what it is to write.

I was in high school, year nine, when teachers started to wonder about the dark in me. I was eating Sylvia Plath and Lou Reed, collecting pills and scars.

At a school assembly, I read a poem which caused my guidance counselor to call my parents. Back then, I didn’t know words could be a diagnosis. I had no idea words could be a precursor to prescriptions and social workers.

It’s the tale of so many poets’ stories.: Depression. Drug addiction. Suicide attempts. Social anxiety. A walk-on role by Homosexuality. 

I heard a writer say, “Good writing doesn’t come from happy childhoods.” But I want to believe that we don’t always need the backstories. Our imaginations are massive enough to create our stories and poems.

When I run out of words, I dig my fingernails into the root of a scar found on forearm, hip, between thighs and rummage around until letters come out. This is a metaphor.

When I run out of words, I go to my bookshelf. Pull out Kate Bornstein. Pull out Vera Pavlova. Lorca. Neruda. Miranda July. Ivan E. Coyote. Audre Lorde. I scratch out their words and sniff the aroma of magic coming through. This is literal.

What it is to write.

I have been diagnosed and hospitalized and “treated” and analyzed and medicated and rehabilitated and tested. The pills gave me dry mouth, increased anxiety, nausea, increased thoughts of suicide, fatigue and irritability.

The side-effects of writing? Awareness, realization, acceptance, ease of overwhelm, validation.

When I tell people I am a poet, they say: better find a day job. I want to explain to them that there are different versions of currency and poetry may not pay my rent, but it keeps me alive. Twenty dollars in my pocket won’t.

There are days I feel as though I am not allowed to call myself a writer. These are the days I fall asleep without a puddle of words at my side. These are the days I feel dry.

And yet to others, I am able to say: Thinking is part of writing, so if you thought today, then you created. 

I get lost a lot. I’ve never had GPS at my disposal. I’ve got a flip phone in my pocket (features including only camera, calendar and calculator). So, I often turn away from where I am supposed to be. But maybe humans need to get lost more, in order to feel more found. Maybe more humans should write without disclaimer, without waiting for a place for these words. Let poetry be your diagnosis. Let language and its looseness be your symptoms.

Let ink and paper be your geography. Your map. Then, you’ll be ready for travel.

a meal of plath and tikka

I used to read “The Bell Jar” each year until I landed in the hospital in Connecticut. On a Saturday, curry is cooked in a washed-out red and black pot. A welcome of cauliflower, onion, kale and cumin. Later, an attempt at brown rice that never tastes as simple as white. I think it’s all that death that can create a relapse of sad within the body; I remained there for almost two weeks. It is never as spicy as I need it to be or I receive third-degree burn on the ledge of my tongue. Like love, there is no easy interpretation for piquant or peppered. She needed to call herself Victoria because illness is metal and it is necessary to protect oneself from the possibility of rust. I am solidified in silence as I chew alone. No one asks if I like it, but into the air I still speak out: for the most part. Plath parades her grey so effortlessly and I wonder if I can fall in love with a human who knows how to blot my weep with palms of heal. Meals may be annotated and books can be digested. I should have used more garlic.

an anniversary of dying

“Dying/ Is an art, like everything else./ I do it exceptionally well”    Sylvia Plath

Twenty years ago, I was writing her words in my notebook as adolescents do when they are in love.

     I  HEART  Jennifer  Christine   Sarah   Melissa   Gina   J’Nnae    Rachel

Instead of girls’ names in my classes, I was taking apart the poems of Sylvia Plath. Repeating lines into each page as though I couldn’t speak without her language reminding me how to.

When I was in high school, I mastered the art of almost death. And into young adulthood and adulthood. And I think about the grey in her mind and how many shades mirror my own.

Sixty years ago, she died. Turned her body into a meal consumed by gases. One month later, “The Bell Jar” emerged. How often did she think about what would proceed her. Did she trust that her husband would honorably publish what lingered. Did she trust her husband. Did she feel about love the way I feel: that it exists like paper– something to be written on and scratched out and revised and workshopped and blank sometimes.

I am alone in my bedroom, yet there are so many genders and bodies surrounding me each night. I choose who I sleep with. Rilke hides in the curve of my hips. But sometimes I need it to be Anne Sexton or there are those naps during the day where Bukowksi sneaks in and though we like our space, there is a lot of rummaging and coarseness. Kate Bornstein and I sneak stories into each other’s skin and Kathy Acker and Audre Lorde. When I want to be reminded how I think about my body, I read Dodie Bellamy as I cut up the parts that label me as one thing in order to become something else.

I have just a few pages left of Rilke, so I place Plath’s “Ariel” into my bag. With black pen between my fingers, I think about how we can speak together like ghosts. I thought we’d die together, then I hunted Sexton and planned to die with her. Now, I’m eyeing others who lasted a bit longer to see how far I can get.

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