the heroic body

originally published by great weather for MEDIA


When I was twenty-six, I gave my body away. But also at nineteen. And maybe twelve. Details are unimportant and have already been documented through ripped skin and hollowed tongue, so instead, I’ll make a mix tape of the trauma:

  1. Do I Move You?—Nina Simone
  2. Another Lonely Day—Ben Harper
  3. Colorblind—Counting Crows
  4. La valse d’Amelie—Yann Tiersen
  5. Burning Bridges—Chris Purkea
  6. Cleaning Apartment—Clint Mansell
  7. Change of Address—Marina Marina
  8. Fjogur Piano—Sigur Ros
  9. February—Gregory Alan Isakov
  10. The Rip–Portishead
  11. Dumb—Nirvana
  12. I Bleed-Pixies
  13. Son’s Gonna Rise—Citizen Cope
  14. That Moon Song—Gregory Alan Isakov
  15. Wake Up—Arcade Fire
  16. Home Again—Michael Kiwanuka
  17. Red Dust—James Vincent McMorrow
  18. The Winner Is—Devotchka
  19. Remember Me as a Time of Day—Explosions in the Sky
  20. Breathe Me–Sia


I’ll alphabetically list colors that could create a collage bright enough to illustrate it:

  1. alabaster
  2. bloodied knee from fist fight
  3. cysts
  4. denim
  5. exercise on a body after thirty-six years of sporadic movement
  6. forgotten grapes left in backpack from a camping trip, found six months later
  7. guitar string—the unplucked one
  8. how can one really describe purple
  9. illiterate notebooks, smudged from the rain/ someone left the windows open so now all that is left to read is / mold
  10. january sky on a friday four hours before snowstorm
  11. krystal meth [sic]
  12. left wrist after the breakdown
  13. marzipan
  14. nest of loons
  15. orgasm (the kind that means something)
  16. pie crust—overbaked
  17. quetzal
  18. radish
  19. something similar to yellow, but more like rubberband
  20. the inside of her kiss
  21. umbilical chord left unsnipped until first birthday
  22. very sour cherries
  23. what suburban new jersey looks like when you are high
  24. x-girlfriend’s mole
  25. your biggest secret
  26. zest from pomelo


perhaps it is even more accurately documented in this transcript which traveled from public bathroom floor to underneath chuck taylors to my hands, raw from —-

X: It meant nothing.

Y: Only if nothing means the carpal tunnel syndrome of wounds.

X: Pardon?

Y: The numb. Knowing there is something there, waking up. Trying to yawn out of skin, but—

X: It can’t.

Y: Nothing means nothing anymore. Everything is found. Known. Cut-up into an argument.

X: But. But it can go away.

Y: Only if away means a permanent disconnection of hypnotized raw. The uncooked symbolism of everything that has been taken.

X: Or given—

Y: Yes…away.

good with words

Recently, a Rabbi called me a wordsmith. He knew me many years ago, when my hair was a different color. I was not much like this person I am now. I didn’t want him to recognize me, and I was quite pleased that he didn’t.

I read a short poem and words about mourning at a funeral for my uncle. Afterwords, once all the salt that sifted out from both eyes had dissipated, and I, longside five other men, took on the role of pallbearer, he said to me, “You are quite the wordsmith; you should keep at it.”

I smiled because he had no idea how much I needed to be reminded that I do. I smiled because my sister heard and she looked at me with pride.

This man of God, saying to me, a human who teeters on the edge of atheism, that I am good with words. 

On a Friday night, I sit wearing nothing but skin and remnants of sick still stuck to my flesh. I light a stick of incense and encourage the smoke to breathe me in, wrapping its seductive trail all over me. When one stick burns out, I light another. Inhaling this nag champa tickled my stuffed nose, but gathered me into a deeper mindset.

I began to think of the time my mother stormed my bedroom, and threw out all of my incense. She thought I had it because of drugs. She had no idea that I had yet to begin my thunderous battle with addiction; I just enjoyed the smell.

Even now, I like lighting these aromatic perfumed sticks not to mask any other smell, but to remind me to breathe in deeper. To get lost in the curls of smoke.

All I could say was, “thank you,” to the Rabbi, even though I wanted to say so much more.

I wanted to say to the Rabbi, “Do you remember me? I used to be blond and my parents liked each other. But you must see a lot of rotating marriages. It is 2015 and all.”

I wanted to ask him, “I know Jews don’t believe in heaven or hell and I don’t either but. But what do you think about a human who no longer feels comfortable in the body they were born into? There are words for this, but for me, those words don’t quite fit. And Rabbi?” I’d continue.

“Rabbi, what I mean to say is, I’m not so good with words when I need to use them to describe how this all feels. And also….” Here is where I will pause for such a long time, I will watch this scholar of Jewish law, get uncomfortable, and even impatient.

“…The thing is, maybe I just have a difficult time committing to letters. And designations. And clubs. And groups. And classifications. And stereotypes. And….”

The last time I went to synagogue, I sat, nervously reading prayers, translated into English. I was with my partner, who practices.

I practice to0. But not religion.

I practice how to be.

I just said thank you to this Rabbi who knew me before puberty and mental illness and trauma. I’m much better with words on paper; I’m just not so good with words when they want to come out. Sometimes, they just need more time to prepare.


Experiment #3,403: Create a word that hasn’t existed before this moment. Break the rules with crashing two words together or make a sound birthed between your lips for the very first time. See what arrives.

Traumasement – (noun)-  the hidden area of one’s mind/body where haunting memories are kept.

Winter. Several years past millenium. I sit in style of meditation. Swallow fist of hangnails and crooked knuckles as I unhinge clasp toward traumasement, peel away cobwebs like puffs of sticky smoke and begin to address. Begin to read the footnotes of misery.

Here, in the traumasement, I sniff dust like invisible particles of cocaine, coughing up bloody remnants of the bones of my memories.

what you were before you were ‘this’


Basked in the sun,
listened to birds,
licked off raindrops,
and only in flight
the leaf saw the tree
and grasped
what it had been.
…………………………..Vera Pavlova

That time a room full of words gathered on a Thursday or Sunday. They spun a bottle, stained glass. Listened to strings and that song. One of them recalled a moment. Another talked about that time. There was an engagement. There was an affair of limited lust on a Tuesday between an immigrant and a poet. Between errands and work calls they shared a kiss over wireless connection. A stranger called the day good. There was coffee and a complete raspberry hidden inside a partially stale muffin. Before yesterday, one of them was still sober. Before tomorrow, one of them will be recounting a moment of trauma in order to get surgically healed of it by a muse further west of here. Before last year, there was so much love, it overflowed into bedsheets. Before the end of February, there will be death. What is left but to notice the trees and that protected patch of graffiti in the Bronx by that artist who died of AIDS. What is left but to forget his name even though it is the same as the others. What is left but starvation of throat and bank account. Can you explain away the envelopes and sores. Leave the sheep alone and start counting swallows. This is what you are now.

“And what would you say if you could?”

I never stopped.

Sometimes peach trees exist only to distract you away toward pockets and proposals. I should have stayed. I only lied when I told you that we have forgiven each other. None of this belongs to me anymore. My transition is about forging ahead after giving head. These scars aren’t from yesterday. I no longer bend like that. Staircases and fingers were my first trauma. Allergies are just an excuse to restrict and starve. I lost myself that day.  Please. Speak up and sell your anger to the lowest bidder. Come over. My red hair is not an invitation for you to stir your misogyny into me. I’m the kind of queer that isn’t on a bathroom door. I hate labels but wear one sometimes to rip off and count the hairs pulled. One time I ran away for the length of five sitcoms. Packed grapes and a juice box, some tissues and paper. Climbed my life into a silver robot backpack. I turned around when I realized no one would notice. It scares me that you want to know. I am working my way out of sleepy veins and sculpting a word for this third gender contemplation. What I mean to say is if I could bind my way out of this body and into something else not called male but human or breathing, I might feel more inclined to put on some lace and show you my hidden nude. Or: it’s just not as simple as a symbol. And: I am searching for a hairstyle that helps you understand me better. I forgive you. Sometimes we remain out of fear of getting further lost.

i have no long-term memory.

My body is keeping secrets from me. There is film inside that needs to be developed, but the negatives have become warped and runny. I recall yellow and Jasper and hide-n-go seek and my lack of interest in scrambled eggs. I recall a birthday and cake baked in ice cream cones. Remember Wednesday and first kiss in blue Honda. Remember dressing up as Charlie Chaplin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s voice taking over mine.

What is lost. What is that whisper. I should have taken Latin that time it was offered. I should have scooped out the derivative of all these ghosts climbing inside me.

I recall drunk and cut. I remember Geoffrey and Enya. Andrew’s hanging and that time the net covered my entire body with restraints on wrist and ankles and I guess that is how to handle crazy. Please don’t ask about my origin. I am unsure of continuance or nurture. Washington must have chopped down my family tree.

This black penny placed on cobblestone, steps away from Manhattan Bridge and artists climbing in and out of fabric, reminds me to search for reminders. Perhaps if these clouds were not cooked against my organs. Perhaps there is a reason to neglect the gaps and cracks of window-pained hippocampus. Perhaps there are some things meant to be lost.

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.

o el camino solemne del cuerpo empedrado

The stone is grey and freckled with eastern dust. Kept in pocket, it cuts hips. In hand, it digs into palm. When touched, it enhances the heat of who holds it. The stone is trauma’d. It has been displaced and prefers not to talk about its previous amputations. Do not catalogue, organize or nickname the stone. The stone has been shoved into fires of coordinates that stretch beyond state lines, territories and provinces. The stone has been used as a weapon; it has deflated bone. Notice the blood stains against its minerals. The stone cannot keep a lover; its historical uprooting disallows dialogues on monogamy or the existence of marriage. The stone has been a perch for others, glued into walls, walked over by callused feet, and licked by ocean.  The stone is rib’less and gender’less. Call it androgynous, but the stone refuses to pick a side or sign or stagnant approach to infrastructure. The stone is a danger to itself and others; it has seen too much. Never mention the time the stone ********. Just do not mention that, please. The stone suffers from phantom limb syndrome, though its legs have never existed nor arms or approachable neck. The stone is sad. The stone has no womb, yet yearns to engage in the exercise which publicizes fertility. The stone is without race or religion. It’s color exists from the salt of earth’s breaths and fumes from sun. The stone is still in search of its god. The stone does not conform to any political party and yet this stone is queer. And yet this stone marches for the freedom of others and yet this stone is still. And the stone meditates. And the stone chants. And the stone is in search of its ceremonious existence within its scarred and scared packaging. 

violent receptacle of speech


I’m not the _________________________ you think I am.

Does this hairstyle make me look fat does this fat make me look fat?

I’m ruined.

The past is too present in my future.

Don’t touch me where I’m not perfect (don’t touch me).

I deserved it.

The scars are a reminder of who I was am.

Whose experience is this?

If you judge me because of my past then you need to judge my present.

How can I be a feminist and still hate myself?

How can I be an atheist and still believe in something?

If you want to love me, turn off the lights and turn my volume down.

Cough out memory and press chalk around discharge to warn others of the imprinted trauma.

Ever regret an animal? Ever regret eating an animal? Ever regret being treated like an animal?

I fall in love with shadows because they don’t talk back.

I am ready to cut again.

I have a fetish for language and food.

When you called me a bitch, I wanted to bite my fingernail off and use it as a disposable knife to cut your ignorance out.

I am afraid of men.

I am afraid of white men.

I am afraid of middle aged white men.

I can tell you aren’t listening.

Screams are not enough to save the dying.

I thought I deserved that disease.

I want to know who I caught it from.

I think I know who I caught it from.

My body is a stain too resilient for bleach.

I think I’ll just follow my shadow home and see where it leads me.

how to neglect a memory

Something has happened…

When you spend too much money on your credit card, there is a block on future spending. It is a punishment for lack of control; for purchasing that expensive pair of shoes far out of reach of your economic class; for thinking you could buy a new computer when you couldn’t even afford a printer.

My memories are like this credit card im/balance.

There is a block. But instead of a barrier against the ability to produce new memories, there is a pause against the old ones.

I cannot remember.

She asks me to write about my earliest memories, so I think about breakfast today:

Homemade granola with toasted coconut and sunflower seeds and almonds crushed beyond recognition and oats and soy milk and my appetite moving too quickly to savor each bite. And coffee.

Further back?

I remember falling up the stairs at the Franklin Ave. subway station and my fear of Brooklyn’s disease on my palms.


There was that man last summer who…too many pints…a walk home…non-threatening?… STOP.

Keep going, you coax. Further still.

Oh, that canoe trip in western waters of B.C., Canada. Creating a living room out of driftwood. Washing my underwear in the salty water and pacing around nude over fallen tree trunks. The beauty of turquoise-squeezed sky. Mosquito-ravaged skin. Making love in a tent too small to show off in.

Push back.

I remember my mother getting sick that last time. Shipping her sorry body to Brooklyn to make visiting hours easier for us. Visiting her in between full-time job everyone knew about and the one I kept hidden. Hearing her complain about their lack of toasters and what else is there to eat for breakfast beside charred bread? There was that woman there. And I started to feel like my visits were for her, rather than my mother. And I just wanted to push pills made of poems into this young one’s mouth and save her from the prison bars inside her bones.

What is left to remember? Why am I forcing this push…

Look at a photograph of yourself from at least 5 years ago or maybe ten or go back before the braces came off.

How can I look forward…how can I remain present…and still look through those notebooks stained with mildew reminding me why I am like this.

I just want to talk about breakfast. I just want to make you supper. Let’s just talk about your childhood, since something in my body won’t let me talk about mine.