On the evening before we are handed an extra hour of minutes, I walk toward east fourth street for some poetry. In my teeth, are the dried mandarins that burst in my mouth with each clap of tooth. There is an applause of bites as I eat more until my tongue is too sugared to speak. I walk up the stairs to a bar with more red than in my hair. So many bottles lined up like stained-glass slurs. I order the cheapest beverage with Brooklyn in its name. It tastes like a hangover. One other woman exists in this bar. She is eating from several to-go tins and I sit, accompanied by broken-in red notebook and black pen. As people enter, what arrives as romantic are the dim shadows over faces. Another poet sits beside me and we roll our eyes around each other. In this light, we are both humans. My supper is this room. I want more of some things and push others beneath the ridges of my notebook. Wang Ping walks behind microphone with length of hair like letters from every lover from first grade to this one. So many words in every dark strand clasped together. She says, “Language…like woman…looks best…when free… naked.” And I want to weep toward this image of dialect on skin. Later, I purchase a stale eclair from a cart for an evening performance of drag and disrobe. I think about the ways in which I envelope my gender lately. On this night, I head toward a theatre for women and trans-folk. I make a small space for myself in a corner of small dressing room where nudity replaces handshakes. I bind my breasts in electrical tape and cannot stop fondling the flatness. When I paint my face, I am other. Two humans on this earth call me animal and I like this moniker of blur. These hours of waiting to go onstage are like curious drips of blood falling on my shoulder. I want to wipe all of this away; I want to run toward its origin. Later, I walk home. The glitter covering my face and limbs are my street lights. I follow my glow back to Brooklyn. Home is where hot tea waits for me. And a painter. A musician and bearded poet. I sleep alone, but my bed is full of the ghosts of others.
Beneath a plastic wrapped swingset. On my bed in a basement in New Jersey. Tall and thick. Strong and thin. Shaved. With moustache. From Freehold. From the Bronx. One was heterosexual. One was newly queer. One is married now (perhaps). One transitioned (I wonder).
I tend to write about my first time but never the third time or the last time or the time that never happened or the time I still think about or the time that almost ruined me.
How have I evolved in this sex life and how many of them still think about me or our time together.
I have no idea where they are– even in this world of constant knowing of where everybody is and what they are eating– so I will guess or gather enough words to create a story in my head.
Two Jennifers– one almost after the other– plus the one I never got to because her lips preferred boys’. This particular Jennifer bared her back to me one day on route nine when we were feasting our flesh on needles and ink. Her boyfriend purchased her a fairy and I called myself a woman on my lower back with a circle and cross.
I loved her before I even knew what that meant because in those days queer existed in banned library books and in closets. There were no clubs, only bullies lurking in cafeterias.
Years later, I’d find her, briefly before she got lost again. Behind bars. Locked up.
The Jennifers led to a queue of others: women, some whose names I memorized, some of which I never needed to learn. The Jennifers led me to my first orgasm, experienced far later than I care to explain. The Jennifers introduced me to french kissing and fingering and fondling above and below clothing.
After the Jennifers, I found love several times. Each time growing bolder and thicker and LOUDER.
Sometimes I wish I could find both of them. Let them see me without the smoke and inebriation. We could write a poem together, share a meal. We can scratch each other’s bodies with hieroglyphics–translated into SOS signs. They may be surprised I stopped drugging and I may be surprised they both practice heterosexuality now.
There was that time. Neither of them were there, but the smell of their memory was. In that state I never thought I’d travel to. In a tent or on a mountain or maybe we were straddling a rented mattress or eating a burrito or perhaps reading Sexton or shivering melodies or burrowed in a sleeping bag or hiding out from agendas or letting go of gender roles in a sulphuric cave.
And everything I had learned from the Jennifers– and the ones who followed soon after– no longer mattered. Because bodies steeped in (real) love let go of choreography and you know it’s real when there is silence. No moans. No dirt speak. Just crickets or dog bark or toenail scratch against ankle or yelp from the good pain.
Maybe it’s best we lose track of people because memories cannot remain static if we are FACEBOOK friends, chronicling lives through stalked computer screens. I like remembering the Jennifers as how they first looked to me. Young. Because I was. New. Because everything then was. Real. Because even if I’m the only homo left, our bodies created music created lessons created history. Even if just for me.
There are many times we feel stared at. In the earliest mornings of a day, it can be the sky that challenges us to a no-blinking contest. Try not to survey the study of colors– thick benches of blue floating. I can survive without blinking if the mood is right, if the words hold my lids up. Sometimes, we forget to look away because of its beautiful stun. The silhouette of tree branches viewed against the backdrop of sunrise will remove anyone’s breaths and replace them with poems.
When I first saw you stuck inside a recycled New York Times, I could not look away. And I wanted to ask everyone on the subway to leave, so I could be alone with you. You are already alone and I want to be the one to change that.
Fifteen times you were struck. Man treated you like a tree and tried to chop you away. Your
brain childhood, love affair, dreams, thoughts, meditations are exposed.
In my country, we stray all the time. We make love against buildings and walk away from the aroma of temptation with our bodies still in tact. You ran toward the direction of hope and look where you’ve been found.
Someone needs to change your bedsheets. Someone needs to comb your soul away from its tangles. Someone needs to read you Rumi at night to soothe you away from the nightmares. Someone needs to stop these honor killings from continuing.
How to overcome centuries of murderous revenge for moral crimes?
Gul Meena, you are eighteen. And when I was eighteen, I was researching ways to die. No one needed to hunt me down; I was stalking my mortality each day, challenging its strength, laughing at its resilience. I bathed in poison, daily. I removed all welcome mats and when break-ins occurred, I broke, but remained.
Your limbs curl. Your heart swells and floats inside your body like a beating nightlight. How many kilometers stretch between us and if I could bring you a meal of poems and clean cells and know they’d heal your slowly developing scars, I would.
Gul Meena, you are able to speak, but your memory has leaked into the bedsheets. Sometimes memories are better left forgotten.
Rest in Jalalabad. Be still as new roots grow out of your limbs and skull. The healing has begun.
…in red baseball hat which read: OBEY, who curves her body in a hip-hop way, curled lips into teeth, bent knees in the direction of the moon (which I had to imagine since we were underground).
I feel the need to admit that when you lifted your right leg in a dance move that can only be described as the concrete scrape, I saw your underwear. And I only committed to my stare for as long as I did because the color was nude or blanched peach like your skin and I suddenly felt closer to you than to myself.
Your fingernails match your dress and I wondered which area of your body gained the green first.
If I wasn’t so shy insecure withdrawn self-conscious, I’d whisper into your ear: jungle green, the shade of crayon you represent.
When the local 4 train arrived, I sat across from you. Tried to ignore the fullness of my bladder by studying the various shapes of moles and freckles on your calves.
Can I call your eyes slate? How about I compare their color to the time of night when black, grey and green compete with the stars.
Are you a dancer or do you just dance well?
Beneath your red cap, your brown hair is lopsided. Do you know how you turn beautiful into a language, rather than just a word?
What happened was I bent my neck down, wrote notes into my notebook for a length of time I lost track of, but when I looked up you were gone. Your red baseball cap was on your friend’s head. The other dancer. Lithe male with deeply padded lips. You got off at Grand Army Plaza or Eastern Parkway. You live somewhere near to me. More importantly, you live on this earth. I wanted to watch your exit. Would you twist and hop your way off this train like you did on the subway platform? Would you twirl, leap, pop your limbs through the double doors?
I missed your finale.
how to love bloat/ pink creased stain/ rorschach
pain against sex act/ what it means to bleed art/
her body is a museum
of modern expressionism
On a Sunday evening when Autumn arrives in leaf exhales and wind-blown winces, a uterus discharges an outburst. There is pain far deeper than knuckle crack or papercut or chosen bout of starvation. There is a shift of weight as stained sheet gathers beneath distended body. “How about some hot cocoa? Shortbread?” There is a monster of pain pulling ribs away from each other. An invisible hammer lunges toward each vertebrae. Hair is no longer curled or red; it is gathered by ghosts and torn away from rooted home. Boil water and funnel into bottle in the shape of plastic kidney. Press against belly. Burn away the waft of agony. There is wisdom in blood dripping into silicone menstrual cup suctioned between legs. There is a bully hidden inside the drips which drop onto grey lace underwear staining away its sex quotient.
Here is what I’ve done.
There is a ring. There is a sliced-out scream from forearm. There is a love letter. There are many love letters. There is a collection of bodies stained inside my underwear. There is a preference to live out loud on computer screen rather than in imagined silence of mind. There are sexual perversions hidden beneath bed. There is a collection of condoms in bathroom, bedroom, backpack, and back pockets of pants. There is a memorized poem about sofrito, chapstick and razorblades. There is a woman. There are many women. There is a man. There are disposed hairs growing inside knots. There is drug addiction. There is food addiction. There is sex addiction. There is an addiction to addiction. There is some gender stuff. There is an experimental approach to genitals and orgasms. There is a stolen memory, stuffed inside a sock drawer. There is an envelope of money. There is an unclassified stain. There are many stains. There is a revision of memories. There is a pile of notebooks. There are maps of directional patterns on tiny pieces of paper in pockets. There is a tambourine. There is a mix tape. There are many mix tapes. There is a passport. There is a phone number for a man that is no longer alive. There is a Fidgeon. There is an orchestra of padded bras, stockings, and false
eyelashes identity. There is a purple vibrator. There is a history of mental illness. There is a pattern of lactose intolerance connected to lovers. There are lovers. There are many lovers. There is a soul mate. There is an un-mated soul. There is a remixed version of childhood. There is a pause. There is a hole. There are many holes. There is this life uprooted from poems and whispered assumptions and how about we workshop the time I lost my mind. Tell me I use too many semi-colons; tell me my imagery is too abstract and distracting; tell me I need to have a beginning middle and end…when I don’t even know how to exist chronologically?
when I inhale, I use my tongue
There is a brunette woman with a silver ring in her nose, collecting light and dust. Her lips bounce together biting into a strawberry. I should be listening to a lecture on research, language and the art of composing sentences. Instead, I quietly digest the seeds of her flesh, darkened grains of hereditary smoothness.
Memorize the stain of stewed tomatoes or chili peppers. My stomach grumbles toward her teeth, strong enough to rip open fruit and thoughts, still marinating from the night before. I am studying the linguistics of her throat. She sets all utensils and dishes on fire. Her hands are strong enough to replace porcelain dishware. Her fingers are slender chopsticks sliding food between fingers.
Her shadowed skin is stained.
An early morning walk back to my Brooklyn and as I pass by bodegas, unopened restaurants and cafes, I think about love.
How many times have I been written on by lovers in bars where pool tables act as backdrops to flirtations like:
“They’ve run out out of chairs, want to sit on my face?” (QJH)
Or scent of western saltwater separating our thighs and I write:
“Real love like Mary J. sung about.”
I am thinking about pace, pause, stop signs, traffic jams and foreplay. I am thinking about how often I have given it up and what it means now to hold back.
What is an alternative to love nowadays?
Screaming a song at the top of my lungs
Dance party sans pants sans strangers humping legs and hipbones
An uninterrupted indulgence of spooned peanut butter into mouth
Woody Allen films
A nap on park bench with the soundtrack of dogs barking and bike wheels churning
Thrift store shopping
Maybe I am longing for the grey
with just a hint of howled love
vulgar enough to replace bathing/ food binges/ and habits like hair removal and loneliness
award winning I want to thank god for you love
I am in search of the [ ] who can influence my shadow to glow in the dark.
before hair grew in places battery-operated-razor-then-manual used to shave off, I would sit inside gray bathtub of large two-story house with basement and cobwebs and ghosts I called my parents—and pretend I was a submarine with tin-can belly and lips like a flask that hid inside soiled pockets.
before skin grew edible, sewing up its smoothness and smelling of wine when I picked at it enough, I would sing beneath the first layer of water’s flesh and hear the echoes of my unfinished voice merge with simmered air-sacks.
before learning how to properly maneuver a showerhead to resemble an open mouth with watering-can-tongue, I would squeeze tiny, yellow rubber duckie with small hole by its mouth to inhale water, and place against tiny, pink-ish, supple pussy with small slit between its lips to inhale fingers and gasp.
before I knew about nooses, pills, and vertical incisions, I took felt-tipped fingertips and placed against forehead as though textured with pores like a basketball, dunked down toward bottom of enamel tub until my lungs could not remember their function and then, I came up to the top where dry air meets wet deciding to try again some other time.
before developing a tolerance for fermented yeast brewed during the happiest of hours, I detached my jaws to resemble a kayak and paddled in water boiling away first two layers—
I drank dead skin.
I drank a bruise formed into a scab, one or two days away from falling off naturally,
which water pressure and my impatience tore off, watching it float into flesh-flaked tub.
I drank the juice squeezed from fuzz-free thighs.
I drank the shampoo rubbed into my scalp to eliminate tangles that never seemed to go away due to lack of brushing.
I drank the thoughts plunged into the deepness, including consideration of personal expiration date.
I drank until I had to pee it all out and then I did and I drank that too.
before I knew bathtubs can be big enough for two, I spoke in several voices that made me feel less lonely. I clustered my fingers together and curved my hands to resemble open mouths, talking. I made up varying lengths of time in which I needed to remain plunged inside the bubbled-liquid—
to burn away the badness, when wrinkles resemble something smooth again.
when tiny, yellow duck makes tiny, pink cunt come.
when I forget about the need for razorblades.
when I run out of songs.
when I am clean