day 17: persist.

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

You were absent that day.

You were absent that day there was a filmstrip on how to get through all this.

You were absent that day they taught about blood, bodies, growth spurts and persistence.

You were absent that day they explained how to survive an internalized attack.

You missed out on a presentation on safe oxygen intake.

You never learned how to properly handle life.

You often forget to wash your hands because no one advised you on this.

You haven’t owned a hairbrush in over a decade. You have more knots on your head than historical dates memorized and there was that time you were kissed and they could not remove their finger from your tangle.

You only look both ways when crossing a street if there is something that catches your attention both ways. You forget about stop signs and traffic lights because, again, you were absent that day.

You were absent that day they talked about appetite reduction and strength training and the appropriate presentation of genders. You’ve experimented with dresses and hair barrettes. You still do not know how to wear lipstick. Must I remind you, you were absent that day.

You were absent that day they handed out invitations. And your address was never correctly marked and they misspelled your name.

You were told it was epic. You were told that filmstrip addressed every topic you always wondered about. There was no Internet back then; you could not google the answers.

The next day everyone was quoting it. You were absent; have you forgotten? So you stood, silently cradling the wall with your hips and curved spine. You tried to memorize the summaries but everyone spoke too softly to be remembered.

You had stomach flu or a test the next day, one of which caused you to be absent.

The one and only day you remain home during school hours is the one and only day they taught it.

There was no make-up day to watch it.

Some say that filmstrip no longer exists.

Some tease that it never did and that day you were absent was nothing special; you are just looking for a reason to understand not knowing.

unconfirmed liner notes.

Thank you to The Mackinac journal for publishing my poem unconfirmed liner notes.

This poem is loosely based on one of Vera Pavlova’s poems:

A tentative bio

A tentative bio:
caught fireflies,
read till dawn,
fell in love with weirdos,
cried buckets of tears
for reasons unknown,
birthed two daughters
by seven men. 


I thought about introductions and ways in which we reveal ourselves to others. What we keep in and what we keep to ourselves. When I desire another, I am often quite silent, searching for the right words….often landing me in a pile of incomplete sounds. I loved the way in which Vera created magic in her bio. I especially love the line: fell in love with weirdos, which I can definitely attest to as well. But……aren’t they the best ones to love?


Here is my version.

unconfirmed liner notes

survived winter
grew an affection for quinoa
rode highways of stripped concrete and pothole’d sing-a-longs
came out as human
crashed a funeral & kissed a woman with a fetish for teardrops and soil
confessed to manslaughter of seventeen lightning bugs
drove sharpened syllables into the bend of my wrist and ate from the wound that remained
experimented with curry, collarbones and cough syrup
fell out of windows and love
peeled keratin from hair and learned how to chew without teeth
read excerpts of dictionaries and fondled the cover of Ulysses
bartered for therapy
subscribed to trauma and the New York Times
called odd
miscarried sentences
broke recipes
inhaled several bad decisions
got bangs
learned how to play percussion off starved ribcage
called my mother a liar
called my knees disturbed
grew an allergy to February
wore a dress
photographed loneliness but ran out of batteries
traveled to the red light district
carved my name into several park rangers
contracted several unspeakable viruses
donated blood
took a nap
misplaced my gender
drove through a stop sign on a Sunday


Dear Rebel,

I am hoarding wine beneath my tongue. I’ve disarmed my hips for another and this one seems to be carefully slipping love notes inside the marrow of my bones. How do you nourish your memory. In what ways do you feed the scratch-outs on your soul. Eighteen years ago, I paid a stranger to press purple ink into my lower back through single-serving, vibrating needle. He joined circle and lines into a universal woman sign. I carried that female insignia for all these years, which slowly turned from friend to acquaintance to stranger. Are there indentations on your body that no longer belong to you, Rebel. Recently, I paid a guy from Bolivia to alter my gender marking. He told me all about the places he traveled to and the days he scarred his thighs with illustrations to practice being an artist. What would it look like to practice being human. Last week, I carried a rock resembling a tiny egg and an eight line poem by Vera Pavlova. She reminded me that if there is something to desire/ there will be something to regret. But in desire, there is so much breath. The weight of our exhales, Rebel, can turn our forearms into paved roads. Our shoulders into mountain tops. Our chests into stationary reservoirs. Let’s swim in all this burgundy lust, which can be found in Poets, Chefs, Former Monks, Music Makers and Hippies. We can climb our way toward the tallest tree top and swing from the branches of its origin. I am finally digging myself out of all these roots, untangling and recognizing the hybrid in me. Let’s eat up all these question marks and digest the answers that come.

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.


on the way to you
was writing verses about you
done with writing realized
was headed in the wrong direction
……Vera Pavlova  (Translated by Derek Walcott)

So instead of inserting your name against the one inch line where words go, I added mine. I have spent these months learning my way out of your presence, but it is my own that has left me this alone.

Last night, I sat beside another and we spoke about forgiveness. When your syllable came up, I could feel the noise of your teeth and spine. This used to make me curdle, but I am learning that to move on, one must move through.

There are humans out there walking out of marriages. Leaving children behind or stains of sterling silver on fingers. A poet recently asked me if I ever wanted to get married again. Again. As though I have already. And now I realize that I have. If marriage is a union, I have engaged in such. And if the opposite is separation, I have felt that as well. So would I do this again? Yes. And no. I am housed inside that no, until I forgive. All this time, I thought it was you, but it’s been me all along.

I need to forgive me.

Years ago, I traveled to the Netherlands, hunting. With weaponry of tiny red notebook (given to me by a handsome dreamer) and black ink pen, I spent every day searching for something in me to care about. I wrote poems with strangers, smoked pot with a beautiful German who gave me strict directions that life is about getting lost. Maps are meant to be written on, not listened to. He told me lost is where one is found. So each day, I hopped buses and walked new streets, misplacing direction. I gathered stories by people in need of sharing them. I ate an expensive meal with a stranger who wanted to know all about poetry and life in New York. I sang a memorial of candlelight and tears in a church. I was desperately trying to forgive all of my selves.

None of this is easy and when love leads us on, it is distracting. And terrifyingly beautiful.

I forgive you.

All this music I distract myself with and the food I fondle with my teeth and tongue and the poems and long walks in cracked air and the conversations with strangers and the ways in which I grow addicted to chaos and grey……..leads me here.

Just a few days ago, I articulated [one of] my trauma[s] into a box and sent it toward the west. I am writing my way out of these bones. Metamorphosing into something I can connect to and trust. All those years I called myself an atheist because I could not believe in myself (so how could I possibly believe in an other).

I’ve inserted my name into this meditation. Repetition will lead me forward…closer to who or what I want to believe in. A different kind of union between self and love.

the time breath forgot itself

“If there is something to desire,
there will be something to regret.
If there is something to regret,
there will be something to recall.
If there is something to recall,
there was nothing to regret.
If there was nothing to regret,
there was nothing to desire.” 
……………………………………….Vera Pavlova.

Dear Rebel,

So much of this is about persistence. Did I tell you about the time I forgot how to breathe. I awoke on a Saturday and my chest was sore like April in mourning. I googled: steps to take when breath is forgotten. Videos and imagery emerged. Yoga poses. Lots and lots of kundalini. Some recipes for tinctures and toxin-reducers. Am I housing foreclosed energies that are tying up my lungs into suffocated pauses?

Name one thing I regret: letting that ring rust away from  my finger. Call out the first sounds I heard this morning: steam and persistence of cold. What happens when we recall: lost time. You called yourself pregnant and I told you about the time(s) I thought I was too. Last year, I miscarried my mind. This year, I may find myself giving birth to a mountain; how many stretchmarks will add themselves to my body from that push.

Rebel, in a room full of poets, I was reduced to a stereotype. In a room full of metaphors and freestyle’d verse, I was called dirty and abused. Sometimes we have no idea who sits beside us and the routes of survival.

I used to desire the wrap-a-round of somebody’s fingers into mine. I used to desire monogamy and breakfast. I used to regret my inability to close doors and keep them locked. Now I desire music and tuned colors. Now I regret not wearing sturdier boots.

Rebel, I still think about that yurt and the ways in which bodies can resemble this portable dwelling. We can airlift our bones anywhere. We can escape this cold and travel toward the moon or dig our way around it. I’ll bring the paper, percussion and manuals on how to breathe. I’m still gathering.