“the book is a literal body” –joy harjo

Inside this body, I have two. No, three. I’m still counting.

Inside this body, I have alphabetized two hundred and fourteen (plus or minus) bodies, birthed out of books out of words multiplying into more words, crafting enough bones to hold me up for days at a time.

Inside this body, I speech about pronouns and water. I remove every vein from beneath skin to sew into a tightrope for others to reach me.

Inside this body, splinters from the trees I’ve made love to. I’ve got shagbark and shellbark pulling at my shape with stretched branches.

Inside this body, a dialogue with freedom.

Inside this body, screams to wake the dead.

Inside this body, several long stories and a personal essay with fifteen pages of footnotes.

Inside this body, a love triangle featuring poetry, prose and musical notes.

Inside this body, an understanding of light fixtures and renewal.

Inside this body, a literal interpretation of every crack I’ve jumped over or squashed. Here, is where I focus my map. The map of behind me and what is yet to be trekked.



day 15: re/in(carnation)

“People don’t become what they were brought up to be, people become themselves.”
Sarah Schulman

You walk into a room and swallow as many cellular structures as you can. You ask yourself: was this table, etched with unclear floral arrangements, ever someone with limbs? 

Furthermore, you wonder: how much of what we once were parts of what we are right now.

You have begun to romanticize reincarnation as though it were a new love interest. You bat your eyes toward flashes of memory. You are unclear if these are your theatrical trailers of lives once lived, or just scattered bits of movies and conversations you’ve devoured on lonely nights.

When do you officially become?

You were brought up to leave your elbows behind when eating at the table. Back erect and hair untouched while food fondled your lips. You were brought up never to cuss or complain. You were taught homosexuality was a sin, so you left yourself behind for two decades. You were told to keep your hair long in order to be approachable. You were trained to walk away from who you felt you were.

Or are we perpetually becoming?

You decide humans are always humans and do not reincarnate into inanimate objects like stones or light bulbs, but trees and water are a grey area, since they move.

So, you may have been drops of water in that lake you swam in upstate this summer. And you may have been splinters stuck inside the tree you straddle in the summertime during moments of mourning. And you might have been a slice of paper in a notebook that someone somewhere wrote poems in once.

Perhaps we are in constant modes of arrival.

Perhaps we never arrive, instead we transform into various shapes and sounds; there is no stopping point; there is no complete. There is just being.

on this day, a Rebel was born.

for R.
Trees fall out of youAnd the earth wraps its oceans and fossils around your questioning gaze. There is a carving of howl. It sounds of violins and plucked stares. That shade of purple in sky is intonation of the academic lust looking for its disrobe. Red is all around you. In the heat of sun’s early morning music. And the one in Brooklyn who calls you muse. The threads of wool wrapping forearms. The fire attended to with stoker and teeth. You’ve biked over state lines just to search for the perfect book or pint of poetry. Still, you gulp shots of evening as though they’ve been fermenting just for you. And they have.

beyond the view of what can be swallowed

There is too much to take in right now, so you must remove some things. Who needs both lungs. The air breathes against you enough to make some room in body. Tree slopes toward shoulder and itches hip, which is exposed because clothes can be alarming and nudity is where you began. Some of these teeth can go. Remember remember remember when you pulled some out that day because loose means lucky available and ready. Sometimes a tiny twist is enough to exit away some roots. You are being selfish. You don’t need all that skin. Cut some away and lay it over water—a raft for the birds too tired for heights. There are some bones that exist for breaking. Brake those off like shared fortune. Wrapped around the skeleton are poems. Read them out loud. Let them go too. Give away blood to the highest bidder, even if all you get is twenty dollars, some eye rolls and an encore. Someone has taken your cells home for the night. Be grateful they have air-conditioning and a question-marked tongue. Peel off layers of words—weight of water-logged driftwood.  How many hers do you still love. There are two hims now. Here is a handkerchief to wash the soot away. Stay far enough from the flames of this bonfire because sparks are promiscuous and looking to take you too.


an extraction of descent

There are many ways.

One does not have to be abandoned in order to leap into a lake made of hitchhiked creatures in order to decide where “I’m from” means.


I’m from the tunnel of my mother. Rent controlled studio apartment inside her body that housed me for nine months plus two days. Fed me trees marinated in soy sauce. Ate cake without plates or individual portion control.

I’m from the other side of that river where the scent of discarded life wafts inside windows and strip malls and strippers and striped hair and everywhere you look: corporations and franchises.

I’m from that howl housed inside the beard of Ginsberg and Plath’s gas mask and Sexton’s cigarette fumes and the poets that do not wait for stages: they do not wait to be announced: they need no introduction: instead, each breath is an admittance of line break and desperate call of language.

I’m from a body that is watered and hungry and in search of in search of in search of.

I’m from that evening you poured red wine inside ceramic mugs and we crushed sidewalk cracks with our cracked heels and I’m from that nectar squeezed out of carefully cut mango, sucked tropics out of its sour and picked out rind from my teeth for days.

I’m from plucked strings and exploding pens and letters written on disconnected bark.

I’m from addiction and sobriety and can’t we all just call ourselves survivors because amidst the disfigurations, we still exist we still exist we exist.

an art survival

How many trees can paint your way out of here. The bark is mustard and sky and rose and grass. Deep inside a mandala of suctioned moon there is a pharmacy of peace where Stevie Wonder’s blind love echoes against medical bracelets and injection wounds. He tells us feelings are alright as the ones with badges do their best to run our thoughts away. Music forgets to sound out its infection but all this had meaning but all this makes sense.

to recall/ to regret/ to leave behind

There was nothing. There were no gasps or grunts from pain there was no pain. MOON follows you home because no one else desires so there is light there is light there is shape to this survival. MOON could only be your lover if you let go if you let go of regret of the restriction in your bend in your height in your existence as stationary. This love this love is unreachable. When did it happen. When did the moment occur when memories moved into billboards and shadows leaned against bicycle wheels and that time that time some other ghost pushed their way in and life is full of hauntings.

You leave behind sleep. Hunger. The sex of your body. You change your locks so that your hips forget where to come home to. You hold your hand because it feels lonely and pockets are so dark and looming. You kiss your wrist with dry space. Your veins have collapsed. Where is the blood where is the blood even your blood is gone.

Sometimes you know how to be human. You know all about manners and rhythm. You understand what words mean and the ones you never learned you ask another. You never brush your hair but you breathe. You remember climbing trees in August and that one that held you in a forest in Brooklyn to keep you here to keep you here.

(you must) Remain.

they won’t stay

Leaves are pressed between pages because we just cannot handle saying goodbye to them even if just for a winter. So we thin them out and capture the red or green which turns brown and the ends perm but even in February you can visit that leaf and touch its skin and tell it about the time you found it on a sidewalk so calmly sleeping beside an ant and chicken wing and you will say that it was its shape that caused you to remove it and bring it home. You will tell it that it looked like a dream you once had about spider webs in bathtubs and a sun dripping from a tattooed sky and in your hand, it looked like it was smiling. In April, you will remove that leaf from old journal and tell it about the time you fell in love so deeply it was as though you and love were constantly climbing trees, jumping from branch to branch to the scalp of where the tree itched most. And you built and you ate and this leaf will listen and understand because it was once in love too.

Spring is here now, it will whisper through its softened veins. And you will find more of me.

But then you will say: But none like you. Because you have been pressed so close to my words for so long there is no need for speaking sometimes. You just rub my body like Braille and know my movements. 

The leaf will bring you back to that sidewalk where you first met. You will notice no ants nor chicken bones. The trees are still nude, but slowly budding. You will notice a yellow daffodil to your left. It is so bright, you squint and the leaf jumps out of your palm and toward the earth.

Be inside this, the leaf says. Walk along a new block where leaves will soon grow. Wash your eyes out; get ready for their colors. They won’t stay, so memorize and be in their moment while they remain for you.


the linguistics of trees

Its bark is syntactical. You may analyze the rule of its tongue but trees can be sharp and clingy. What it means to psychoanalyze texture and the ground up nerves of body against branches against leaf energy against green and brown and sap and lover’s carve. Birds build hammocks called nests in nooks shadowed by the sun that begs for attention. From far away, these boughs could be hardened strands of hair, wild offshoots of oak or dogwood. Trees are unafraid of commitments; either evergreen or deciduous but even in its dormancy it is alive storing carbon in its pockets. Climb its forest. Babysit the sapling birthed beside it. Measure its love by the ornamentation of its taproot. Wrap limbs around its width and scratch out its cinnamon. When there is nectar the bees come. Their hum is instrumental and symphonic. Rest where the the animals burrow their beaks. Call this home or earth’s wooden sculptures. You are no longer alone.

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.