Monday, July 31, 2017
For Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
"If I'd've seen you someplace, I'd've thought you were a straight girl" was the day I went home and shaved half my head
"Femme Visibility Cut"
7 months later for my birthday, I got the word, "Femme" tattooed in black above my cleavage.
When I met you at Bluestockings, we had the same haircut
Proud gray roots
But yours was dyed pink at the ends, and on your chest,
Where mine said "Femme" was the word "home"
I'm sitting at a table in the Met Life building in Midtown Manhattan, waiting for the charger port on my phone to be fixed. My overwhelmed autistic ears are stuffed with rolled up halves of a paper napkin, an insufficient measure to block out the large wall mounted TV tuned to CNN, and the men around me taking up too much space with their voices.
I've been re-reading "Love Cake", and I'm writing this longhand on a piece of stenographer's paper with a pen I borrowed from the front desk on top of its cover.
In the picture inside, you have a full head of hair, and I wonder if someone once made you feel invisible. I want to tell you, that even without the undercut, the tattoos or the "switchblade hip switch"
If I had seen you in the wild
I would have seen you right away
Queer, Brown, Hard Femme
Because we are not invisible
We take up more space than these chattering men, CNN and Midtown put together
Just by being the
Unbreakable bitches we are
But until I picked up your books,
Found your words when I lacked my own
I might never have discovered this Femme/home.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Like an 8 hour shift as the "sandwich specialist" at Burger King
Covered in grease and sesame seeds, after a 2 and a half hour bus commute both ways in the South Florida heat
Like the time I broke down sobbing in the Galil- that riverbed hike through the mountains, over the slippery rocks
I didn't know yet I was sick then
Only that my body was giving up
Like waking up now Taking shower Brushing teeth and collapsing twice on the bed between steps to pant for half an hour
Like smiling and saying everything's ok
I'm so glad to be here
I've missed you
Because I am
And I have
And I don't want to have to shoulder your guilt
When Tired began for me
I didn't know the language to tell you
That there is no language for this kind of Tired
Too much effort to fight for air.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
In Praise of waking up- or more accurately still being up at 4:47 on a Thursday morning
In Praise of IBS with cramps that threaten to send bodily waste out both ends at a time, and make you think of that scene in Braveheart when Mel Gibson's guts are being pulled from his living body and wound around a spiked and thorny skewer; he was an amateur. (We know this.)
In Praise of cracking knees, popping elbows, shoulder joints that no longer rotate and the pain that reminds us of that when we try to put our bed-side arm up under our pillows so we can lie on our side
In Praise of Herxing, with daily migraines, dizziness, hives and hands so swollen you can barely bend your fingers
In Praise of shit that smells like ammonia
In Praise of boldly canceling plans at the last minute because you're not sure which tricks your body is going to play on you today, but you're pretty sure you feel something coming on
In Praise of shooting pains brought on by having to adjust your gait because of other shooting pains
In Praise of bed, where you'll spend countless hours, often lacking the energy to get up to pee
In Praise of neuro symptoms like brain fog, loss of hearing,
Stumbled, slurred and stuttered speech, and feeling like your skin is on fire
Or maybe cold and soaking wet
And on that note
In Praise of night sweats
And day sweats and anytime sweats, even at 20°F
In Praise of night time rituals- the taking of so many tinctures, and so many pills it's almost a meal in itself (you jokingly call the open handful of your pills "fruit salad")
In Praise of morning pill rituals too
In Praise of being the cranky ass sick crip who demands space in this world that constantly tries to squeeze you out,
or at least make you invisible
I raise my purple cane and point it at the sky for you,
In Praise of us, and all we have to teach the next generation of chronically sick crippled queers.
We shape this world build scaffolding of our stories
Our lives are not inconvenient
We Stay Here.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
I tried to express the nuances, and how
We are no monolith, despite the places
We Call Home
How, even in this temporarily "safe" space
Our bodies, our genes remember each diaspora,
Every displacement and rape
Each edict and genocide
The mass graves and the
Stench of every oven
Tried to explain
Transgenerational inhereted trauma,
The ways each of us carries millions of individual traumas in our cells
These horrors that were
Not our own /Are our own
But to you these things are academic
Things to be analyzed
"Not an excuse"
(I'd never said/say they were)
I said, they are the pain with which we stitch together-
Through Savta, through Saba, through Mother, through Father, through child
This ragged tapestry- this hole filled quilt
Disjointed because we are
Not one people/Are one people
But you cover us all with it, call it a flag
I will not wear a flag
But this ragged tapestry, this
Heavy, hole filled quilt is also mine
And while you can see it, pick apart its threads, critique the spacing of its stitches,
Only we who carry it know its true weight.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Write your truth
Do not apologize
Do not seek approval
Listen to Anne Lamott
Do NOT seek approval
So write your own truth
Write your OWN truth
Tell all your stories
The messier, the better
Open your wounds
Poke around inside
No need to reinjure yourself
There are your stories
Do you feel them? Their edges?
What are they like, is the blood still fresh?
These are your stories
Tell them and maybe
You'll start to heal.
Thursday, June 29, 2017
I'm feeling very small tonight. I feel myself shrinking, and everything is so big. It feels like I'm a mite, and toppled skyscrapers are being piled atop me.
I am so small that I can crawl out between their gaps and maybe dissappear.
Monday, June 12, 2017
After Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
For Leah and Kyla and all the SDQTIBIPOC Community who are teaching me to survive
First of all, floundering is part of the process
There will be voracious googling to make sense of your new diagnosis,
Tumblr and Facebook groups will become your can't sleep middle of the night comfort places
Pain- a word everyone seems to think they understand, has a different meaning for you now
If you're an extrovert, you may start to feel like you're dissappearing
Fewer and fewer invitations to join your friends come through
Not that you could go anyway
But you hold on to "maybe"
In the beginning, by the day, then by the week, soon you're wondering if certain months might be kind enough to unshackle you from your bed for a bit
One day, you'll discover another voice,
One that feels like it comes from your own heart
This might feel like joy that could burst out of your ribcage like broken glass through tissue paper
Little by little, through community, you'll begin to make sense of some things
Burbur and lemon water bring quicker relief from your migraines than Excedrin or any narcotic
Lavender tea for twitching muscles
Narcotics help some things too
Crystals and herbs and sleep are powerful medicine
Help will come from corners you didn't know were there
You'll attain new ancestors-
A "Crip Fairy Godmother" and a "Mama", both chronologically younger than you, both hundreds of years older in sickness wisdom
You'll learn that
Sometimes "medicine" isn't something you ingest, but space and time and compassion and the forgiveness you take for yourself.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
I was 19,
My parents hadn't noticed yet, the budding breasts that grew under my black tshirts
Street bought Premarin and Provera
I covered them in the South Florida heat in the same motorcycle jacket I still wear
Face sweating off concealer I'd applied too thick
No one to teach me
No one to tell me how much better it'd work to cover the blue beard shadow if I dabbed on a layer of lipstick, red/red, under the concealer
No one to teach me,
Use powder to set
No YouTube, or Internet, this was 1987.
I remember how thrilled and scared I was when approached in the Xtra parking lot by a man who asked for my number, even though I was dressed
Butcher than butch
That was also the year I was forced to blow a biker who called himself Satan, the broken tip of his fishing knife pushed
hard against the side of my neck
I discovered my bravery in Femme a little bit, before my parents kicked me out that year.
Door knocker earrings- my other punk friends made fun of me. Terri just looked at me, shook her head and smirked outside of Jonestown on South Beach.
No one taught me Femme. It was something I pulled out of myself like teeth.
When I first came out as trans, I did it in small, scared steps,
So used to this body belonging to
Everyone but me.
When I came fully into my Femme,
It was violent, like being born.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
He knows despite the Harm Reduction Outreach backpack
"I'm not working tonight though sweetie, you need any cleans? Cookers, cottons, ties?"
He knows he can have me anyway,
because I'm Femme, because I'm Trans,
Because this is the stroll.
As we walk back to my car, parked on a side street, away from streetlights,
still a fishbowl, still a silent prayer for
invisibility & safety, I ask him quietly
"how much do you want to spend tonight?"
He knows the local prices but I
get him up to 35 and covered.
When we get into my gray Hyundai,
windows dirty enough from the
road salt and backsplashed FDR slush to
hopefully afford a little more privacy,
he notices on my dashboard,
the purple, Styrofoam, glittered skull,
the two plastic Christmas Disney Princess snow globes from Duane Reade,
the dried roses and dogwood blossoms.
"You don't seem like someone who'd be into this shit" he laughs,
as I lock the doors,
peel off my leather jacket,
and dig out a fresh condom from the plastic bag on the floor behind his seat.
Friday, May 12, 2017
Tuesday, May 09, 2017
I write because I constantly feel like Im dissolving
into my role as caretaker
into my own sick and sweaty bed
into just another tranny whore
into everyone else's ideas of who I am
I write because I so often want to dissolve
I write because part of me is still rooted in resistance
I write for my own resurrection
I write so that I might meet myself
again and again and again
Saturday, May 06, 2017
I dreamt of some future museum
(A memorial, like Yad V'Shem)
Here, in New York
And, instead of shoes
There was a pile of canes.
If such a place should come to exist,
I hope that the curator
will tell all the crips
Who come to remember
To pick a cane,
To carry it with them
To let it support them
So that our stories might too be carried forth.
Monday, May 01, 2017
Want to write bombs to bust this world wide open
This Mayday, (which our dictator wants to rebrand as his "Day of Loyalty")
This day of our rage
We lie in bed
Our bodies, furnaces of blistering flames
Our knees, hips, elbows and spines,
crusted with stiffening rust
And words are all we have to throw.
I want so badly to be the Warrior Cripple, but instead, I feel helpless.
I twitch and
jerk in pain,
sweat and shiver and
in disconnected thoughts of
ending my own life.
I think about the
collect my corpse; likely with needle still leaning from my arm.
will they misgender me? Will they notice more the 4 days of stubble than they will my
Painted nails, or my tits?
me into that
taupe, plastic bag, will they
tell my partner how sorry they are, as they
strap my stiffening body to the wheeling gurney, load me into the elevator, into Coroner's van, and as they
Fish in pockets for exact change at the counter of the the corner Bodega
stopping for coffee, a Pepsi and a bag of Cheetos
will they laugh, and tell the visual, and say
"First one of the night
You see everything in New York"?
for when I couldn't remember the word for
not being able to remember words
It's a beautiful, velvet blue and twinkling yellow light, a god dammed Van Gogh painting swirling to life
A goddess who hoards the wealth of our crippled experiences, doling them back to us- stories to whisper or text to trusted loves
Even now my mouth feels its shape, the "s" that strokes the inside point of my jaw's joints
Allodynia has always been another favorite of mine I
wrote once of the conflict of having to explain to a partner that her
overzealous touches- though appreciated were too much
About having "to cover her bruised heart with my
This is Allodynia
I wish my clouded brain would allow me to write an ode to the beautiful language of sickness
Instead I tell myself "be content,
You were able to honor two of your favorites."
I don't yet know a special word for that
For learning compassion for
for learning to be ok with less.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Thursday, February 25, 2016
No more No
Pain aching thighs, knees, hips
Hands burning, forearms warning
Ribcage, even skin
sore to the touch
How many words for pain?
How many ways to balance its deficit? How many ways to gently
tell your lover that her
enthusiastic touch is
too much right now
and not have to move precious energy to her
And not have to cover her bruised heart with
your burning skin?
Friday, May 15, 2015
I say it
knowing you've heard it
a thousand times
I say it
knowing that it sounds
I say it
knowing that sometimes you must feel awkward
being forced to
acquiesce to something
(or worse, to reciprocate)
I say it
because I feel fragile
And because if I don't
might burst through my
already crumbling foundation
"No way," he said, "How do you even 46?" he asked, enthusiastically, in hipster speak.
I didn't know what to tell him until I'd
you break, and you bleed, and you
And each time you break, it
Hurts a little bit more,
Bleed a little bit less.
Monday, March 02, 2015
I'm only beginning to learn exactly what that means.
I know that there are a lot of stigma and assumptions around it, and that many of them are completely wrong. I know that it's inextricably tied to having survived years of violent and sometimes deadly abuse at the hands of ignorant, intolerant, queerbashing bigots, and two sexual assaults that happened to occur during seminal periods of my life when I should have been building a sense of self. I know, thanks to a wonderful friend of mine who also lives with BPD and has an amazing blog on the subject, that my extremely heightened sense of empathy, something I developed as a survival mechanism, is a part of BPD.
Being diagnosed with something that carries such a stigma is scary, but having a name for why I spend so much of my life feeling disconnected from others and empty inside, or why I've dealt with suicidality since I was 8 years old, or why I have such an intense fear of abandonment, feels oddly hopeful; I know I'm not the only one in the world anymore, and for that, I'm thankful.
Thursday, December 04, 2014
I can breathe because
Although I'm terrified whenever I see a blue uniform, I pass easily as white, so chances are, their attentions are elsewhere.
I can breathe because if I do get stopped for any number of reasons, chances are, I'll go home after little more than a desk appearance.
I can breathe because
Although I am trans, queer, poor, disabled, of mixed non-European heritages, pierced, tatooed etc., in this country, even after a civil war, Selma, Dr. King, Malcolm X, and countless others who fought for dignity and equality, my skin tone alone, an accident of birth, still grants me greater privelege.
I can breathe because
I am not Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tarika Wilson, Tamir Rice, Yvette Smith, etc. etc. etc. etc.
I can still breathe
Until however, my siblings are safe
I will not breathe free.
I will not breathe free.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
One by one
by one by one
This is how it will work:
First they take your freedom, your autonomy and your choices.
Then, they take your hope, until you think you've nothing left.
Finally, they take your voice, so that no one can hear you scream. That's when you take to the streets.
When you've little to lose but your own life.
That's when you become their worst nightmare.
This is a lesson they'll never understand.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
She spent her days in warm thought of what that life would be. One day, while eggling about in eggy ways, she bumped into another egg.
"She was so heavy", she thought, "I think I've cracked my shell. "
She felt the spot that was still warm from the contact, and sure enough, there was a crack.
"Oh dear", she said to herself, "I'll have to patch that", and that's exactly what she did.
The patch held well for quite some time, and the egg enjoyed being as eggy as possible. "Afterall," she'd say, "we eggs are delicate. We do get cracks sometimes, but it's hardly reason to sit in the nest! What kind of life is that? "
One day, the egg decided to go to an egg party. It was the egg event of the year, so she readied herself carefully, polishing her patched shell, artfully fraying the edges of her patch, and checking herself in the mirror over and over again.
When she got there, there were so many eggs! Some were- like her, beige, others were white, some were brown, and some were small and blue with brown specks, but all of them were oh, so beautiful.
"Finally", she said to anyegg who might be listening, "I feel like I'm home. "
As she egged herself through the beautiful crowd, she found herself bumped from every side. It felt so warm, this contact with other eggs, but she became worried about her delicate, already patched shell, and decided she'd better go to the restroom, and make sure the damage wasn't as bad as she feared.
She waited in the line, and when it was her turn, she shut and locked the door behind her and looked at herself in the tiny, high mirror.
The damage was in fact, worse than she'd thought: she'd developed a pit, where several cracks joined together.
"It's so unfair, " she thought, "all these other eggs, bumping into each other, and they're all fine, but I try to do what they do, and I break.
She began to sob, and as she did, her little eggy body was filled with shakes and quakes, which only served to worsen the cracks.
"Oh dear, " she said, over and over again, "oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I don't know what to do. These other eggs are so beautiful, and feel so heavy with life and warmth, and when I'm alone, I miss their warmth and heaviness and life! Oh dear, oh dear oh dear oh dear! " she cried.
Eventually, another egg knocked on the restroom door, for while she'd been inside, a line had developed, so she blew her eggy nose, and wiped her eggy eyes, and when she did, the pit that had fallen in on her eggy forehead, collapsed into her. She was stunned, and scared, and she hoisted her eggy self closer to the tiny mirror to inspect the damage. When she looked closely, she could see, and she understood: the other eggs had felt so heavy, so warm and full of life to her, because all along, unlike them, she'd really been only an empty shell.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
We've jostled and twisted, just to be able to feel like we could breathe.
We have been octagonal pegs in square holes, and there's not one amongst us who hasn't known the strike of the hammer that tried- through force, to make us fit.
We've been "problems that need to be addressed", and "why can't you just be normal"s.
We know what it is to be the butt of jokes, and then told that we take these things far too personally.
We have been beaten, raped, and stripped of our identities and bodily autonomy and, when one of us is murdered, as so many of us have been, and as so many of us will be, we know that we will likely be misgendered, and slandered by media, and maybe even family, even after we are dead.
We are not pathetic clowns; we paint ourselves brightly because our lipstick is war paint, and our lives are a daily war in a world that's determined to marginalize us, to humiliate us, and to kill us. We may lose this battle, but we will win this war.
Stonewall was only the beginning.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Because when I tell you I don't want to have a conversation about my breasts you go on to tell me that they "look like they could use a good manhandling",
Because when I tell you it's not a compliment, and that you're making me uncomfortable, you value your own ego too much to lay off,
Because when I reveal to you, that I was sexually assaulted when I was fifteen, you feel entitled to tell me I'm making YOU uncomfortable with "too much information",
Because you feel entitled enough, to break me down into the parts of my body, to weigh them for my worthiness,
After all this, you tell me, I have no sense of humor,
and that I'm
Thursday, September 11, 2014
I was fifteen.
He was nineteen.
We had drama class together.
We went to the same school.
He invited me over.
"We'll hang out", he'd said.
He answered the door in
I followed him into the dark in-
terior of his house.
In his room, a super 8 projector machine-gunned silent 70's porn onto his wall.
He sat on the floor, his back against the
metal closet door.
In his lap, he'd placed a
two-handed vibrating massager,
the kind, I remember thinking,
Burgess Meredith might have run over Rocky's back before a fight.
He asked if I wanted to help.
He'd framed it as a question,
A request, but
He made me hide
crouched down on the floor of the frontseat of his parked car,
Under the steering wheel
In his unlit driveway,
for four and a half hours, until after midnight.
Until his parents were home,
until they were in bed,
until they were asleep.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Humidity free, May morning air on the skin of my upper arms-
seventy degrees, yet
a small chill
Crystal yellow sunlight, too developed I think for eight, but the sun's been up for a while now
(my winter tempered internal clock?)
And the smell:
Our Upper East Side block smells like Florida
(I wonder, will anyone understand what I mean?)
I could take out my cellphone and snap a picture of all this
Then I realize:
Standing squinting shivering slightly smelling feeling
o'er my phone's keyboard,
That that's exactly
what I've done.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
I love this body,
My fat, trans, hairy, femme, invisibly crippled, inconvenient, queer and capable of fucking miracles body
every hairy fucking follicle
I love that the simple act of eating a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos in public
is a revolutionary act
I love that I take up space,
And I love that this pisses off all the right people
I love my body, and I'm gonna celebrate it, in
loud, bright, short, crop tops that show off this beautiful, round tummy,
And short skirts that show the world these
By dancing in bliss, and loving
every movement of my fat,
And by fucking and owning every ounce, pound, and inch of my pleasure.
I love this body, and I'll keep on loving it, because
according to just about
every TV show and commercial,
every movie that would relegate me to the role of
one dimensional comedic sidekick,
and every "concerned" comment on posted picture of myself in a bikini,
I am unloveable
I'm a joke
but I know that that's not true
I love this body
and all the other
fat, full-figured, zaftig, obese, beautiful and perfect folx with whom I share this body,
And who's bodies I am privileged to love,
and they can tell you
that this fat, trans, hairy, femme, invisibly crippled, inconvenient, queer, miraculous fucking body will
rock your fucking world.
Friday, January 03, 2014
Monday, December 16, 2013
Friday, December 13, 2013
so much loveliness here
in these three-o-clock shadows-
the naked trees that spread their claws
o'er the slick black road
ice spikes that threaten
from stone ceilings of transverse tunnels
and in the cold that promises to wait out my patient bones
So much loveliness, that
I would be fine
to leave it all behind
so long as I might depart
taste yet upon my cold lips.
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Being depressed, in addition to making certain feelings of helplessness and hopelessness extremely pronounced, causes me to feel more or less worthless, and as someone who feels worthless, the other feelings of pain start to feel like an unearned indulgence, because no matter how I know that it's not my fault, there's that nasty stigma- that nagging inner voice that tells me I should be able to move through my life productively, like "everyone else", if only I would "just get over it".
I know that these are lies I tell myself, and that I'm not worthless, (that's how I'm able to share these feelings,) but much of the time, that's how I truly feel.
I know I'm not the only one who's daily life is a battle with major depression and/or crippling anxiety, and I know I'm not the only one who victimizes herself with this kind of hurtful self-talk. I'm sharing this part of myself, because, as we are with our queerness, it's time we were about all the aspects of who we are. We ought not suffer from shame because we fail to represent some shining ideal of emotional and/or mental and/or physical fitness. Instead, we should revel in our strength, the strength we find when we reject the outside expectations, the power we reclaim, when we choose live our genuine lives without shame.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Although I'd originally congratulated you, my conscience wouldn't allow me to leave something unsaid; understand that I think highly of you, as both an actor and as a human being, and that I don't fault you in the least for innocently taking on what promises to be both an interesting and challenging role. That said, I have to admit that when I read your excited pronouncement, I found myself shaking, and that soon after, came tears, nausea, and a level of upset that at first I didn't understand.
The fact is, frankly, it's unacceptable that the creators of your film chose you, a cis woman, to play the part of a trans* character.
Maybe I sound harsh, but hear me out: Time and again, trans* lives are used by popular media as little more than awkward plot devices, or worse, (as in recent episodes of both "Mike & Molly" and "Two and a Half Men",) the punchline of harmful and hurtful jokes; more often than not, we're cast as predators, out to trick unwitting straight men into betraying their heterosexuality. The usual joke goes like this:
Joe Stud meets a gorgeous chick at the bar. The two of them are getting hot and heavy, when suddenly, it turns out that the gorgeous chick has (or had,) a penis. Joe Stud is now a laughingstock, because he fell for a dude, and the whole world knows it. That's right, according to the ever repeated joke, the trans* woman isn't a woman at all; she's, or, "he's" a "dude". Do you see what I'm getting at?
Wait though, it actually gets worse, because you see, as the studio audience (or laugh track or whatever) titters nervously, or groans, or laughs at a character revealed to be trans*, (and the emasculated guy who got duped,) another would-be attacker of a trans* person is validated in his feeling that we're dangerous or even just "icky", that our lives are inherently "less than", and that it's therefore okay that scores of trans* women (and although less frequently, not less notable, trans* men) are killed each year, simply because they're trans*.
Look; I know that you're a good and thoughtful person, and that you'll do your best to play this role with as much sensitivity and understanding as possible; I also know, that had you any understanding of how insensitive and hurtful it is when trans* roles are played by cis actors, you would have never accepted it, but how could you have known? Afterall, you only know me through my Facebook posts since we haven't seen one another since 1985; otherwise, it's more likely than not that your main understanding of trans* lives comes from those aforementioned misrepresentations popular culture is so fond of. You're not trans*, and so you enjoy the privilege of moving through your daily life without ever having to worry about passing, or not passing, or being harassed or arrested for using the restroom consummate with your true gender, or how or when or if to safely "come out" to a prospective romantic or sexual partner. None of these things, nor the myriad of others that sometimes render so many of us trans* folk's lives a neurotic nightmare are issues for you; you're both privileged, and lucky.
Unfortunately, it's because of just that, that it's so inappropriate for you to undertake this role, and so, while I wish you joy and success, I simply can't congratulate you or share in your excitement.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
the dark has such advantages
Its course runs smooth and known
and it brings with it the warmth
of old familiarity
but the light
is a tourist here
a brash neophyte
who makes assumptions and generalizations
and so, so many promises
one ought never hope
it will keep.
Saturday, September 07, 2013
I want to feel light.
I want it to be December already, so I can finally have my "enso" wrist tattoo.
I want gluten free pizza that
tastes like pizza
a dress that's easy to wear, machine washable and looks great on me.
I want to master mindfulness meditation, and
I want to visit my parents
and for my mom to tell me
that I'm pretty.
I want to feel
as if I've
earned the exhaustion that sometimes creeps into my bones like mold, and
I want more lazy, sunny days with
and a high of 60.
I want Republicans to suddenly, and universally lose all credibility, and
"reality programming" to
fall out of favor.
I want more unhurried morning sex, and more and better choices on Netflix.
I want you to want to learn my body.
I want you to be happy.
I want you to be able to walk 20 blocks without getting tired, and
I want to be able to do that too.
Middle-of-the-night-half-asleep-sex is awesome too by the way.
Most of all,
I want to stop passing time,
and to stop having to choose
being in the world,
being with you.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
The people you killed and maimed today have nothing to do with your war. They were innocents, with people who love them, people they love/d, dreams and fears, children and boyfriends, girlfriends and wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends, and they themselves were all these things too.
You did not win your cause, but you disrupted worlds, caused grief that will never end for some, fear that will live on forever for others, and again, these people had nothing to do with you. Your act was selfish and petty and mean.
You may have intended to make a point, but you did not. You may have imagined you were fighting for some glorious cause, or that you were defeating some great satan. Neither is true.
What is true, is that you caused pain beyond belief, set back immeasurably, whatever cause you represent, and for some innocent people who had no quarrel with you, and perhaps even sympathized with you, you brought their entire universe to an end.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
It evoked a dream she'd had 32 years before, in which she herself had been a stick of waxy makeup and lived in the bottom of an unknown lady's purse; as the dream progressed, she was aware of the temporaryness of her existence. She was aware that she was being used up. She was aware, that she was disappearing. In her dream, it felt like she was dying, and when she awoke, she was both sexually aroused and incredibly happy.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Would there be a slew of corporate and tourism booths dedicated to opportunistically courting the almighty "pink dollar"? (Predictably, yes.)
Would there be incessant, inescapable and incoherent babble coursing from loudspeakers over a driving bass thump from the back of the room? (Annoyingly, also yes.)
In fact, most of what I expected to fill the large conference room at the Javitz Center did, but there was something else.
This is where I should let you in on a little secret: This was my first time at the GLBT Expo. Therefore, I have no idea what was there previous years. That said, I was struck at how completely family oriented the whole thing had become, and not in that Sister Sledge- "We Are Family..." kind of way, although it was that too.
Amidst the free HIV testing booths, the booths promoting the latest Broadway shows and the queer, ethical porn booth, were booths offering at home fertilization devices, promoting sperm cryo-banks, adoption services for same-sex couples and foster parent advocacy groups. The whole thing was so normal, so nice, so... non-subversive, which is a good thing. Right?
I mean, sure there was the occasional bear or leatherman walking around, or the odd old school butch/femme couple- one in a slinky dress, the other with a lead gray crew cut, but the overwhelming feeling I got walking around the expo was, "we're here, we're queer, and, let's face it, America's used to it."
Now, before you get your carabiner clipped keys in a tangle, let me explain. I'm not romanticizing the days of unrecognized partnerships, daily gay bashings and general societal homophobic ickyness.. Hell, leave New York City and you'll find that that world still exists. In fact, I think it's amazing and wonderful that I can go with my WIFE to her new doctor, and when he asks what our relationship is, answer "I'm her wife". I love the fact that we live in a city (and time,) where the love of my life and I can walk down almost any street holding hands and barely get a second look from passersby, and it's incredible that- if we were a bit more solvent and in a position to adopt a child, there are services to help us do just that.
All these things, and so much more that have come about with this great sociopolitical shift are more than I could have dreamt of when as a child, I first realized that I could never follow in my parents' socially sanctioned footsteps, but there's a part of me that wanders if, along with all these gains, we as a people haven't lost something precious.
Gay culture has always given its proverbial middle finger to the bourgeois, middle American ideal of white bread, Bible thumping conformity. As dykes, queers and trans* people, we've always had somewhat of a rebel cachè. What now, now that we're becoming that bourgeois cliché? Does the fact that we're out and proud on Kindle commercials, raising adopted children before coast to coast network TV audiences and a frontrunner in the NYC mayoral race mean that we're slated for sociocultural lesbian bed death?
Maybe not so much. As out front as our collective fight for equality has become, (even the POTUS has publicly sworn his support for marriage equality,) it's easy to forget that in several states, conservative lawmakers are still proposing laws as heinous as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and rates of anti-gay and anti-trans* violence have barely waned.
Events such as the GLBT Expo are designed- not only to support GLBT owned/friendly businesses, but to increase opportunities for LGBTQ people, and to make more visible our presence in the world.
Being an out and proud dyke of trans* history may make me feel a little badass, but I'll gladly trade that little bit of outsider cool for a world in which my sisters and brothers can celebrate their loves and lives and enjoy the same privileges as the rest of the hetero world.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Friday, February 01, 2013
No woman owes beauty to anyone else, but we're all treated as subhuman if we aren't at least "pretty"
I need feminism because being fat, and unabashedly eating a Butterfinger on a crowded rush hour bus ought not be a revolutionary act
but it is
I need feminism because
"feminist" is still viewed as a dirty word
I need feminism because
politicians are still trying to regulate every woman's uterus, but any yutz can still walk into Walmart and buy a gun
I need feminism because
my wife, the woman I love more than anything in the world thinks she's ugly because she's also fat
and has scars
I need feminism because she thinks that not being "beautiful", somehow detracts from her worth as a woman
I need feminism because
My sisters and I continue to make only 77% of our male peers' salaries, work harder to receive less recognition, and are often passed up for promotions in favor of far less capable men
I need feminism because
every woman is taught to think of her virginity as a "gift to bestow", rather than her sexuality as something for her own enjoyment
I need feminism because
even today, on Facebook and elsewhere, women who choose to appear in sexy outfits are exhorted to "respect themselves" by practicing modesty, lest they be viewed as complicit in their own sexuality
I need feminism because
no woman becomes a lesbian just because she's never been fucked by a really great dick
(just remember..strap-ons don't need Viagra!)
All kidding aside, I need feminism because I don't hate men
In fact, I know many men are victimized by the patriarchy as well
I need feminism because
I'm exhausted from crying over my sisters:
14 years old and shot in the face for saying that girls should go to school too
15 years old and throat slit because she wanted a brighter future than being forced to marry her 28 year old cousin
23, and gang raped to death on a bus
I need feminism because
this list could go on for a hundred thousand pages, and the world will continue to invent new ways to make my sisters and me feel that we're somehow failures- as women and as human beings
I need feminism because
I will reject each one, and I pray that my sisters will all find their strength
and stand beside me
Thursday, January 17, 2013
I've been thinking about the word "transgender" alot lately. Although I'd never dream of denying my own history, I'm no longer certain that I can identify with the term, and here's why: first, I must begrudgingly confess my compulsive disorder regarding language, particularly when it comes to grammar and the obsessive drive to find the exact right word for any given situation. Mind you, I don't always succeed, and much self-flagellation has ensued as a result, but this is slightly beside the point.
The "point" is, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines "Gender" as, "sexual identity", not biological sex. The selfsame dictionary defines the prefix "trans" as "across; on the other side; beyond".
In that light, let's examine the word "transgender":
"Across gender": this would mean encompassing more than one gender.
"On the other side of gender": this suggests that there was some initial place from which an original gender identity was formulated prior to being changed; while I'm certain this is applicable to many who identify as "transgender"- and for the sake of argument, I'll include myself, it doesn't exactly match my own experience in that, I always knew I was female, regardless of what the doctor stamped on my birth certificate. This brings us to...
"Beyond gender": while I've known many who legitimately identify as "genderqueer", or outside the male/female binary, I do not. I identify as female and I always have, regardless of my presentation at any given time.
So you see, in several ways this "transgender" thing is a conundrum; if when asked about my identity (this kind of thing comes up in conversation far more often than I'm comfortable with,) I simply say "I'm a woman", it will be read one of two possible ways: either more or less at face value, (I'm exceedingly thankful for "passing privilege"!), or that I'm challenging the socially accepted definition of the word "woman" itself. For my part, both apply. While I was not born with ovaries, I was born with an XXY chromosome and a female gender identity, and while I have had to utilize medical and cosmetic intervention for the purpose of aligning my external gender presentation with my internal identity, I'm far from alone; there are millions of women the world over who- for one reason or another suffer from hirsuteness (typically male pattern body and facial hair growth), have no ovaries, etc. Would any concientious person have the gall to suggest that they aren't women?
Equally important, there's the issue of the personal as the political: as an "out" "transitioning woman who was at one time thought to be, and presented herself as a man (etc. etc.)", whether I like it or not, any way in which I explain my identity to the world matters. If I reject the mantle of "transgender", I will be perceived by my trans* sisters and brothers as a turncoat, and by the
cis world as "proof" that trans* experiences are somehow less than genuine.
Maybe I can find a way in which the term trans* is personally applicable. Afterall, my entire life is in transition: my wife who met me when I was presenting as male, is straight, (I identify as lesbian,) and finds herself grappling with her own identity within our relationship, and my parents who, for 43 years believed that they had had a son, must now come to grips with the fact that they suddenly have a 44 year old daughter.
Perhaps I need to come up with a new term, one that more accurately fits my identity. Maybe, the next time some probing questioner asks me what I am, (and I feel safe to answer truthfully,) I'll reply, "I'm a woman living a life in transition", or, maybe that's far too long winded and will lead to too many other probing questions I'd rather not deal with. The fact is, if some future gatekeeper or self-appointed gender gendarme has the chutzpah to ask me "what are you?" I'll likely answer "I'm a woman ", and simply leave it at that.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Friday, January 04, 2013
Monday, December 03, 2012
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Thursday, August 23, 2012
I did not choose isolation or
of leaving the house
unshaven and without my face
I did not choose this otherness, this
life apart, of complexities
I never chose anxiety
over which public restroom to use, nor
to be a target
just for walking in daylight
I did not choose this otherness
any more than to have two hands
or to be 5 foot 6
or to have curly hair
I choose only to be myself
Let others be shamed by their sameness, their lack of courage
I did not choose this otherness
but I will accept it with
wide open hands.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
I need feminism because
people think it's ok to suggest that:
(a) I've sacrificed status, and
(b) I shouldn't be surprised or upset when people
regard me as a joke because I'm transgendered.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Saturday, August 11, 2012
in the country house
Is like some perverse exercise
in something the opposite of archeology;
In yellow rubber gloves and with
I erase the ketchupy finger prints
of a brother-in-law, 4 years past,
some short black hairs from Spikeword,
the German shepard who shared my wife's bed,
2 years before me
and crayon marks from my 3 year old niece
(who's now nearly 17).
"Powerful Cleaner- No Bleach Harshness" reads the blue and white canister, but
what it fails to warn me of
are the myriad other ways
the harshness of a clean refrigerator
might be felt.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
drive in silence
She sits beside me
listening to cricket gossip
I, driving, write this poem:
The Kerhonkson roads
have a smell in summer
At 62 degrees, and 70% humidity,
They smell of old wood houses
and lush green roadsides
ancient trees with porous bark
Occasionally, a skunk
(a smell I like.)
My t-shirt sleeve grows wet by the open window,
And slow motion moths change direction before the windshield
white wings blue in the dashboard light
We round a bend where 3 local boys died
Their truck split in half on a telephone pole
(the newest ghosts of Samsonville Road)
At this bend, I hold the wheel a little tighter
resisting the seduction
We're almost home now,
There's a pickup close behind;
"better signal early, so he doesn't rear end us"
-my practical wife pulls me out of my own head
"remember to put the ice cream away before you sit down to write your poem"
She says to me as she
disappears down the hall.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Through no small amount of therapy and gentle coaxing, I finally get Granny's vacuum to agree once more that it is, in fact, a vacuum, and clean up our now war torn living room. I still have to pee, and go to do exactly that, but first I don yellow gloves and flip the circuit breaker to make sure I don't get electrocuted as I surgically extract the root of the terrorist bulb from its socket. Carrie gives me the once over, says of my naked-but-for-yellow-rubber-gloves-and-black-crocs look, "You know, I'm certain there's a fetish for that somewhere if you google it", and helpfully shuffles back to bed. I meanwhile, replace the terrorist bulb with a new one, one of those twisty new bulbs which promise four hundred years of use and mercury poisoning if they break.
Job well done, I congratulate myself with a well earned pee, flush and get up to wash my hands. As I stand before the sink, I notice how bright the new bulb is. As I notice how bright the new bulb is, I glance in the mirror, and when I glance in the mirror, I see something stuck to my forehead. Is it dried blood? Had a kamikaze shard actually gotten through to its' target, missing my left eye by less than an inch, scarring me for life? As I lean closer to the mirror, it becomes apparent that it's not in fact dried blood at all, but a clump of dried tomato. "Where on Earth did I get dried tomato on my face?" My brain races through improbable scenarios until... Suddenly I remember last night's failed chili con queso operation, exploding salsa and all, and, as images of techni-color culinary misadventures splash across the movie screen of my mind, I make a decision: I'm going back to bed, and staying there until October.
Monday, June 04, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
wore our guts on our sleeves
Open and ragged, bleeding and raw
Our strength was in our difference, and
With razor cut arms we pledged our allegiance
to all of the gods of
“not one of them”, and with
boots laced high, and
hair painted and spiked, we
while the parades passed by
mocking the band with our
own frantic beat.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Tell me all about female privilege, because
my sisters and I would love to know;
You mean like
getting dry humped from behind during rush hour on the
6 train, or
Paying more money for
haircuts and clothing
all while making
33% less than our male colleagues for the same exact work,
for the same exact job?
that patient condescending smile we get
go to the auto parts store, and
actually know what we're
Or how about
year after year
sitting in a cubicle
20 something Jack or
suddenly gets his own windowed office?
Tell me about female privilege.
Tell me again how most
any woman could go out to a bar, most
any night, and
never pay for a single drink,
How lucky we are, that
even on a frumpy day
we can get laid,
whenever we want,
I'll counter your assertions by telling you that most
some poor woman who let some strange man
buy her a drink, gets
drugged and raped
and sometimes worse,
but never mind,
You were saying,
You were about to tell me
all about female privilege,
I'm pretty sure I speak
for my cis and trans sisters alike
when I say we'd
love to know
what it is we've
all been missing.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012
at home in my own skin
For years, so worried
over minutiae, like
the proper way to carry schoolbooks, and
the masculine way to walk
How I covered up my body
in the South Florida heat
Covered my soft curves
in denim and leather layers
Now how blessed
not to hide
unembarrassed for my soft hands
and to no longer fear
the natural sway of hips
to take off the mask
How blessed it is
to be myself.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
"cut it off",
it’s none of your damned business, and it
reduces me to
an object of
Don't ask me who I'll be tomorrow,
I barely know
who I am today.
Ask me instead, how does it feel?
What was it like to be
forced into boyhood,
to have been made to don some kind of
all the while fearing the fragilty of my disguise.
Or, ask me what it's like to be a
a secret spy in the
war of the sexes;
I'll happily give away all my learned secrets,
see, I've always been kind of an antiwar activist!
what was it like to grow up in a world that told me
time and again that it's
better to pretend,
rather than to risk anyone finding out the horrible truth.
ask me what it feels like, at the age of 43,
to grow tired of pretending, and I'll gladly tell you,
taking off a pair of someone else's shoes,
shoes that have always been 2 sizes
Monday, March 05, 2012
When I’m an old woman, I’ll wear denim shirts
and big turquoise rings on my
tanned, knotted fingers
When I’m an old woman, I’ll paint in my garden
mixing red dust from the earth
into oil, and light
I’ll grow out my gray hair
way down past my ass, and be
“that strange old woman, who barely ever comes to town”.
When I’m an old woman, I’ll laugh about the time
when everyone around me, thought that I was a man.
When I’m an old woman, I’ll smile at the mirror,
because the woman smiling back at me, knows
who I am.
to tell you about the place that I’m from
but I can’t use words such as
female, or male,
you’d never understand how they don’t apply.
So I’ll tell you instead how I
come from a marshland:
a soft place between
two fortified nations with
impassable borders and
natal requirements for citizenship.
If I tried to explain how I’d been handed
the wrong disguise
by the border coyotes when I came to this place, or
if I told you I don’t have a green card
and that I feared discovery
every second of every day,
maybe you’d see,
maybe you’d understand, how
try as I do just to fit in,
and try as I have all of my life,
none of that matters.
I’m just not from here.
And I wish I could tell you
how lonely it is here
when nobody else can
speak my language:
a language that
even I have yet to learn.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
I was 17.
There was the time I was cornered in the boy’s room at the point of a switchblade, and called a “Faggot”. No, "worse", (in his eyes,) I was a “girl”.
“What’s a girl doing in the boy’s room? Take off your clothes, girl.”
My button down shirt and orthopedic saddle shoes ended up in the toilet. Only my blue J.C. Penny pleated cords were spared by the timely entrance of a teacher.
I was 8.
Then, there was the time I was surrounded on the P.E. field by 4 bigger kids. They called me "fatso" and "faggot". They violently kicked and shoved me as I tried to get away. When finally they pushed me down, my wallet fell out of the elastic waistband of my polyester P.E. shorts, and as they taunted me with it, one discovered the condom I’d hidden within, stolen from my father’s drawer, but worse for me, he also found something to really get me in trouble about: a baggie of small red pills I’d taken from our home medicine cabinet.
The pills were nothing but Sudafed, I’d carried them months as some kind of ill conceived exit strategy: In case things had gotten so awful I couldn’t stand another second, I would swallow them all in a bathroom stall.
When Mr. Fontana, our school's vice principal got a hold of the pills, I wasn't sent to the school counselor, nor was I asked what they were, or why I had them hidden in my wallet. The school rules were firm, and instead of a sympathetic ear, I was bent over his desk, my pants pulled down. He pressed his large, hot hand on the back of my neck as he stood over me with a heavy perforated wooden paddle. It was three strong strokes. (It could have been five, he'd warned, but he was being "lenient".) The four bigger kids, who'd bullied me didn't even get a detention.
This was at Highland Oaks Junior High School in North Miami Beach, and I was 14.
I’ve never been what you'd call masculine. In fact, there was a period in my early twenties when after years of living in a body I'd always felt sentenced to rather than gifted with, I’d finally decided to pursue gender reassignment. At that time however, the fact that my primary sexual/romantic attachments were with women, led the inept therapist to whom I’d been sent (the only one in Miami at that time, who dealt with the Harry Benjamin protocols for gender/sexual reassignment,) to concede that I wasn’t truly “gender dysphoric”: I was merely “confused”.
Not that any of this is truly pertinent to the above, but I am, and always have been quiet, sensitive, interested in things like fashion, (which, believe it or not, before the whole “metrosexual” thing, was thought largely to be the province of women and gay men,) art, philosophy, literature, music, etc. I've never had a bit of interest in sports, (though, if I'm being really honest here, and I am, I’ve occasionally enjoyed watching them under the right circumstances,) war movies, or fixing cars. In fact, I always preferred the company of women with intimate conversations and sisterly relationships, to that of men with what I always perceived as its brevity, lack of depth in bonding, emotional honesty, and "pissing contests”.
Beyond the whole masculine/feminine thing, I was always more of a creative person, and this came out loudly in my personal approach to fashion. As a teen, I was a regular punk rock peacock. I eschewed the popular mall bought fashions for thrift store treasures such as a bright orange plaid over sized suit which I’d customized with safety pins, scissors and patches, cinched at the waist with an extension cord, and roughly cut off just above the top line of my extra high combat boots. I wore a mohawk, (the only one in North Miami Beach,) and spray-painted it fire-engine red, and, at the height of my piercing fascination, I wore 26 earrings in my left ear, 12 in my right, and two tiny gold wire hoops in my right nostril.
Had I grown up in the East Village, it's likely that none of this would have so much as raised a pierced eyebrow, let alone inspired the violence I was so often subjected to, but this was the mid eighties, and I didn't live in New York. I lived in Miami, that pastel bastion of Miami Vice machismo, and all things conservative conformity.
Even my parents would ask me almost daily, why I couldn't "just fit in", why I felt the need to be so "weird”, and at the time, I didn’t have an answer. In retrospect, I know that they were pained as I was by the way I was treated, that they were worried about my safety, and that they were doing their best to protect me. At the time however, it felt like criticism, and to my fragile teenage ego, it amounted to little more than another egg upside my head.
The truth is, there was little I could have done to fit in. I just wasn't like those I was surrounded with. I couldn’t have cared less about homecoming or prom, high school football, or “banging” the hot "J.A.P. chicks" at North Miami Beach Senior High, had no interest in hanging out on the Ft. Lauderdale Strip and getting trashed on Friday nights, and I wouldn't have been caught dead in Guess, Sasson or Sergio Valente. I wanted more.
The morning I turned 18, I walked into my high school at just after ten. My mohawk which was usually more poodle like than fierce, was responding unusually well to the half a can of Aquanet I'd shellacked it with, and I felt celebratory and resplendent in my tattered thrift store jeans, brand new Docs and motorcycle jacket. It was the best "fuck you" outfit I owned. Rather than going to class, I walked into the principal’s office, and declared I was dropping out, and just two months later, in February of '87, I got my G.E.D., and was ready to enter college.
Once at Miami Dade Community College, (and later Florida International University,) no one said a word about my shaved head, piercings or carefully tattered rags. I found that as long as I contributed well thought out arguments in class, turned in fresh and interesting papers, and was generally just myself, I was rewarded with nothing but appreciation from my professors, and acceptance from other students.
Before I’d discovered my source of strength, (which maturity and experience have shown me to be nothing more than living within my own truth,) the years of bullying had left me a raw and bleeding nerve; I was weak and afraid, and— although I’d found creative ways to hide (such as dressing in what I now call “guy drag”), it usually took all the emotional energy available just to walk out my front door.
Now I live in New York. I am an outspoken, (and just plain "out",) transgender lesbian, a spoken word artist, writer, poet and activist. I’m in a committed, long-term relationship with a wonderful woman whom I love, who in turn, loves me as I am.
Being out as transgender affords me a kind of power I've never felt before. I am for possibly the first time in my life, genuinely unapologetic for my existence. It's wonderful beyond words to feel unconstrained by others' expectations or imposed definitions of who or what I should be, and I'm pretty sure that if I wanted to, I could walk down Fifth Avenue in a pink prom-dress and Doc Marten’s and no one would look twice at me, except maybe the tourists who would ask to take pictures of the "wild, crazy chick who's just so very New York!"
*Note: Mom and dad, don't worry, the pink prom dress was just comedic hyperbole; I'm so much more of a punk rock, black t-shirt, jeans, 'n' Converse kinda chick!
Sunday, January 08, 2012
brand new home
(The land of your father, who’s re-
turned with a new beard)
you hiked up the “snake trail”
On a tour through Chevron you
donned your new pride like an
olive green shirt
I can see them indoctrinating you
Twisting you into them
Why am I so worried about you, you say?
Because you’re sensitive and kind
And I know that world well
how they think of these things
as weaknesses, or worse-
(they’ll call you a frier, and
knock you down
until you develop
your tough new Israeli scars)
so you stand up straight
and puff out your chest
and dream of the day
of your giyus
where you’ll lace up stiff boots
and look serious for your ID
and again you ask
why I'm worried about you?
Because it’s apparent
they’re already scarring you
And can’t you see? I bear
those scars too.
Monday, December 19, 2011
nightly, you visit me in my dreams
We invent a language to
connect over you, not wanting to be trite,
(but who am I kidding?)
And now, each time
I leave my apartment, I carefully step
'round the stain on the walkway, which
might afterall, be from
your spilled brains.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
There's an almost mystical quality to the process of writing a good poem; one might even assert that in fact, a poem isn't so much "written" as realized. I'll explain by personal example: When I sit down to "write" a poem, I pay little attention to the words I'm going to use, the form it's going to take, etc. Instead, I open myself to the soul of the poem; "what exactly do I need to convey?" Believe it or not, this is usually an almost painless process. When a real poem is ready to be born, it just won't be denied!
The next step is somewhat harder: getting out of the poem's way.
Anyone who has sat at their desk, a cafe table, on the edge of a cliff, etc., wishing to "compose a great poem", will have no doubt found themselves painting with broad strokes of ego. This is annoying, and almost never results in an enjoyable, interesting or enlightening poem. That's not to say that one can't write a great piece that exhibits his or her own point of view, (think "Two roads diverge in a wood...",) but it must not come from the desire to "prove something", or force something down the reader's throat, otherwise it'll result in little more than a self indulgence at the reader's (or audience's) expense.
Try instead, to allow the poem to be organic. I've found that thinking of it as a living thing, with its own set of needs and desires, helps me do this. This is very handy when it comes to the next step: editing.
When I edit a poem, I do my best to remove any extraneous content that might interfere with its purity. Usually, I begin this process with a chainsaw, and only later, when I’ve hacked off a sufficient amount of “fat”, do I go back in with a scalpel, finely trimming here and there, surgically shaping it. A good poem is, if anything, distilled.
Adjectives and adverbs are poetic potholes!
When Gary Snyder wrote "The Dead By The Side Of The Road", he relied on the cleanest prose:
" Zac skinned a skunk with a crushed head
washed the pelt in gas; it hangs,
tanned, in his tent"
He could have expended great energy on adjective laden descriptions, but instead he allowed the events or the moment to move it forward. Therefore, it has energy and immediacy.
This is equally true of both Raymond Carver's and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's work. Neither provokes inertia with wasted adjective or metaphor; When Ferlinghetti writes
"Johnny Nolan has a patch on his ass
Kids chase him
thru screendoor summers"
there's nothing unnecessary; in fact, the only adjective employed- "screendoor", is so new and specific, that it almost disappears, or takes on the same quality of motion as the rest of the poem.
Lastly, don't impose some artificial format on your poem. A poem, being organic, and having its own needs, tends to grow into its own form. This is not to say that there aren't some great and very enjoyable formalized poems; the dusty world of "Poetry" (notice the capitalized "P") is littered with them, but modern sensibilities tend to relegate these to the realm of the "quaint", and (rather unfairly,) the boring, so while I very much enjoy work by the likes of Donne, Wordsworth and Coleridge, the type of writing I'm discussing here is more akin to that of Snyder, Carver and Ferlinghetti.
Early readers of these three must have experienced one of three possible reactions:
"That's not poetry!",
"That's poetry?" -or-
"That's poetry!" .
All three largely disregarded earlier Western notions of what a poem is. Snyder studied and emulated Japanese and Chinese poetry with its pared down sensibilities. Ferlinghetti tuned into the music of the world around him, and Carver wrote almost as if he was writing fiction, which just happened to be readable as a poem. Whether one enjoys any of these approaches or not, it’s undeniable, that these three did something new, something interesting, something enjoyable, and something irrevocably poetic!
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
בחוץ, זה כבר חושך
ובפנים, זה חם בתוך ההילה של הנרות השבת
השבוע המטורף, היא היה לעזאזל
I enter the apartment, fresh from my poetry reading
Outside, it's already dark
but inside it's warm in the glow from the shabbat candles
Let this crazy week go to hell
This now, is ours.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
petual state of exile,
but exile is not always
imposed by place;
there are those who are left there
by the passage of time,
and those who were simply
born misfits into the world.
All who live in exile however,
have this in common:
we carry small pieces of our
native worlds with us,
like round, worn pebbles,
sometimes in our pockets,
and sometimes in our shoes.
Friday, October 07, 2011
Sunday, October 02, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
For oil and air
For screen doors and Tuesdays old paint cans, and stairs
For grandmothers and chickens
For Volkswagens and quarks
For malcontents who protest,
and nervous dogs, who bark
For oaken tables and magazines, for computers and for gold
For rust and for decay, for mushrooms and for mold
For all that we once were
For all we shall become
It's really all the same
All is one. All is one.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
It's been a terrible year; every time we turn on the news, some extremist somewhere is doing his or her damnedest to make life impossible for you and me, and corporations are strangling democracy to within a milimeter of its existence. Religious fanatics are citing recent earthquakes and economic turmoil as sure signs that "the beast" is afoot, and with a well intentioned but wishy washy Democratic incumbent going up against the likes of either Romney, Bachman or Palin, 2012 isn't looking so promising either.
Nevertheless, something about this hurricane business makes me smile a little bit. In about 20 minutes, our windows will rattle threateningly, our power may go out and we will be reduced to cold canned kidney beans for breakfast, but come Monday, the sun will rise. People will walk out their front doors, and having communally survived another near catastrophe, will actually say "excuse me" as they walk into me, their eyes glued to their iPhones. The news stand guy will smile as he refuses to look to see if he still has a copy of last weekend's Haaretz, and people will graciously acknowledge that I was at the bus stop before them, even as they elbow their way past me onto the 86 St. crosstown. For 5 minutes, New York will be glad the world is still here. At least until the next big scare.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
So, we’re sitting on the couch reading the weekend paper, and I say to Cleo, “There’s this new picture at The Quad that sounded good.. Directed by Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, it’s called “Paradise, Nu?”
Robert Eger says, “It stars Mike Burstyn of Kuni Lemel fame, and Gene Wilder as two madcap would be suicide bombers who do their best to cross borders and blend in as Haredim. Hilarity ensues as Mahmoud (played by Wilder) tries to buy a shtreimel from a shop in Mea She’arim, but the shop owner speaks neither Hebrew, nor Arabic, forcing Mahmoud to communicate in a combination of charades, and something approximating "pig" Yiddish, meanwhile, Omar (Burstyn) just wants a lafa, but the Falafel shop in Ben Yehuda is crawling with border police on their lunch. Will he risk the mission for a sandwich? Will Mahmoud get his hat? Will the two ever make it to Paradise? Two thumbs up.. this movie is the bomb!”
“I'm not sure,” says Cleo, “it kinda feels like it’s been done before.
Haredim - ultra-orthodox Jews
shtreimel - a hat made of a fox's tail wound around the head, typically worn by Satmar and Netureikarta chasidim
Mea She'arim - "Hundred Gates", an ultra orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem
lafa - Iraqui pita, larger than Israeli pita, with no "pocket". Used as a wrap, rather than being stuffed.
Ben Yehuda - A pedestrian mall in the center of Jerusalem
Monday, August 15, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
How much is say, a container of the best soup in the world worth to you? Say you’re sick, and the best soup in the world is across town, in a little hole in the wall called Mogadishu Café. Say you have a fever, and the only thing in the world that would make you feel better, is this soup. Now, say your roommate, who’s this quiet Indian guy who the Foreign Student Union set you up to live with, would have to race if he left right now, just to catch the cross town bus to get to this place before it closes for the weekend, and say the owner is willing to wait an extra 15 minutes, but no more, because he had a good day. Now, say your roommate races out the front door, and it’s starting to rain, but neither of you has an umbrella worth its salt. Your roommate get’s soaked, and you promise to yourself, you’ll make it up to him. You’ll set him up with the cute blonde on three who laughs at your jokes in the laundry room, the one you were hoping to score with yourself. You’ll do his laundry for the next three weeks. That seems fair. Maybe you’ll finally clean the apartment, top to bottom like he’s been asking you to do for months now.
How much did you say that container of soup was worth to you? Say that, while running for the crosstown bus, his glasses blurry with rain, your roommate doesn’t look and darts out into 72nd St, hopelessly as the bus pulls away from the curb?
Even if it was a semi-trailer that hit him, and they said it was instantaneous, was the soup worth what you’ll carry the rest of your life?