingertips against the raised wounds. I unravel the importance of speaking. There is no shame in wanting to die when one replaces that want with a stronger attempt at remaining.

This earth keeps losing its humans to sadness. There are accidents and disease and contagion and diagnoses. It’s the ones who leave without notice that make me want to speak my story out as loud as I can.

We will never be without trauma, but we can travel toward a place within ourselves where translation pushes the grey into something less imprisoned.

How to create an epidemic of survival.

molasses and pollen

for R.D. whose soul is weaved through each curl that fertilizes earth & who I will forever love.

No one can say if (he) will come back. The sky has been replaced by brick with locks at each corner and who is really strong enough to bypass cement. We are fertilized by the sweet      by the gender we choose      by the mileage of stickiness that forgets our breathing. But that man over there cannot get over the death of his father from twenty years ago and we get stuck and we get stuck and we submerge our necks in lament. No one can say if (you) will heal. There is a reason there is so much gauze and antibiotics. If bodies could be powered by gasoline, perhaps we’d be forced to check in more often. If there is music, fist it with your bones and allow its bass to exorcise you. If there is food, be unafraid of its pleasure or the way it feels to bite down on spice and maybe this is all too familiar and maybe you need to prepare for the obstruction. If this were refined, you’d be more prepared. It is simply dark and raw and if anybody asks, you were away on holiday, celebrating the birth of your second or third or twelfth self. Within loneliness, lines where people wait for their turn at you. Ask the wind; it blows in your direction from the east and it is red and it is bloodied but that is yellow and it is ready and so are you.