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It seems a good way to get to know a person.

Send me pictures while you are away.

Of all this nature you long to return to. Of the things that make you miss the city.
Show me the dirt you grew from,
your well-trod paths,
the back alleys frequented in your youth.
Your most familiar patch of sunlight.

I’d venture to guess that you have your
initials carved into a tree somewhere.

You said your favorite color is green,
show me the precise shade you were imagining. 

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On getting back into it, or getting out of it, or something of such a sort.

I went looking for a muse in a crinkle-eyed architect with affection for hard white lines and poured cement. I stumbled across a red haired charmer studying data security who says she “mostly dates men”. I fell back into the safety of my husband who doesn’t live here anymore. At some point, I have to stop calling him that, husband.

I spent the afternoon on the eve of turning 32 playing poker with 5 people who didn’t remember the rules, betting with blueberries.
I learned to skip stones today. I swam in the river.
I ate a cherry so ripe it bled down my palm while I moaned at its sweetness.
I had a day of blissful, childlike joy.


I did not get sunburned.

The crinkled hazel eyes looked at me and said,

“I have a problem with the color red”

“I can’t look at it anymore after so long staring at screens. For example, that car, if the sun were hitting it I couldn’t even look at it.“

And what am I if not the woman in the red dress?

Evidently, I am an acquired taste.

When I awake on my birthday my husband won’t be there, but he’ll visit for breakfast and some performative cooking. Some obligatory romance. 

I‘ll be sad tomorrow, feeling stupid about the things I said.

I feel foolish already, and full of regret, and uncomfortable with silence. And somewhat ashamed of my bright colors.

 But I did not get sunburned today.

And perhaps it would have been better to have ended the night early. But I am glad I got answers. These days, my heart’s dalliances are more and more fleeting. They just don’t make them like they used to, and so on. 

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Alessandra and the Great Glass Elevator

This post is meant to be read while listening to this song:

You know, when I moved here- it was the elevator that I really felt in love with. It’s bizarre, obviously custom, shoved into a corner. It’s triangular inside.
It’s walled in glass on three sides,
and you can see out the window into the apartments across the atrium as you go up. You can see where Daniel and Rene, our only English-speaking neighbors, were at last able to change the blinds Rene said she hated the day they moved in.

The  elevator ride always made me feel like this was all some great glamorous adventure. To live in Vienna, spitting distance from the Opera house. Inevitably, every single time I went up in the elevator to our fourth floor apartment (fifth floor by American standards), this song would get stuck in my head.

It’s been an adventure indeed, perhaps not the great one I imagined, certainly not in the way I imagined it. Certainly it doesn’t seem to have much of a happy ending at the moment. I take the elevator up to the apartment these days, on the rare occasion I have braved going outside for fear of the virus. And I come home to an empty apartment, just me and the walls, and a pile of homework and unfulfilled dreams.

What a secret it seems I am keeping, but barely. What a glass elevator it seems I’ve built around me.

“There is no life I know, to compare with pure imagination.”

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Cliché discussion of the weather, and a window looking out on to nowhere.

I love rainy days, I do. I prefer thunderstorms. Actually, I love thunderstorms and I am neutral about plain old rain- it depends on the temperature. It depends on the company, the evening, the street cleaning and the neon reflecting and the particular awning one takes shelter under. The I’m just here for a burger and to dry off, but thanks for the drink. The cash pocketed for a third of a cab ride from 60th to Brooklyn, laughing all the way.

And to think what he would think of any of the men, of all these men. And me. And to think what he would think of me.

And the roof tiles opposite my quarantine chamber are slick with rain for once, the rusted green metal drain tapping about and I am pretending to read. I am pretending to be doing something worthwhile. I am actively avoiding you. I’ve been thinking about what I want, and it isn’t to hurt you. That would have been simple, nothing about this is simple. I still.

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Regarding the unfathomably gargantuan 12mm spider residing in the courtyard.

I want you to know that I killed the spider
who has been living by the elevator window for months now,
coming and going
in her orange-and-black and
increasingly terrifying fashion


far too close to the mailbox.


At least, I think that I killed her.

I came at her with the edge of a cardboard box
and she dropped
to the cobblestones.
At least, that is what I hope.

Perhaps, she ran up my sleeve
and she is in my hair now,
waiting.
Perhaps, her thousand servants are now congregating
for the sole purpose of plotting my demise.
They are laying out maps and dealing with issues of nepotism
and who is really the first born son of a thousand and so on.
I can only hope their diplomatic issues hold them at bay for some time.


I have no idea what she has been sustaining herself on
for all these months,
since August,
through Christmas,
and deep into winter.
Whatever it is,
it was likely rather meaty
given her voluptuous frame.

She’s a behemoth, truly.

She is most definitely crawling into the apartment,
and into the bed.
But before she inevitably kills me,

I just want you to know-
that I did this courageous thing for you.

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Two isn’t always better than One

I’m not going anywhere soon. But I took a bunch of tests which said I might, maybe, possibly, be going somewhere soon before long. So, If I’ve gone off anywhere, well not “anywhere” but into that particular-ineffable-where, I want you to know:

I went there listening to Satchmo’s  La Vie en Rose and Gene Wilder singing Pure Imagination. And at some point I was dancing, and I was thinking of you-each of you. And there are different yous in this letter, but you will know yours when you see it.

I thought about the nieces and nephews official and unofficial and the box of shiny-sparkly things I own. And each of you are getting something from that box, that you can someday give to someone you love. Because I love you so much I cannot imagine you could be capable of anything less than such pure love.

And, anyways, worst case I went out eating chocolate and peanut butter and horribly-HORRIBLY- attempting to sing songs from Gene Kelly musicals. And I never learned to dance well, but I sort-of-kind-of tried. And if I am gone my knees will be the happiest of all, they worked the hardest. They deserved the chance to relax at least.

And I don’t think I will see my mother yet, I think I may have a few more runs around reincarnation before I find her, but I expect to see a few dead poets and dead movie stars. And maybe one of them will teach me how to dance at last. And T.S. Eliot was probably really disappointing to meet, but I can get coffee with my grandfather and Salinger and talk about how much of a phony he was. 

And I am thinking about you all and hoping you are dumping the trash boyfriends or girlfriends who were weighing you down. Or abandoning the dating rules and telling the person you were trying to play hard-to-get with that you love them. Because they probably love you too, and if they don’t, please refer to the first sentence in this paragraph.

You should go back to school and get out of this shitty career. I’ll help you make that happen. 

And I hope you all get off twitter and TikTok for a bit. For a long bit. 

And you- many of you- take your medicine especially when your friends and family beg you to. And stop taking it when they beg you to stop. 

And I wish for you to figure out your faith-yours, not your parents. I spent this year attempting to figure out my god-shit and I didn’t find god but I found some good people, and that is just about as close as I think anyone can get. And I never learned how to shut up,  but I started learning how to try. Which is, well, it’s nothing really but them again so am I maybe? Or so I will be maybe? But it is good to shut up sometimes.  

Speaking of god, my god- lighten up. You’re all perfect mothers. Get off the internet, you’re fantastic. Really- and I had the best mom in the world and she was really crap at it sometimes. 

And uh, you-you. You know exactly who I mean, or you will when you read this: Go buy yourself the puppy. Even if it isn’t a shelter puppy because, you know, your allergies. And finish the writing. And see the aforementioned note on Twitter. And remember to eat breakfast, and let yourself enjoy it with whole milk. And find someone who likes music,  and also still wants to share risotto. It might be the puppy, who knows? 

-A

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Some bits and pieces from my 30/30

 

I attempted to write 30 poems in 30 days during April this year, with mild success, and too much honesty to share it all here. But here are some unedited moments that were tolerable to share, though not good. Point is, I did my homework.

  1. (In)Complete guide to decorating a Wedding cake
Be kind
Be complacent. Be prepared
Have a hidden motive
a proven formula
Be nicer if the budget is higher
if they are getting married in a ballroom
Be baroque but not too much so
Be more expensive than the rest
Be Cocky
Bend slightly
If the are very nice or very cruel
or if they know somebody
or know somebody who knows somebody
Bend slightly,
your back,
your prices,
your rules
If they are wealthy and flirtatious
bend your morals
You charge 90 euros per hour for decor
on top of
the price of cake
you are the best of the best
you are on top of…something
Something great
and traditional
and historic
When the Nazis occupy your country
Host the head of the head of Hitler youth in your dining room
in exchange for sugar
Hide your waitresses in a passageway
between the kitchen and the bathroom
Harbor refugees and listen to illegal radio stations
listen to the truth
Tell lies
Hold your head high.
You charge 90 euros per hour of decor
This is not America
so you can only recommend against certain flavors
the soft cheesecakes.
The fragile things.
You cannot make them sign a form
that they won’t complain
when summer forces their wedding cake to bend to them
2.
Amazing how someone I’ve always known to have such low self-esteem
also believes he can literally perform miracles 
I told my husband it’s easier to deal
if you just pretend
there is no medication available.
That this is just how things will be
and sometimes it will be more this way
and sometimes less
but it will always be more or less this way
My doctor asked if he has mood swings.
Evidently mood swings are a good thing.
They give a better prognosis.
3.
He said he needed a magnifying glass to read it.
The problem isn’t my glasses
It’s my dry eyes and this damn
Tiny print
She said he had to find the app to call her back with video
That it should already be on his computer
He asked if Microsoft owned skype
And why the damn thing wanted him to make a microsoft account
He said his coworkers didn’t know the password was a combination of her name and her brothers
She said he was getting old.
4.

I am not a poet, I just journal
and put in big spaces.
     I am not a poet
I just have an affection for dramatic pause.
5.

I am sorry for all the things I will eat,
Especially the mindless ones. That don’t even taste good. The low fat cheese I ate three times as much of. The full fat cheese I was shoving in my mouth already on the walk home from the grocery store. I am sorry for all the times I went grocery shopping hungry. Or all the times I went with a plan, bought a garden, and watched it rot in the crisper drawer while I ate nachos. I am sorry for the inevitable split zipper, the ripped pants, the hundreds of unflattering photos. Especially the group photos. I am sorry. I hope I was better to you than I expect I will be now. I am not yet 30 . I hope you didn’t cry on your 30th birthday. I hope you feel still feel beautiful once in a while.
6.

On the night of the blood moon I make an appointment to go out and look at it. It is somehow always behind a building.
It is too cold to keep standing outside
 You’re shivering let’s go back in
On the night of the harvest moon I am mournful for all the summer days I spent inside.
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Dear O,

Dear O,
I have sent this letter with excess postage.
With an excess of longing, of sorrow. It’s been a year now.

You see, approximately 0.5% of the men whom I pass on the street look like you.
This phenomenon has been going on for years now. It stems from a pathological desire to unexpectedly run into you, and say,
“Of all the sidewalks in all the towns in all the world, you walked onto mine.”
Or some similar feat of seemingly casual perfection.
Perhaps, a bit more more effortless, along the lines of,
“I have written down words with mild success, I have only you to blame”
or,
“Here, have a copy of my book.”

I haven’t written a book yet. You weren’t supposed to have died.
It’s rude, really. I was counting on you.
I saw one of you just yesterday.
In front of me on the sidewalk outside city hall. He turned and looked right at me,
then 
he crossed the street.
Or, he turned and looked at the traffic and I was there, waiting,
and he looked at me like he could have been you and this could all be an elaborate lie,
then he crossed the street.

O, I have been rehearsing.
I have been dressing for the occasion of our encounter.
I am not sure I have occasion left to dress up for.
I can’t believe that you are gone.
See, I. Well, I.
I think about you too much, really. Always did, as I am sure you know.
Knew, rather.

I begged you once not to kill yourself after you joked about it. It worked, I guess. It seems pointless now. Well, perhaps not. Well, you died anyway and it appears that you died without finding love. I hope that I am wrong. It’s not a question answered in an obituary.
He died without finding love.
It’s just not the sort of thing the papers are willing to say.

It said you were surrounded by family. That you had a brain tumor. Like a goddamn film character. As if you coughed somewhere in the first act of your life, or complained of a mild headache. As if we were all supposed to know. A brain tumor.
I mean, come on. 

You had a profile on a group for singles. It’s still there. You were in a group for writers, too. You are still out there looking for her. The book is still unfinished. Was it the one about South America? You know the story, how your car broke down in the desert and you abandoned it there. Was that the one? Was that how it began?

I wrote you a letter once to which you never replied. I saw you in person and you informed me that I had used excess postage. That every year the postal service runs at a loss.

You have reminded me of the importance of maintaining distance from my delusions.
You’d perhaps find all of this grief obnoxious, self-serving. Exaggerated. Dishonest. Cliché.
So how about some honesty, at least you didn’t die from cirrhosis.
I remember that time when you sat next to me in the lecture hall.
How your skin smelled like alcohol.
How your elbow brushed against mine.
-A

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Parkeer de auto in de Harvard binnenplaats.

Today was my first Dutch lesson. Kevin and I recently moved to Eindhoven for his work, and after leaving my job in Amsterdam I am finally taking the time to learn some of the language before I apply for work.

In class today, there was some discussion of the accent in this part of the Netherlands, Eindhoven and North Brabant.

(Note: North Brabant is an odd name because there is no South Brabant in the Netherlands, and the province of North Brabant is located in the South-East part of the country. What happened to South Brabant? What secret is being covered up?)

Anyways, the accent. As I have gathered(likely incorrectly) the accent here is a bit softer, specifically in reference to the throaty “G” sounds (pronounced huh, but like you have a chest cold) and when it comes to the letter “r.” According to my teacher, the people around here use a much softer, breathy, almost non-existent “r” whereas people in the Hague used a harder “r.” Also according to my teacher, the people in the North think people from Brabant sound, well, less intelligent.

(Note: North of the country, not to be confused with North Brabant which is in the South.)

Supposedly, people here in the South think that those crazy Hague dwellers sound haughty and self-important. Pronouncing their Rs. Pfft. So snobby.

Thus, my interpretation of this lesson is:
Eindhoven has the Boston accent of the Netherlands.

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Open Letter To Any Man Or Women Within Shouting Distance.

Let me just start by saying last night I witnessed a domestic dispute so violent that the sound of, something, banging against the walls of the house next door woke me up at 2 a.m.

No, let me just start by saying that I also witnessed the police act in a way I can only call a hate crime against a trans woman who was trying to help.

No, let me just start by saying that the sex workers of this city are our community watch, they have more presence on this street than the police which are 45 seconds away. They are the heroes of the story.

No, let me start with the terrifying image of the open door of our neighbor’s house, the walls of the hallway covered in blood.

We live on a mostly quiet street in Amsterdam, between a bike rental store on the right and a building on the left that is so comically leaning its bricks wave up and down in a dramatic zig-zag. People often stop to take photos of the neighbor’s cat perched in the window of the very wobbly building. In the wobbly house house live and man and a woman, an Italian woman with long black hair who wears thick buddy holly glasses. She’s tall and thin and strikingly beautiful in a way that always makes me jealous. She lives with a man who we found out last night was her boyfriend.

To the right of our house, two doors down, we have a few red windows that sex workers rent. Sometimes the windows have blue lights, which advertise that the woman inside in also trans. I am on friendly waving terms with many of the women. We don’t live in the red light district, so the women who work these windows are different. Some have beautiful, what I like to consider “real” bodies, by which I mean soft, wrinkled, lumpy, lived in bodies. I like them. For example, one, named Marina, is a regular during the weekdays. Kevin and I think she is a mother working during school hours.
The other week while walking home Kevin noted,
“Oh, Marina moved windows”
“She cut her hair, too. I like it. Maybe I should write a sign to tell her.” I said. I never bothered to.

This isn’t a story about Marina. I just wanted to put something nice in here.

Last night at about 2a.m. I woke up to the sound of banging on our walls from the apartment to the left, the wobbly house, and what I imagined to be kids shouting. Then it began to sound like women shouting. I got up and went to the window when it was clear it was a woman shouting. Outside there was one of the trans sex workers standing on the street, looking into the open door of the wobbly house, shouting and dialing on her phone. In the middle of the winter, she was standing outside in fishnets and underwear, without her shoes on. I heard the Italian woman next door crying and yelling to call the police, shouting “My boyfriend is going crazy, he hit me he hit her he won’t stop. Call the police” Then she shouted her address.

I shouted to Kevin to call the police. He was already half up., and he grabbed his phone.

Then the Italian woman started screaming.
Not shouting, horror movie screaming.
Then bang.
Then screaming.

I started sobbing, thinking we were about to listen to a murder. While Kevin called the police, I saw the sex worker shout “Bastardo!” to the open door and then back away, scared.
I opened our front door and beckoned for her to come inside if she needed. She said no, she asked if we called the police and I said we had. She said she had called the police but they weren’t listening to her. This is the part of the story I am calling a hate crime. Because the scared cries of a sex worker aren’t worth the same speedy attention of a man calling.

When the police arrived they went inside, Kevin and I went outside to see what the banging was from. The front door of the wobbly house was open, the wall in the front hallway was covered in blood. Covered.

The sex worker told me that the woman had a head wound.
It looked like she had been pushing against the door, smearing her blood on the walls.
I asked the sex worker,
“The Italian woman? The skinny one with the long black hair?”
“Yeah, I mean I would say more dark brown but yes, her.”
“Is the boyfriend the man who lives here?”
“Yes, I see him walk by all the time, tonight, maybe 20 minutes ago, I saw him walk by drunk, he’s been drinking, he’s out of his head.”

Kevin and I stood by the window for a half hour, until the police escorted the Italian woman to a car, followed by her boyfriend to another police car.

Then we tried to go back to sleep.

So, let me just finish this by saying that all women are women and we look out for each other, that sometimes men only want to listen to other men. That the sex workers of this city are our community watch, they have more presence on this street than the police which are 45 seconds away. They are the heroes of the story.

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The Tale of Skinny Boyfriend

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.26.59 PMnce upon a time there was a noblewoman named Rachel.

She ruled over a powerful Co-Op Board in a rapidly up-and coming neighborhood. The real-estate lords had recently renamed it SOKIPA (South of King’s Palace). Rachel loved many of the joyous excesses of her kingdom: locally grown flowers, designer blue jeans, and home design catalogs. But she loved two things most of all:

The first thing was Sir Gregory, her boyfriend of 4 years. Gregory had light brown hair that turned red in the summer. He was exactly five inches taller than Rachel, which made him ideal for kissing. He wielded his smile with skill; he had, as they say, looks that could kill. He also had a trust fund that could make any man seem immortal.

Sir Gregory was in a band. He played guitar and wrote great love ballads for lady Rachel. He praised her eyes, and her mouth, her laugh and all her other features that were like totally specific, girl. Gregory had been courting fair Rachel, who wasn’t going to be 29 forever, through many summers and winters, so he better step on it.

The second thing that Rachel loved was food, in particular the variety known in her kingdom as dessertDessert was revered for its magic ability to bestow upon those who consumed it great joy and energy, followed by great guilt and sadness, followed by great hips and buttocks. Dessert was reserved for special occasions, only afforded by the fat-wallets of Christmas bonuses, or the lean thighs of the athletic. Rachel had no need of a Christmas bonus, she had no lean muscular extremities upon which to seductively lay her layers of lipids. She had only a persistent craving for sugar. It appeared the moment she awoke, followed her until she slept, and often into her dreams.

The inherent problem in the situation was one that many hetero-normative once-uponers suffer from, and that was that Gregory, boyfriend of four years who better step on it, was too skinny. Skinnier than Lady Rachel, which just would not do.

                  At first, fair Rachel was able to pretend. Through the early months of their courtship Gregory brought her to many feasts, at which lady Rachel consumed only the greenest of salads. Lettuce hung from her lips, painting her like the most noble of bunny rabbits. Rachel suffered through each meal, even the obnoxious bits of lettuce that remain at the end, stuck to the plate and impossible to pick up with a fork without creating a squeaking noise that distracts the entire court from their feast.

                  Try as she might, lady Rachel could only hold out for so long. In time, as her strength waned, her weight gained, and her resentment of Gregory grew with it. So strong was her jealousy that it began to consume her, and she to consume every morsel of sugar in sight. Gregory dismissed her worries with casual laughter, often biting into a slice of pizza as he did so. One night, Rachel snuck down to the kitchen for a midnight snack. As she sat crying over a tray of brownies, she concocted a plan.

The next day she sent out a decree, over email and twitter, calling all of the doctors and dieticians of the kingdom to come forth. He who could make Gregory larger would be rewarded with an insurance payout fit for a king. They ran blood tests and measured his body mass index. But it was to no avail, for Sir Gregory remained as lean as ever. So, the doctors were banished, with only their malpractice rates increased.

So Rachel summoned forth all the great chefs of the kingdom, who for three weeks held great feasts, the tables overloaded with dishes dripping in fat and sticky with sugar. The entire realm filled with the perfume of fresh baked cookies. For weeks Gregory ate, and smiled, but he did not gain an ounce. Rachel watched angrily from outside the feast, chewing on celery.

So, in a last attempt, Rachel summoned forth the great un-credentialed masses. The food bloggers arrived first, and mostly photographed the food. An army of body builders lumbered in, hoisting barrels of whey protein and vials of injectable potions. The hairdressers who swore tah Gawd they gots a cousin who ate only almonds and bananas for two friggin months and he gained like 25 lbs.  Yet Rachel did not have two months, her patience had run out.

Rachel raised her cellphone angrily into the air, threatening to banish all of the crackpots from the twittersphere. A hush fell over the crackpot convention as they all looked up in fear. Just then, a small voice called out from the crowd,

   “Follow These 3 Easy Tricks to Gain 15 lbs. in 2 Days!” it cried.

             The crowd opened around the place the voice had come from, and as they parted out stepped a tiny, adorable, dimple-cheeked dumpling of a girl.

  “Who might you be?” asked Rachel.

   “It is I, KaleAndOreos13! I have a blog and a pretty popular instagram, it’s for binge-eaters who also dabble in the dark arts. Send these people away safely, and I will help you”

Rachel invited KaleAndOreos13 into her bedchamber, where she instructed Rachel to disrobe, and drew upon her body in great circles of black marker, outlining all of Rachel’s flaws. KaleAndOreos13 spoke in hushed tones and explained to Rachel what must be done,
 “Tonight is the full moon. First, you must give Gregory a draught of this potion with his dinner, so he will sleep like the dead.”

She reached into her bag, and handed Rachel a blue bottle, marked with a skull, and labeled Nyquil. Then she gave Rachel an elegantly decorated dagger, a spool of red thread, and a long golden sewing needle.

“At midnight exactly, gaze into your mirror, take the dagger and cut the unwanted pieces of flesh from your body. Sew them into place onto Gregory, then speak the following incantation three times:”

Othingnay Astestay As Oodgay As Inthay Eelsfay

Midnight arrived, and Rachel stood in front of her mirror, dagger gripped in one hand, a wobble of thigh fat pinched in the other. In the reflection, she could see the great stripes of black marker on her frame, and behind it, Sir Gregory sleeping soundly.  She could not proceed. At dawn, KaleAndOreos13 saw that Rachel had failed. So, she pulled Rachel aside and said, 
  “Well, there is one more thing we could try. “

And that is how sir Gregory was made to join Weight Watchers, along with Lady Rachel. After two weeks of being forced to count up food points all day, Rachel found him secretly eating the last of her stash of brownies. Soon, he had to loosen his belt two notches, and she had to tighten hers. The kingdom rejoiced with song and dance and 3 point Giant Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream Bars for all.  

 

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Could Your Faded Passion Brighten Your Home?

Researchers out of Stanford University announced a breakthrough in clean energy technology. They have developed a generator capable of powering a house using the residual heat of the argument you had with your husband last night.
 
In a cooperative effort between the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the study was conducted over the past 4 years in the area of your living room. Results are preliminary, but researchers are enlisting candidates for future research, stating,
“Not tonight honey, I have a headache.”
 
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[ˈæləsən]

      They’re always bitching at me not to leave my till. Todd, Margaret, all of them. Always bitching. Though, they never explain just how it is that I’m supposed to know what the lady standing in front of me means when she says,
“A grande-caramel-latte, and one of those on the end”
and starts pointing her accusing finger toward the end of the pastry case.

      I mean, that latte bit I‘ve got down. I could take that order in my sleep. Hell, I could take that order and ask if you’d “like to try it with our new coconut milk” without turning my head to the cool side of the pillow.

      But I have no idea what she is pointing at. Not a clue, this being the second day of October and a whole new rotation of specials we’ve got on offer. It’s probably a pumpkin-something, a cinnamon-whatever, some damn spiced crumble etc. The lady, she is wedged into place by the crowd behind her that is raging for a cinnamon fix. I am standing, chained behind my register like a good boy, just like I promised last night, when they made me sign that employee responsibility paper. I was all, “It won’t happen again, sir” and so on.

So I stall, and ask the lady for a name to scrawl on the grande-caramel-latte. She says,
“Huh? My name? It’s A—–.“
Well, actually, what she says is,
“Huh? My name? It’s Al-uh-suhn.”
But if we’re going to get all technical, which people like to do with their names, what she says is,
“Huh? My name? It’s [ˈæləsən].”

      I mean, give me a break. Do you know how many damn ways there are to spell [ˈæləsən]? There are at least 7 if you only count the common versions. You’ve got the old stand-by, Allison but heaven forbid you use it if she spells it Alyson, or Alison, or god knows what else. I knew a girl in 4th grade who spelled it Alysen, like her parents had something to prove. So [ˈæləsən] is standing there, pointing and pointing, while I consider writing “Ellison” on her cup just to mess with her. Or, really, just to make use of my degree for the first time since I graduated. But I doubt Todd, who is working the espresso machine, would even get the joke. He doesn’t seem to have read much of anything outside of the employee handbook. 

      So, I hedge my bets and write out “Allison” but I kind of squish the two L’s together, like, maybe there is only one. I squiggle the “o” indecisively. Like, maybe it’s an “e” or maybe my pen is running out of ink. Like, maybe I’ve been using it to write the next great American novel on recycled napkins. Like, maybe I am the guy who gets her, who knows exactly who she is. Like, maybe I could tell she had a relatively normal upbringing but that her parents just wanted her to be a little bit unique. Like, maybe she knows that I am clearly overqualified for this position. Like, maybe she could tell I’ve got a master’s degree and a lifetime-membership card to the ivory tower. Like, maybe we should get coffee sometime, somewhere else. Like, maybe she will love all my jokes about Derrida. Like, maybe she’ll forgive me for messing up the rest of her order and I won’t get written up for it. Like, maybe this [ˈæləsən] is the Allison or the Alison that changes everything.

      All the while, [ˈæləsən] is holding up her resilient elbow, pointing toward whatever it is that I am about to get wrong. The moment is more or less a metaphor for my entire romantic history.

 And of course, where is Margaret now? Margaret, our fearless shift supervisor, who is supposed to be working the pastry case. Margaret who wore out her lungs from bitching at me about leaving my till. Margaret who is evidently taking a ten minute break, now of all times. While [ˈæləsən] is waving her finger toward some mystery cake. [ˈæləsən], who left her glasses at home and can’t read the damn sign. [ˈæləsən] who looks like every other damn [ˈæləsən] I’ve ever come across, like she doesn’t have the time to look at me. 

      The line of customers is stretching out past the door, all of them frowning, all of them decaffeinated-cranky. Here I am, alone, strapped to the register. To my left, Todd has barricaded himself behind a wall of paper cups and syrups. I can hear the espresso machine hissing and spitting, then suddenly it stops. Todd has run out of steam, I‘ve thrown a wrench into the machine. Ominous, that silence.

So I look up at [ˈæləsən], who is dangling my future off her left index finger, and ask,
I’m sorry, could you at least describe it for me?”

 

 

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“Who Are?”

Is it still- no,
Is that just rain still falling?
You know, dripping from the trees
still.

Yeah it is,
it’s just
what is left.

They look like they think
it’s spring. You know?
Like they are just blooming.
It’s pretty. The light really.
I mean. I hate to tell them.

God.
Is it fall already?

Not until September-
twenty first or twenty second?

They’re just setting their watch by it.

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Chance encounters with old shadows.

Your wander
Loves the cobblestones
Breaks the hearts
of street signs
Forgets her glasses at home.

Where you been
hiding’ love?
Who you been
Keepin’ your secrets from?

You look good.
Reminds me
I was thinking ‘bout the moon
I should call her up.

That crazy thing
Dancing through her walk home
My, she use to stop it.
Time, that is
My,
We used to make the clocks moan.

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You know, You were the only one.

I miss you. 
I wish I were there with you. 
I keep meaning to write, 
But. 

The other Monday I burst into 
A run sprint of writing,
Spent all my words in twenty minutes. 
I have been in recovery since. 
Too much distance from my muses,
It makes it hard to write anything. 
Let alone something worthwhile. 

I have your gift in my apartment
Every day I toy with it,
Contemplate
The cost of plane tickets
Hand delivering.

By the time you receive it, 
it will smell like me. 
Like vanilla 
Bread
 and poetry. 

You know, 
You were the only one 
Night stand I’ve ever had.
You know, 
You were the only one.

Somehow,
We remained in contact. 
Which maybe makes it less of that
One-night nonsense. 
In fact.
This all began on the idea 
That I am a terrible person 
Who didn’t mind your beautiful girlfriend. 
Well , I wasn’t sure. 
Still. 
It just seems so.
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Spanish poets discuss the breaking of things over a meal of fresh baked bread.

Spanish poets discuss the breaking of things over a meal of fresh baked bread. They scrawl their list on handkerchiefs, carve it into the wood of the table. Let it soak in the wine that is spilled with the laughter. The un-starched shirt collars and the orchestra of silverware.

1.
I thought I might send her the postcard of Madame X but instead, I spilled coffee on it.
It sat on my bedside table brandishing a threat of pale undress.

2.
That time on the beach in Spain.
Muddled mint and sugar cane.
When he and I didn’t do enough drinking and thus decided to stop being friends.
Without the formality of announcing it.

3.
Denial is the weapon of the vocal cords
The inner dialogue,
The ache exists only after we admit it

4.
I never used the shiny things you bought me.
I grew tarnished, spotted. I was a shining thing once.

5.
Why must you just stand there not thinking about me.

6.
You give good headache
Take off your clothes.

7.
I am more than all the loves I have lost.
My 5 year plan is to stop living in the past.

Then love calls, just to say
Please convince me not to buy an apple pie.

Love came home with a wheeze lunged smile, the exhale tumbling past it.
and I said,
You smell like sweat go wash your face 

and he said,
I forgot to tell you what happened on the way home! I was rounding the corner by our house biking behind a little girl and her dad-I assume it was her dad-but she was in a little child’s seat behind him in her little pink helmet. When I sped up past them she turned around and she was singing.
To me.

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Sugar and Spice and Everything is Pointless.

It’s matter of the it factor. I don’t have it, never have. Without it, baking is just glorified manual labor. I think about the anxiety that I was going through all for the sake of, what? I spoiled my health into submission, my thyroid gone lazy and my god my body is so revolting. I had great illusions for so long that I would end the cycle of abuse in foodservice, but I don’t think I am up to the challenge. The profit margins are too small, and there’s no room in the budget to afford the costs of being a human. After overhead the largest expenses are usually labor and butter, coming close to a tie. I guess I can’t blame the chefs for choosing butter over happiness.

Trust me, the end of the world is nothing like you imagined. It’s probably a muffin, or a misread order form. It’s 15 orders due at 10:00 a.m. and 14 of them are finished, and none of those are picked up. But the 15th shows up right on time.
It’s under-baked two minutes.
It’s the lie of a clean toothpick.
It’s slightly under-mixed or over-proofed or you probably forgot the salt.
Dear god pray you didn’t forget the salt.
Call in the National Guard, she forgot the salt.

Or it’s the button on the oven timer, always screaming. It’s when you check the timer, to see if the fucking-whatever is done and set it for 3 more minutes then you press start-and the button beeps but what has actually happened is you pressed the button so fast that you pressed it twice, so the clock stops again, hangs still at 2 minutes and 59 seconds and the fucking-whatever will burn. Because in the course of the next three minutes you will set your mind to at least 4 other tasks
and there is nothing like the smell of something burning to really make you contemplate suicide.
Though if you were to stick your head into the oven you probably wouldn’t even do that bit right.

I used to do my best writing in the kitchen. Repetitive tasks, the brief release earned by years of practice. Like a long drive on a mostly empty highway, like riding a bicycle as they say. Rolling croissants, rolling hundreds of them. That was nice, I wrote things then.
Perhaps it wasn’t really the rolling, the mind wandering. Maybe it was the pleasant terror that longing brings with it.

I am predictable at best and satisfied at worst, I am always in some unnecessary panic.
I am the pot calling the kettle, just to hang up when it goes to voicemail.
I am the pot that loved the kettle.
I am the pot that left the stove to all its burning.
I am the pot that can’t take the heat and honestly,
I just don’t see the point of putting all that hate into the world so that someone can eat breakfast and have no idea of all the pain that went into it.

Sugar and spice and everything is pointless.

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A letter to the words that got away.

Dear Muse,
I thought I’d escape the confines of the screen for an afternoon, see if my hands remember how to move. To trace along the outline of the moon. I thought of you, sweet poem. But, you know, addictions of modern convenience, opiate of the masses, and the online profiles of false idols and blah blah blah. I will get off my organic, sulfate-and-paraben-free soap box for the moment.

I promised myself I would spend more time shaking my restless bones toward the sunrise, that we would give up our nocturnal leanings and that I’d leave here with more freckles. I seem to have failed, and the pressure to sleep tonight will likely keep me up. Thinking about the to-do of tomorrow and the what if I am not off enjoying some great adventure? I have barely written down a thing. I have very few stories to tell and everyone speaks English.

Today my love seems sleepy, like the delayed selvage of the drinks we each had on Friday has finally hit. There was a moment he led the bar in a rendition of some Smiths song, this being some sort of a Manchester thing, I have gathered. Man-che-staaar. He had bad dreams last night and has been distant since he woke up, hasn’t revealed very much. I had an optimistic moment where I thought I might write letters to everyone. About the nothing, the slow death my muscles have been performing. And you, I was hoping you would be there in them. The sadness of rainy days and I guess I have always been this boring, this lazy homebody with no energy. I wish I could quit the love of screens. The issue of insomnia has been a complication, indeed.

I fear that the words in me have all fallen asleep. I don’t quite remember what inspiration feels like. How you used to wake me in the middle of the night. How your steps fall into place when I am tripping over myself toward some amorous horizon. Saying, look at me I make such lovely sentences would you like some of them?

I used to do my best writing in those rare moments of comfort. Repetitive tasks, the brief release earned by years of practice. Like a long drive on a mostly empty highway, like riding a bicycle as they say. Rolling croissants, rolling hundreds of them. That was nice, I wrote things then. Perhaps it wasn’t really the rolling, the mind wandering. Maybe, yet again, it was the pleasant terror that longing brings with it.

I guess I am predictable at best, but I can’t let my mind go on like that. Only awake when the lust is freshly brewed and an arms reach away. I can’t resign myself to only falling in but never being in love. I mean, I can, I do. I have and hope to stay this way I just wish that the writing would feel the same way. Perhaps, that’s it. Ah, damnit, this is it’s own example of the nonsense my love has been telling me about, somethingorother language. I don’t want to ask for the word but, you, dear poem(muse, muze), are like my own version of it. You are the catch 22 that keeps bringing me back to you. Does that make any sense? Do you know?

Have I told you that I have missed you. Have you been upset with me this whole time or have I just taken you for granted so long that I’ve forgotten how to fit you into my routine, My daily tasks of lazing about in my sedated-lovely just get me so stressed out.
I just have to sleep, I just have to sleep so that I can go to work tomorrow with enough energy to panic all day, and into the afternoon and well past the second cup of coffee and the swollen left knee.
I have to shower, and I have to put on concealer to hide how tired and sickly my skin looks and I have to subdue my gender but not too much
and I have to cram all the extra layers of fat that have grow like moss under my skin into an elastic torture device. This is how I mask my shame and my penchant for binge eating.
I have to take my vitamins, but not yet. I can’t take them for four hours because I have to take my thyroid medication right now, and my birth control. Which I probably shouldn’t take at the same time but I can’t risk forgetting it.

So I just don’t have time to love you today.

Besides, if I did I would waste it staring at a screen and letting all the Saturdays roll along without me. I would waste it in bed feeling guilty for being there and for having no friends and for having ignored you so long that now you just must have forgotten me. Surely. I would waste all the hours I could have been writing, not going to central park, but understanding that the seasons were changing and that I had probably missed all of autumn by now so what’s the point really.
I woke up too late to love you today.

Then you are gone, all of a sudden. Perhaps the music changed or the meds wore off or perhaps you couldn’t see my apology for the trees, dear muse. All the excuses and look at me stretching for miles around my sorry. But I am, would you please just stay. Just let me stay here.

I know I came into this room looking for something, but I can’t recall what it was that I had forgotten. Trains of thought gone speeding off the track in Philadelphia, and 8 people died. Mine just steam their locomotive into walls, no one searches for the missing.
When you go away all the trains in me keep going, but the engineers lose steam. The conductors announcements just don’t ring out the same. Come back, no, come with me. Bring me with you, maybe.
Tell me where you are going. Tell me how you have been sleeping
and did you get enough breakfast,
and I am sorry that I finished all of the milk.
That I left my towel on the floor.
The dishes that I didn’t wash and I know,
I know, I never bring you flowers anymore.

-A

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Why must you always insist on dirt. On your calligraphy of scars. You fell in love and got all boring. You owe me a poem. You owe me three dozen punctuation marks and a translation of all your sign language. You filled all of my pockets with secrets. You owe me less public display of your mixed signals, my body is not a performance venue. What were you trying to prove. That wasn’t a question. Take me home with you. You should have, I mean. Or you could have. But, you knew that already. But you can’t now, the invitation has been rescinded. Or something. It’s been a long time. You owe me 1 euro of postage, you owe me an explanation. A slice of chocolate cake. A small series of contained explosions. I would like to return these daydreams, these extra 10lbs. I will accept store credit.

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Native Songbirds of Nederland, part one.

unnamedThere are new words here, and while my ears have finally captured the energy to learn them I’ve been too busy wrapping my shoulders in the sound. I sleep in a room with no windows, and the words grow slowly. A soft bed of moss, I walk over them in my bare feet. All tip toes. My knees are learning to sew their wobble to the cobblestones, to be sure of their wander.

The humans here say, hallo.
We live in an apartment with two roommates, both Italian.
The men have become their footsteps. Coming up the stairs.
Then down. In and out of doorways and so on.

My boss in the states is half Dutch. She warned me that the Dutch do not like doorknobs, stating,
“I hated that when I first came here, I hate doorknobs!”
As if, you know, this is an actual thing to have an opinion on.
But she was right- all the doorknobs here are an illusion, they don’t actually turn. 

For ten days I did not own keys to anything, it was the first time since I could remember. Then Kevin made me a key. So I am once again responsible for the locking and unlocking of important things, it seems.

Kevin steps were the first song I learned to identify. They are the only ones that continue past the first stair case and climb up the ladder to our nest on the third floor. His footsteps always pause, then just before his head bobs over the landing he will say,
sweetheart?

I used to talk to him, too late. This was last year, before he moved to the attic room where we now slumber. He had a window then, and I lost count of the sunrises I watched crawl into the picture frame. I told him to pay no attention to the sky outside his window. So he would tell me instead that the birds were singing. 

Each morning I would ask him what the birds said,
and each morning he would reply,
“I don’t speak Dutch.” 

Though he mentioned once that their song matched mine.
Now, I begin the day with it.

I ruffle my feathers quietly and I sometimes drink coffee in the mornings, now. Kevin makes the coffee. He tells me that his favorite bit about the making-machine is that it provides the option of “extra heet koffie” which is pronounced “Extra hate coffee.” We brew our coffee with just a normal amount of hate. I take sugar in mine, the big turbinado granules that hesitate to dissolve entirely, they curl up at the bottom of the mug. Like they are still sleeping. I nudge them awake with my coffee spoon.

I tell them that the birds are singing, each to each.

I know not what they sing to me.

 

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Embalmed Blooms for the Blissfully Unemployed, 2 a.m.

Up late still unslept and unkempt- 
 Feet unswept up off my filth woven carpet,
 I am balanced here, tiptoed. Ankle twisted.
 Pretending to breathe. 
 Some reek of stained oxygen through diseased window screen. 
 The permanent burn of an abandoned iron sits dead in the center of the room. 
 It was there when I moved in here. 
 It will be there when I leave.

I am all my unpacked boxes of useless things.
I used to be better at compartmentalizing.
I keep taking you out to look at you, hold you up against the light.
I like the shine of you, The tarnish on your silver.
I like putting my hands on you.

I’m reading articles that prove that I listened when you called me this afternoon.
That I paid attention.
It was still Thursday then and I still haven’t slept but it is no longer Thursday.
So, yesterday afternoon really.
But who knows what a day means anymore, anyway?

I’m blissfully unemployed.
I am permanent Sunday morning
I am matinee films and orange juice
I am the entryway to my Great Aunt Francine’s apartment 
Where the hall table always has an arrangement of fresh flowers. 
I am those too, the embalmed blooms. 

More than you know.
It’s stuck in my mind like the moan of a love 
letter half written, never sent. 
Lately you’ve been on my… and so on. 
Words are best stolen after 2 a.m. 
Which is to say my words after 2 a.m. are worthless 
and my judgment long gone, 
So why not steal some? 
“Never ask permission only beg forgiveness”
As you say so often. 
You stole my affection and you ask me to forgive you everyday. 
You had my permission to take it, always. 

I’d be happy to have my essential organs notarized on your behalf.
Or perhaps just engraved,
If lost please return to: you know. 
And so on. And such.

Will have to look into the costs, 
If my insurance will cover it or not. 
And so on. And such.
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Fuffled(edited)

I’m all in a fuffle

Eyelashes all stumble, exhausted

Passed out on flushed skin

Words all mumble, 

all glad I caught you I’m in love with you what? Never mind

My meaning’s been hiding under the tip of some neighborhood tongue.

Hanging out on the store front

Vernacular.

Chewing up langues de chat

Cigarette smoke and unsalted butter


I’m not mad at you

Got no reason But I ought to.

It’s probably on the tip of my tongue, too.

All twisted up from missing you

And nothing tastes the same these days.

Gone all crimson, metallic

Left all my modifiers misplaced, you did recklessly.


I blame the water

The rust of the pipes

Where the iron prayed for oxygen

Turned the faucet drip to wine

                                to whiskey

It ages in the barrel of a man’s body.

 

The hymns that the radiator sings all night keep me awake

Breaks against plaster when it’s complaint heats to argument

The tin echo of domestic dispute in a rented apartment

The war between the wear of winter and the drywall

The story of a lover that crumbled.

It’s been cold here.

     Raining all the time.

I’ve got nothing but raindrops to tell you.

And that the skin of my elbows is cracked,

Revealed all of my bricks.

And that I miss you.

 

Can I just come home now?

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She taught me
How to swallow pills
Without water
Even the ones that you find it the bottom of your handbag,
Next to mysterious crumbs and
Shell casings of sugarless gum

Even those ones.

Or the ones that hide in that compartment in the Camry,
The one that clicked open suddenly.
It was meant to be an ashtray..
Those ones, too.

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Things the coffee cup taught me

I don’t believe in God but I believe in fate,
In scrawling out excuses for our mistakes.
For the wrong turns that the lungs make
And the thing I should not say.
For fear they prove true
I sat down with my coffee and considered loving you.
I drank two and a half cups trying not to.

I spilled the last,
It sprawled across the kitchen table
Muddied the headlines with stains of my regrets

I let it pour off the sides and onto the carpet.

I don’t know.
Who am I to talk?
Or not talk, really.
Or talk incessantly, though never say the thing I mean to.
I am one worth not talking to.
You see,
I’ve been thinking about you.
Never mind

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On editing.

I stayed up too late. I killed so many darlings. They just kept coming. Like zombie darlings.You cut the head off one sentence and it grows three ah-ha moments in its stead.
Then all of a sudden it’s four a.m. in the apocalypse- every word for itself. All the structure has been burnt to the ground and somewhere amongst the rubble and the fragments and scattered punctuation the bartender is still shouting,
“Last call!”
Like he doesn’t know he is the next to die.

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Next Year Just Send Her Flowers(Take 2)

6: 30, Valentine’s day.
There is neon pink vomit
On the floor of the L train.

You’ve been writing poems on the subway
Passing love-notes to the city.
Check yes
Check no
Check maybe
You lose them in your apartment entryway
When you fumble for your keys.

Last night, did you see?
The Empire State Building
It had a heartbeat.
Lit in great red lights they
flickered,
they pulsed
The evening had its cheeks flushed.

Did you know?
That When the city gossips
It creates the sound of footsteps.
It melts the snow off the cement.
The buildings lean down to the street lamps
and whisper
“Have you seen her?
I guess the rumors were true.
Red is a rather good excuse to break rules.”

I can only assume that the moon is out where you are,
That you are fast asleep, ignoring her.
That she is in on the scheme, along with the sidewalks and the subway cars,
The trees dressed in February woes.
Complaints against the cold.
I only hope that she left you chocolates.
I only hope that you are dreaming of such sweet nonsense.

IMG_2789-0

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Love is a lot like anxiety. It’s a good reason to stay in bed.

I owe a few thanks to those who have checked in on me as of late.

I spent the better part of last year in hiding, From words and poems and people, and decisions. I built a wall around me that was named one of the Seven Great Anxieties of the World. You can see the unnecessary worry from space.

I also fell in love. Which was the easy decision to make, to put in the effort to love a man across an ocean. It requires a few broken vital organs, undivided attention and a lot of time spent on the telephone. Or on an airplane. It has been gorgeous and trying.
Loving him left me wanting for wanting, as I am wont to do.

Love can be beautiful and most terribly indescribable.
Ineffable.
Peculiar and wonderful and inopportune and just at the moment when your knees threaten to give out.
That’s always when.

Love is a lot like anxiety. It’s a good reason to stay in bed.

I call my anxiety “The Domino Problem.”
I was surrounded by a wall of them, standing six inches from my nose. Big questions, About buying a home, and what city I’d be living in, and where was my job going, and so on. Piles of paperwork I still hadn’t filled out. Phone calls I had to make. Then there was the question of him, of how to get my body where my being has been living. I feared moving in any direction, that I’d knock over a Domino and set the whole thing into motion, into a great crashing mistake of shattered porcelain.
The question was,
“How?”
My answer was always,
“Tomorrow.”

So I stopped writing. I stopped talking to most people. It is hard to say which happened first, either way, I ran out of stories to tell.

I can be so weird sometimes. People are hard. I am lucky enough to know some who stick around.

There’s been a wild amount of change these past few weeks. I’ve been getting out a bit more and seeing people. It’s been liberating to say the least and then, the other day, the words began to come back to me.

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It’s hard to say, though, so much of me these days feels cold. Literally, figuratively, ineffably, Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera!

I had to throw my red lipstick away.
It was a hard moment,
saturated with symbol though lacking in substance
Diseased and relentlessly contagious.
Immune-compromised though not positive.
Excessively gendered breaking of hearts.
Paint the town cliché.
The great purge of feminine wiles,
A revelation of shame.

It was a hard moment in a series of hard days
Since, I have not felt the same.
There is so little within my bones of poem,
there is his scent still on my skin and there is the familiar sense of longing which I bring to meet the morning.

A shiver of autumn, of broken radiators and a cheap yet creeping towards overpriced apartment in Brooklyn. I fill the rooms with the passive aggressions of my imagined anxieties. I avoid the kitchen the living room I avoid the necessary conversation required to maintain a state of living.
I am sleeping,
always and never quite.
I snore, he has told me.
My anxieties climb up a wall of the evening, in search of the sun and inspiration, the something over the wall. The air thick with my delusion, turns the corners black, they decay and disintegrate with my footing, my hold on things.

At the end of the glass,
My questions rattle amongst the ice cubes
the answers dilute with the melting

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Dear Boy, Who Never Met My Grandfather.

The writing today has been not. Along with the finishing of chores and suppression of anxieties, along with the necessary hours of sleep and their prerequisite ignorance of moonlight-all of them have been decidedly not. The of-courses and always were still as such, nothing changes. The lunatic ways of this poet, of the impending doom of Mondays and plane tickets and Oh dear lord my boyfriend is coming and Oh dear lord it has been so long since I’ve been naked with anyone. Fairly certain my bathroom scale is broken. The barista at the coffee shop keeps insisting they are not closed until 7, while turning off every possible light around me.

I bought new old shoes today and a new old coat from the thrift store that is sort of across the street from my job. I needed the coat, yet I decided to just continue to wear his sweatshirt. Which just fits me. Not in an adorable this is clearly my boyfriend’s way, more of an I am fairly certain my bathroom scale is broken kind of way.

The barista continued his polite insistence that I am fine to stay, and not write. To not drink the sip of coffee in an almost empty cup. He sprays each table with sanitizer and wipes it clean. He runs the rag right across my face, my being, all the while whistling. I wash away the taste of ammonia and dish rag with my last ten percent of coffee, cold.

I left the coffee shop and went to a bar, avoiding the perils of my apartment and the walls he painted white for me. I have felt as little today as I have consumed, hunger being the soil from which affection blooms. The rhizomatic sighs of young, fertile Americans. Fingers intertwined.
Fairly certain my emotional scale is broken.

I have starved my loss into existence, turned numb toward all things save for the wind. The advanced ache of my young bones and their relentless complaining. I love my knees in all their wobbled glory, they get me home and they keep me standing at work and they make poetry seem worthwhile and they help me to wobble away from my anxieties, they avoid the walls of the apartment.

You see, the walls were so ugly and I whined and whined on phone calls to a boyfriend who was not here. Who was perfect in his absence, ever haloed and flawless. He painted them white during his last visit, and we abandoned the project when they were all merely primed white. Bohemian. Post-apocalyptic chic. Or something. Regardless, romantic.

They are waiting. The walls. Not just waiting for me, waiting for me to admit it. The pain of without him. For my emotions, at last unbridled, to declare something other than the thickness of the air around my skin. The winter of New York and never seeing Manhattan, of New York every day the same, of the cityscape sunrise outline orange glow off the empire state building and the smiles I no longer bring to meet the morning.

I want to not write it, or even to think it, to acknowledge the cold shoulder of my inner dialogue. I am the husband to my psyche, I will never wash the dishes or put the trash away. I stopped loving me a long time ago.

I can only hope that all this lack is a coping mechanism, not a falling out of, not a boredom. I never want to be wrong about him. I dare not admit it yet, for fear of his wandering eyes and my inability to lie. These things are so fragile, and he is so very much one of those fragile things. He is my fragile thing and I’ve grown tired of the chore of his mending. I haven’t at all, actually, but I have learned in the past that the day will come. For now, there is only the numb and the not writing.

I should clarify, I don’t love anything these days. Nothing tastes the same, save for the whiskey, the ice cubes. The cold weather and ammonia and the stutter of my inhale.

I keep my eyes down. I radiate taken, or at least not up for anything fun. My cleavage has been bound into submission, starved from the relentless consumption of my lungs. I do not want to love anyone but him. I am just overwhelmed with the anxiety that I don’t. I alternate, I have brief moments during each day where I feel something, and in those moments I miss him. Or his arms, the warmth of skin on mine. It hurts. The scent of autumn and alone, of decay and anxiety. The withering of things, the reduction of beauty to its sugars.
Nothing tastes the same, save for the whiskey.

Please, just let me be right to love this one, let me love him, let us have something easy and warm and eternal and lacking in struggle.

Dear New York, I will always love you and have you. Did I abandon you? I am sorry. You deserve more and I can’t say why I have been so reluctant to put up a fight. You are my girl over the body of water, my green light rich with envy and metaphor.

This is a long love letter to no one. Rather, this is a courtroom record of a heart not breaking. Though just faulty enough to hurt someone. To demand a recall, to question the meaning of this all and the cost of a settlement, of a marriage and a divorce and an inevitable guilt trip by my dead grandfather. I am supposed to be making a list of his things that I want. I want him back.

I am supposed to have found a place for his ashes but nothing feels right, so instead I talk to them. I apologize, I try to live up to their standards and I wonder if they are really the remains of the man who could not die. I curl round the box in my best attempt at the traditional fetal position, which was not mine. He has so much unfinished business and I had so many thing to, well, never say. Thing to say that I never would have, We could have lived for centuries and I’d still shame myself into silence at just the thought of his blue eyes, the anger. The strength and despair and he really had no idea how much I loved him. I know still he would be furious at the things I say about him, sometimes. When I speak of his cold ways, of his shame. I wish I had kept the secret of his illness, how it stole his mind away. I wish I had kept him as mine. I wish I had not been so afraid to love him.

I always called him “Pa.” My mother did not tell me until I was older that he wished to be called “Grandpa.” He was, by far the most interesting human I will ever encounter. His mind moved in ways I will never understand. I loved him in ways he never understood.

To think of breaking my grandfather down to a list of what I want has been a task that has consumed my thoughts, and questioned all my limited 25 year old understanding of what is right.

Were I to send an honest list I would ask for only one thing, I would like my grandfather back. Other than that, I would like my brother to call me. I would like my grandfather’s clock to have continued its infuriating chiming, every 15 minutes. I’d have loved to have spent enough time with him to stop noticing the time. Second star to the right, then straight on ‘til morning.

I would like to give him back his bowl from the prison camp and his filthy sarong of parachute. I would like please to take possession of the broken pieces of his heart and I would like to glue them back. Rather, to hold them together with my own hands, clasped, until the effort allowed his blood to move again. I would like to remain there. I would like to have one more Sunday with him reading poems from the New Yorker and listening to his story of T.S. Eliot in the library. Which is the best of his stories, and above all it is my story. That he told me.
You see, he knew exactly what Eliot was pointing at.

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What to Expect When You’re Expiring

1.
On the telephone.
On so many phone calls.
In particular, the first one.
When her voice registers like a dial tone.
Call your home phone number to hear her voice again.
Sob for the answering machine.

2.
Do not cry over food,
over drink.
Cry into the mirror
Watch your silhouette shrink.
The part you have lost,
let it cease to remain metaphor.
Starve it into existence.
Remember,
Your public display of unrequited affection.
Your moth eyes glowing toward a dying flame.
Your prayer of self starvation.
None of it will change a thing.

3.
So go ahead,
Take your mind off things.
Go grocery shopping.
Focus on the cans of chickpeas in aisle
I mean, really focus.
Breathe in deep.
Give up immediately
You never liked oxygen much, anyway.
Collapse, slowly.
Let your shoulders fall first.
Smack your palms against the price tags
Clasp your fingers to the shelf.
Feel your knees give out.
Focus.
Count.
How many cans of black beans are still left?
Desperate, Dig your nails into the red sticker of a discount
Claw at the adhesive
As you descend, as it tears.
Stare up at the rows of cans,
Decide you sort of like it here.

4.
In the car,
Preferably when on a long drive to somewhere Nowhere
Anywhere that requires empty highways and moonlight.
Oh, the glory of it
Oh, the wind, the sky
Drive away from the sunset.
Don’t look back.
Drive in to a thunderstorm, the rattle of raindrops
Heavy on the rooftop,
Relentless
Terrifying yet seemingly appropriate.
Drive under an overpass and
Just for a moment.
It stops.

Realize, that’s what her embrace is. Was.

5.
In New York City,
stand in awe of its beauty.
Of all its spilled coffee.
Of the missed connection
on the subway.
Cry into the boxes and bags you took on your journey
Gasp at the gorgeous of it, even the worst of it.

Outside your grandfather’s apartment, in the rain.
It has soaked through your coat.
Your shirt.
Call your sister Emily and tell her.
I am standing in my first real new york city thunderstorm.
I can see her.
I can see mom.

6..
Leaning over your kitchen sink.
Something about the washing away of things
Brings it out in people-the sobbing
The pruned fingers of reality.
It brings it out in you, too.
Not that you have energy to wash a damn thing.
Namely, your hair.
So, when the neighbors offer to help.
Decline,
<em>that is so very sweet of them to offer. </em>
Wash away the bowls of food she wont eat anymore.

7.
On the first of the hard days.
The nurse from hospice arrives. She is an angel.
Her laughter the sound of bells.

She will give you little pamphlets
Systematically designed to explain
The stages,
The symptoms.
The best ways to manage pain.
The exponential rate of decay
<em>What to expect when you’re expiring.</em>

The well of sorrow within your bones spills
The angel helps you clean it off the tile.
She shows you the proper way to slice a mango.
It will be the last thing your mother eats.
The pamphlets did not warn you.

8.
Grief is not a cycle.
It is a rolling ball,
Followed by a running child.

You have made it toThe final days. Her skin is blotchy, her breathing is raspy.
On and off, flickering.
Your handbook tells you this is the end of things.
The ringing of telephones.
Loved ones crowd Into her bedroom, whispering.
Any moment now she’ll be gone.
Minutes stretch like days when counted out in drops of morphine.
They wash a setting sun across the evening.

You fall asleep, miraculously.
She waits until the morning.
Your brother wakes you.
You find your friend Maddy collapsed in the hallway,
Her face in her hands.
Her palms spit steam.

You know she’s gone.

In a spare moment when she is alone
Whisper, Check if any of her is still hiding in thereCut off a lock of her hair.
Hold her and tell her to just let go.

Now it’s your turn to.

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After The Accident. (For Bobby)

(After the car accident, having been hit head-on by a drunk driver when I was 18)

….

To move was to gasp
To shake from the lungs
a series of sobs
A body designed to absorb impact.
Only when it can’t foresee it
 I could not.
I could not
move.
To move was to admit.

The floor of the bathtub
All was white light and the flaws of tear ducts.
He was. Trying.
To bathe me. To wash away.
The boy, without any inherent
Skills one could call mothering
Never taught, but trying.

He held the shower head too low,
Rinsed soap into my eyes.
The tub slowly filled with water turned grey,
The cooled iron of a drunk’s flame.

Though, despite the sting of any sudden motion
the stab of ache and oxygen-
the attempt, the inhale.
The water on my back felt wonderful.

Scabbed, swollen beyond the strength of my being.
More naked than I’d ever been
and
He,
He was just there, trying.
There was no thought of casually leaning back
Allowing my stomach to lay flat,
my thighs pushed together
My legs crossed In order to shrink my silhouette.
There was none of that,
Just pain
And water
And him.
I curled into a ball with my skin
Stomach folding over itself,
my entire body filled, swelling. Shameless.
The seat belt left
A strip of bruises across my chest
Knees steady turned shades of purple, green, and black.
But the water felt wonderful on my back.

His hand knocked bottle of the shelf
It flew past my face and smacked against the water,
My river of a grey after
I only saw the car
I only withdrew from my body,
Herd the conversation of my muscles veer wildly toward argument,
Toward a violent dispute with my instinct.
as I pulled away.
Then I was in the white light
Of the bathtub, again.
Shaking and sobbing,
The water still running.
His clothing soaked from climbing in.

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I’ve been here, technically.

I have just been temporarily broken-hearted, working at a back-breaking pace, and trying to fix the broken machine of my body. Replacement parts hard to come by these days. The repairman scoffed,

They haven’t made this piece since 1958. Where did you even find this thing?

I have been gone, I’ve been away in Belgium and love.
He went back to Amsterdam two weeks ago, and my body tried to go with him. It’s been a rare occasion fit for weeping and insomnia. Too much coffee and a new round of prescription medication.
Loving him was the easy decision. I really had no say in the matter.
Eventual sleep and some healing.
Second star to the right and straight on ‘til mourning.

We made it through those weeks 
With promises of summer and its brief freedoms
Its burns.
The forecast takes a sudden turn.

August was strangely cold in New York this year
Based on the headlines, it would appear
That Demeter already knows
That she has begun to let the plants go.

He is obviously not gone forever, or even for long. November or December will come. The year will pass and then he will be home. Wherever home may be, but decidedly it will be with me.

Trying to convince my being of these things has been impossible. My affection is a stubborn one, it seems. She has a flair for melodramatic wailing. Denial is best mixed with mild panic and caffeine. The connotation and denotation of heartbeat. Mine is fumbling in circles around Manhattan side streets.

Sleep has been difficult.
My sister will tell me I need to take my lorazepam.
My boss will ask if I am eating.
The poets will not ask where I’ve been but I will wish they had.

Lauren Bacall is gone now
and nothing seems the same.

I haven’t been writing much all summer, but the words have been cold brewing.
If there is one thing I am good at, it is spilling coffee.

(I am also well-suited to assist in a medical emergency.
Should that fail, I write a decent eulogy)

I have stained all my shirts with sentence fragments.
False starts of love letters.
They leave rings on all the  wooden furniture.
Like autopsied trees.
I have loved you for so long, they read.

I stood so long today that my left knee, left. 
It declared a labor strike and began picketing outside the doors of my legs. 
The doors were red at some point, they have been worn down in time.
 The warm orange glow of an exit sign.
The walk home this evening was decidedly difficult,
embarrassing, and painful.
The whole time I was wobbling like a fool I was thinking
If only,
I could only being wobbling foolishly home, to you.
Lend me your bones for an evening.

“The coming home was always to you”
My grandfather wrote that.
I love like he did, I make the same grand mistakes. Sometimes, it makes me mean. 

I have loved the wrong ones. 
Or loved the right ones,
did not make them home.
Or the one. So to say.
I, like my grandfather, take no joy in admitting the wrong.
Prayer is sometimes an apology one tells oneself.
But I was thinking, whilst wobbling,
that I would gladly take all the wrong
If I could please this time be right.

I have been thinking about knees quite a bit lately.
My knees were baptized with the rest of my body, but they cannot bend in prayer.
About what a privilege it is to walk. About my Aunt.
That is a story of heartbreak for another time.

I am writing this to say I am still alive.
I am just saying hello to the world. Myself included.

 

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The person you are trying to reach is emotionally unavailable. Please leave a message after the tone,

If you are satisfied with your message
You may hang up, or
Press 1
for more options.
………..
To listen to your message.
Press 1
……

To re-record your message,

Press 2
…..
To listen to your progressively angrier series of messages
Press 1
……..

To delete your message and pretend this never happened.
Press 4
…..
Or was it 5?
To question the impact of your mistake:
Press 5

To hear a lecture
on your numerous shortcomings
as written by you ex-girlfriends
and recited by your father
Press 5
……..
For a sleeping pill
Press 9
…….
For another,
Press 7
…..
She’s moved on. It’s late.
This may not even be her number.
You fool.
For a drop of morphine.
Press 8
….
To stare at the ceiling
Until the sun rises.
Press
6
…….

This message will repeat.</p

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This is my best impression of Molly Bloom. Which is to say I am a complete Mess.

I wrote this letter with the intention
that it be read aloud.
Forgive the limits of my voice.
Of my lungs,
Of this gluttonous muscle that
Struggles as ever
To wrap its way around a phrase. Please.
If you cannot understand my words
then take the sound
(The syntax, the perspective)
and know
That when asked any question deemed important
My bones will always answer
with your name.

I have taken you sublingually.
You dissolved your way to my bloodstream.
Then remained.

I spend evenings staring at my bedroom ceiling,
Arguing with my inner narrator
That if he insists on keeping me
From sleep again
I’d rather the conversation be about you.
You know, switch it up from my usual
statistically-induced-panic-attack.

This is my best impression of Molly Bloom
Which is to say I am a complete mess.

(Also, that I knew that line would make you laugh. Yes.)

The first time we were together
you seemed so nervous
I was afraid you might shatter
Might shake your veins
Hiss steam from your joints like a crazed radiator
Dissolve into dust,
Into some
powder-form moonlight.

Might lean in to kiss me
Then spontaneously combust.
Not in a double-entendre sense,
In a literal sense.
Which would have been a terrible thing to have to explain to the firemen standing in my apartment.
Let alone my roommates.

The are lot of things I should be doing besides writing this for you.
A lot of things more important than loving you and
There are hundreds of things
I am inifinitely better at than writing in general
like,
Spilling my coffee
or
Bumping into table corners
or
somehow eating an entire hamburger without smudging my lipstick.

But,

Loving you
is something that I am
Like, sort-of-okay at.

I mean, not great,
but definitely still better
than I am at writing poems or subtlety.

Though not nearly as good
as I am at not drinking coffee,
and
may I just say
that if anyone is going to mess up my lipstick these days
I would really like it to be you.

Wherever it is that you and I end up before we wind up dead
I hope that we find time again to have a 20 minute transfer in
the Antwerp Railway Station.
And,
did you know?
That your watchband is always too loose.
I have noticed
That if I ask the time of you
You would rather jerk your elbow violently until the face jumps around your wrist to be read
than ever let go of my hand.

It seems important.

At this moment,
To record these things.
Our story.
I am not entirely sure why
and I certainly have not come close
to doing it justice.
The best I can come up with is,

Do you remember the day?
In New York City.
In the rain.
We were standing underneath the overpass of the subway.
The drops kept settling on your glasses.
You just kept looking past them
You know, at me.

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Exsanguinated in the Antwerpen-Centraal Railway Station.

Like everyone’s been saying we are.

These days
These muscles of metaphor
Beat faster.
They loiter outside the skin’s side door
Look for trouble like they don’t know better.

The mosquito’s song-
A reprimand, shooed away,
You can’t just hang around here adoring me.

Slow burn of the wait
Soaked in sun
and a shop-awning’s-worth of shade
Scowl teeth wrapped in sugar cane
Say,
Go ahead, officer,
Tell me I can’t stay.

Limb kissing the lighting
Late night longing of conversation
Relentless pursuit of the clock’s alarm
Twenty minute layover in the Antwerp train station.
He warned,
       “You will love this”

Transfer between a pipe dream and a love song.

The boy who breathes jazz percussion
but don’t know a thing of swing.

Knees bruised by cobblestones,
And all his bending
Toward the begged question
Big love eyes always waitin’ on.

Mornings when the light sneaks in
I fixate on the long stretch of his windows.
His skin a fan of sandalwood.
The open. The perfume. The flutter.
The days with him when I wonder.

My night owl ways have gone,
My insomnia cure is pretending
To be where you are

(If it’s July twenty-fourteen in New York,
What time is is in Casablanca?)

And the moon-
Don’t get me started on her.

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Today, in a message,
you called me a poet warrior.

Today, I screamed at you in a book store.
Knowing you were not there
did not stop me.

You have put me in a difficult position today.
I have no choice but to adore you.
I’m sorry,
These decisions are made above my pay grade.
I am just the messenger.
I am just another
Insufferable sentimental fool.
Built to falter.

The starlight can suck it,
I am keeping you.

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Receipt For the Purchase of a Plane Ticket to Amsterdam, As Scrawled by T.S. Eliot using His Non-Dominant Hand.

I would love.

  These days I have little to say
  Which Billie Holiday has yet to sing.
     As though the radio knows I am listening.

  A symptom less pulmonary.
  An extension of skeleton.
  Rib shaking.
  Subtle vibration of bones.
  Antique shop echoes
                           from a Victrola Silvertone.

  Ghost of song.
  Difficult to explain.
  Listen.
      Oh, darling- listen.
  Watch the notes catch the light.
  Dust settled on a conversation long forgot.
  The repeat of a chorus stuck in the mind-
                                             I would love. 

  Could sell this love
  For a steep profit.
  If we just stuck a label on it.
  Called it,
     Vintage.
  Genuine.
     Hand-made.
  Artisanal.
  Repurposed salvage of symbolic muscle.
  Upcycled lost souls.
  Called it,
Retro.

  Good old-fashioned American trouble. 

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You Are My Favorite Lie of Omission

It’s like a switch sometimes.
With me.

There are days for no reason I’d risk the scratch of electricity
To cut it off.
Skeleton of emotional fuse box.
(Sometimes my knees click when I walk. On and off.)

If New York lost power you would return to before you existed.

(“Oh, let me remember you.”)

I could smile into the evening for once,
I could justify my panic.

Anxieties so faceted, they sparkle.

My must you be so sexy and neurotic.

Tonight,
I was trying to make a point about women.
I lost
track.
I meant to discuss the social implications of birthday gifts in modern mating ritual.
The symbolic value of exchange.
The habits of the domestic feline.

Women love questions they can answer by saying ,
“This thing means I am adored.
I am loved this many dollars.
This long.
These minutes.
This unique circumstance of timing, neurotransmitters,
and fate
Made particularly for me.
Would never fit you,
though you may envy it, if you’d like.
Thank you for asking.”

Mostly I keep you secret.
Woman questions she can answer by saying love.

You are my favorite lie of omission.
Gone until the phone rings.

Baby, it’s hot as hell outside,
Take off your damn clothes.

I don’t really want anything for my birthday.
Perhaps, a pair of wire cutters.

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Sun Salutation of Low Ceiling.

Cannot seem to wake  today.

In my bedroom.
5 p.m.
I stretch toward salute
Sun of low white ceiling.

A room considered large for its rent,  in Brooklyn.
Last tenant painted the walls forest green.
I curl towards the soil.
Bend into a child’s pose my knees are never capable.

Doctors built me legs that walk
and knees which refuse to pray.
They cease their bend at 87 degrees.
They pause to ask questions.
(My joints are agnostic, it seems)

Fetal position that my limbs never understood.
Vulnerable organs always open to the world.
I have never learned.

I beg my blood to move on these late afternoons,
Illness kept me in bed well past noon
There is writing to do.
There is the coughing up of consequence.
Must coax circulation to the window of this skin.
Call it out with a love song.
Soft crack of pebble on the window.
Threat of shatter, of romance.
Equally dangerous. Equally likely to call you from sleep.

Sugar moon skin tone
Stolen from my diabetic mother.
Everyone blamed the full moon on her.

There is no such thing as moonlight.

Picket fences gone out of style,
The millennial boys all bearded
Drinking the way towards a bourbon shortage.
This is our whiskey rebellion.

I moved to Brooklyn and now even my poems are gluten free.
There are BMWs parked along
Only one side of Lorimer Street.

 

 

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Statistically speaking we are some grand, terrifying percentage of doomed.

Ignore the color of the sky
Outside your window.
The sun reminds you of everything you should be doing
Besides this.
Tomorrow already started.
You are already late.
You may feel free to blame the fact
That men don’t wear watches these days.
The sun draws his blue lecture on punctuality
Along the silhouette of the trees.
The moon just tells you to call me.

Call this,
Sunday.
For a long time it was reserved for a different kind of man-
For my grandfather’s apartment.
In many ways the ocean you live across
Separates us less than his illness kept him from me.
One cannot simply
Buy a ticket across an old man’s memory.

Proud old men
Still die.
We build cities on top of their bodies.
They leave behind Sunday.

I read today
That the Sunday edition of The New York Times
Requires 63,000 dead trees to print.
I found this statement vague and unsubstantiated.
Suspicious.
The mathematics illogical,
Sources unclear and lacking in detail.

And yet, zealous imaginary crowds
I encounter on Facebook
Spread lies like new age paperboys
With all the shouting and selling
Though, less of the quaint headwear.

Proud old institutions still die.
We build lies on top of their bodies.
Sunday remains.

I read today
That in a sample of over 200 couples in long-distance relationships,
The average mileage between their bones
Was 125.
(I like to believe we are over-achievers)

Statistically speaking we are more prone
To idealize one-another
We divulge more.
And,
“These two tendencies become more manifested when they communicated in text-based, asynchronous and mobile media.”

(This is my version of romance)

Statistically pillow-talking
We are some grand
Terrifying
Percentage of doomed

Proud old romances still die.
When this one does,
I will build poetry over its body.

I will visit its grave on the occasional Sunday.
I will leave flowers.
I will guess at what sort you’d have liked me to offer.
I will never have asked.
Should my insecurities lead me to falter,
I will leave you carnations.
As they are both inexpensive and
Available in a variety of colors.

I read today
That the 7-day week was born in Babylon
Bled hrough Judaism.
I found several hilarious bits of propaganda attempting to argue,
That, evidently, when God was done sculpting
Earth, Eden, Adam, and Rome,
Woman born of bone.
He took the time to define
The standards of our modern calendar.

But really,
The 7-day week began with the religious significance all of us fools place on the moon.
In the end,
It’s always about the moon.

I’d venture to guess she likes the way you stay up too late to stare my way.
Perhaps she also misses New York City.
Or she likes the way you slant toward slumber
Yet, you wait for her to leave.

Every morning I ask you to tell me what the birds say.

You see.
This came from my grandfather.
I’ve never told anyone this before.
Before my grandmother,
There was her.

War breaks hearts and lungs
Reminds men that they, too, need oxygen.
There was a moment in 1945
When my grandfather needed a reason to live.
The moon wanted him to stay.
So,
She gave him Sunday.

When he died,
He willed it to me.
I’ve been holding on to it.
Just corroding away in my pocket.

I’ve been thinking.
It suits you.
So, if you’d like,
You may have it.

On Tue, May 20, 2014 at 3:44 PM, wrote:
Ignore the color of the sky
Outside your window.
The sun reminds you of everything you should be doing.
Tomorrow morning has already begun.
You are already late.
You may feel free to blame the fact
That men don’t wear watches these days.
The sun draws a blue lecture on punctuality
Along the silhouette of the trees.
The moon will just tell you to call me.

Call this, Sunday.
For a long time it was reserved for a different kind of love-
for my grandfather’s apartment.
The ocean you live across
Separates us less than his illness kept him from me.
One cannot simply
Buy a plane ticket across and old man’s memory.

Proud old men still die.
We build cities on top of their bodies.
They leave behind Sunday.

You may have it. If you’d like.

I read today
That the Sunday edition of The New York Times
Requires 63,000 dead trees to print.
I found this statement vague and unsubstantiated.
Suspicious.
The mathematics illogical,
Sources unclear and lacking in detail.

And yet, zealous imaginary crowds
I encounter on Facebook
Are spreading lies like new age paperboys
With all the shouting and selling
and less of the quaint headwear.

Proud old institutions die.
We build lies on top of their bodies.
Sunday remains.

I read today
That in a sample of over 200 couples in long-distance relationships,
the average distance between their bones
was 125 miles.
(I like to believe we are over-achievers)

Statistically speaking we are more prone
To idealize one-another
To divulge more.
And,
“These two tendencies become more manifested when they communicated in text-based, asynchronous and mobile media.”

(This is my version of romance)

Statistically pillow-talking
We are some grand
Terrifying
Percentage of doomed

Proud old romances still die.
When this one does,
I will build poetry over its body.

I will visit its grave on the occasional Sunday.
I will leave flowers.
I will guess what kind you’d have liked me to offer.
I will never have asked,
Should my
Insecurities lead me to falter,
I will leave you carnations
because they are inexpensive and
Available in a variety of colors.

I read today
That the 7 day week was born in Babylon
Bled hrough Judaism.
several hilarious articles attempt to argue
That when God was done with
Earth, Eden, Adam, and Rome,
Woman born of bone
Evidently, he took the time to define
The standards of our modern calendar.

But really,
the 7-day week began with the religious significance all us fools place on the moon.
In the end,
It’s always about the moon.

I’d venture to guess she likes the way you stay up too late just to look at me. How you wait for her to leave.

I never mentioned this,
But there was a moment in 1945
When my grandfather needed a reason to live.
The moon wanted him to stay.
So she gave him Sunday.
He willed it to me.
I’ve been holding on to it.
Just sitting here rusting in my pocket.
It suits you.
If you’d like,
You may have it.

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Let me tell you a story of

Starvation as prayer.

Nest of negative space
Home built upon fault lines.
Floor plans
Of the empty spaces on her.
Ever expanding, renovated.
Construction permit written in lipstick.
Bones
Grown wasted.
Warped with winters only known by time.
Saturated in longing.
Wooden doors no longer close properly.
Locks long parted from skeleton key.

A slow reduction of her fruit
Simmered with sugar over low flame
Ever present threat of burn.

Escoffier never translated
Carême’s recipe for
How to not love the wrong ones.
She’s at a loss,
Contemplating the consequence
of her weak American heart.

The Baumé of her blood.

Inverted. Caramelized
Maillard reaction of soul
in the presence of protein.
and flame.

Dispersed in solvent of poem.
Osmosis of ache and oxygen.

Hidden. Rhizomatic.
(These blooms lie.
Ask her, instead,
of what lives beneath the soil of her story.)

Medical chart diagnosis:
Love-letter induced delusion.
Prescription for
human contact and/or casual sex
recommended.
(Though, insurance will likely not cover cost of plane ticket, options limited)
Grief of love not yet lost.
Grief of something not love,
Just, not.

Dissolving her own skin.
Flesh eating fit of numb.
Less of her left to miss him.

When the shop owner asked
Where she went.
She meant the unnecessary parts of the girl.
The hips. The breasts.
Stores of energy carelessly spent.

The girl answered,

Amsterdam?
Or something.
Lost in transit by a Dutch mailman.
Floating somewhere in an ocean.

Washing up on the sand at Coney Island.

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On love letters and longing.

Loneliness is particularly hard
When you are in a new and beautiful place.
Though at the end of the day,
Remember that you are,
indeed,
In a new and a beautiful place.

I advise
A cigarette on your new balcony,
and poetry.
Take two and write me in the morning.

If that doesn’t work,
Buy yourself a new hat.
You seem like a man with a face for hats.
It will be cold soon.

If that doesn’t work,
There is an experimental treatment,
Anecdotal reports have been positive.
They are beginning human trials
If you are interested,
Here,
Fill out this questionnaire.

Ask if your life could benefit from love.
If so, you may qualify
To participate in an exciting study

Take these pamphlets, these letters.
Call this number.
This prescription.
This list of your options
It should be found in your city.

Ask around.
Meanwhile,
The hat should help.

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Steep Your Bones in Bourbon, Boys. Debaucherous Roads Ahead.

I forget my ways sometimes
That in the end
Logic always wins.
(And love stories never end well, any way)

This is our mutual agreement to ignore the inevitable.

How many distractions must I wake up with?
Must get my feet on the sidewalk again.
Steep those bones in bourbon, Boys.
Debaucherous roads ahead.

My knees weren’t built for all the running they like to do.
Don’t worry.
I’ll find some other way to leave you.
Because trouble never
Forgets Brooklyn for long.
The man in front of the orange stand
Always whistling the same song.
Just the same melody that suits his broken heart,
Every morning he nods my way like
He’s been waiting on me to sing.

Every day I have no words for him.

I will never love easy.
I need a few days to get my mind back to this city. To today.
Set my watch back to ticking the right way.

Steep these bones in bourbon boys.

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4/30, a resurrection of lines

It took
23 years
8 months and
12 days
To hear my grandfather say,
“I love you”

In his way, he believed in love.
The
Socio-economic benefits
Of co-habitation.
In Making a genetic contribution to the population.
He did not believe in marriage since,
Divorce is both 
Inevitable and expensive.

 He believed I was a girl worth loving. 

It took 23 years
8 months
And 26 days
To hear my grandfather accuse me of trying to kill him.

Everyone kept telling me it was just this illness talking
but Alzheimer’ss does not speak.
To speak would be to give.
It only takes.
It only steals.

In November, it took him.

I came prepared for the evening
With Eliot’s Four Quartets
The subject of his thesis.
I set my reading
In line with the pace of
His relentless
Against-all-odds-still-beating
Heart
165 beats per minute. 

Passers-by who caught a glimpse
Must have heard
Me reading bible verse
They at least heard me speak
Of end and time.
Beginning and England
Old men and spring.
November.
And
Knowing.

What it is to love a man who is dying. 

All of the Italian
I still can’t move my lips around.
The sound.
Of my grandfather wrapping
His ribcage around a breath
45 times per minute. 

Amazing how hard
His heart was working
Just
To
Stop.

Like his lungs still had something to say.

There is a history of Alzheimer’s in my family,
So be warned,
Should you ever know me.
Love me.
Someday
That may be not be enough.

Be warned.
Should we meet only this once,
Should you never think of me again
That in 68 years

You may be the only story
That I have left

To tell my granddaughter.

 

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30 in 30 has started, some notes to begin day one.

Her embrace was-

Driving in the rain
Headlights on the highway
Blinding, this must be
The light at the end everyone keeps discussing.
Rain drop percussion of
8 o’clock
When the clouds gave up
Holding on.
New England anxiety that shakes bones.
Three lanes of lost souls
Cursing their way home.
Fingernails tapping on your window
Frantic echo of an autumn storm outside Boston.
My mother’s embrace was
The moment when
You drive under an overpass and
For a second-

It stops.

Now she’s gone and it seems I only sleep when it rains.

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He’s one hell of a writer, but no good on paper.

Last night we spoke at the bar
Blends and single-malts of heartache.
3 rounds of gin and tonic.
Stories of poor decisions we’d made.

I said,
I dried up the ink on that one.
It was an exchange,
He got what he wanted from me
I dipped my pen into his chest cavity.
Took a fountain nib
Straight to hisjugular vein.
Bled the boy dry.
But, you know what they say,

“There are more ink wells in the sea.”
She said,
Let me know if you want
To go looking through shipwrecks.

I have been. It’s just-
This one’s no good on paper.
Or, he only is.
Or, this analogy is confusing.
Ill-thought-out
This analogy suits him.

This is a poem of excuses I am already making.

On paper he is
Just a headline
An inevitable obituary.
A newspaper in the age of the computer.
Too often scanned over
I am the fool still reading.

I missed my station reading him.

On paper he is
Shoved in pocket forgotten bar receipt.
Postcard for an event I can’t attend.
The pamphlets men hand me Friday afternoon.
On the corner of Graham avenue.
They ask if I know Christ,
Would I like to?
Am I willing to have faith
In what exists beyond logic?
Poetry,
Jesus, evidently.
And him.

Parts of him have been translated into Spanish.
I only speak half of his language.
Can’t name what fraction of him
I understand yet.

On paper, this is just a guess
At the note someone left by the telephone.
Someone called,
Something incredibly important.
Life or death situation.
Please call.
Scribble. Scribble.
This poem is illegible.

This poem just a list
Of men I should have kissed
I wrote him before he existed.
This poem will self destruct in 15 seconds.
This is a poem of I want you.
But.
They just don’t make mistakes
Like they used to.

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Tonight!

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Brownstone Poets presents Alessandra Francesca and Phillip J. Giambri (The Ancient Mariner) on Tuesday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Café Dada. Enjoy the Old World ambiance in Park Slope that’s near several subways. Feast on French-Hungarian cuisine and delectable pastries. Relax with some wine or beer, a cup of coffee or tea while listening to great poetry. There’s an open mic as well. Poetry does grow in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Brownstone Poets presents:

Alessandra Francesca and Phillip J. Giambri (The Ancient Mariner)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Starts at 7:30 p.m. sign up at 7:15 p.m.

Café Dada

57 Seventh Avenue (at the corner of Lincoln Place)
Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY 11217
718-622-2800

Subways:

2 or 3 to Grand Army Plaza
B or Q to Seventh Avenue
F or G to Seventh Avenue (9th Street)
R to Union Street, plus a bit of a walk.

http://www.hopstop.com/

$4 donation + food/drink – Open-Mic

Curated by Patricia Carragon

pcarragon@gmail.com

brownstonepoets.blogspot.com

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The other night some poet asked if I had a favorite flower.

My sister was the first to say,
It won’t happen like in a movie.
Except, when it does.

Mom was standing in her bathroom
I made blue-grey eye contact with her reflection
She leaned over the sink and coughed up blood and Chekhov’s gun
This was act one.

Before a diagnosis
Before grief and all it’s stages
Remind me,
Which part includes writing poems?
That ‘s the one I’m in.

I come from a long line of women who have gone sighing towards their destruction.

I’ve just gone writing towards mine.
I like to think of youth like rising action.

I was six, in my Omama’s home,
peeking in her bedroom
She was naked from the shower,
Clasping the handle of her tall armoire
Leaned her head against the drawer
And, wept.
I understood, and didn’t
Precisely what this meant.
Because,
Sometimes it does.

While Omama was dying we would visit,
Pick hibiscus from the garden
Leave them on her bed.
They aren’t much for an arrangement
They close up with the sunset.
This seems appropriate in retrospect.

When Omama went my mother said,
When I ran my fingers through her hair
it came out in fistfuls.
She was so scared.

She bought me books
I read of Sadako,
The girl who fought and died anyway.

When the doctors told my mother
I started folding cranes.
Gave up a few hundred in,
but in a moment of despair I will begin to fold again.
Never sure what I will wish for.
Though I can guess that I will love them,
And 1000 cranes won’t be enough.

I’ve been fighting with my dead mother.
The worst part is, she’s winning.
Always knew I couldn’t stand the silent treatment.

I can’t believe she’s not here, to hear.
To witness.
I am the only art project she ever finished.
I am the left-handed conclusion of all her smudged ink.
I am imprecise and covered in paint.
I am so angry. She left.
She left me to patch the bullet holes from her second act.
She went out with a bang,
Actually,
She went out with a gasp
The last thing she said went something like,
“What’s happening?”
Or
“What’s going on?”
The memory is poorly recorded.
When I ran my fingers through her hair
The stories came out in fistfuls.
She was so scared.


I’ve worked so hard to learn to live without her
That I’ve learned to live without affection.
Spend my evenings with men who know only of my body
Its empty spaces, its caverns.
He instructed me,
Bend over and grab your ankles.
He eyed my knees from every possible angle
Took him three morning-afters to notice the surgery scars.
(to ask if this was why I walk on my toes)

He assumed I took milk in my coffee
He’d drink too much wine and say,
Your skin looks like it was poured on.
There’s no use crying over spilled woman.

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I have been down this story before. There were no feelings there, only sensations. Men confuse the two.

I was looking for my hat
The red one I wear at the bakery.
This being the only article of clothing
To afford me a compliment
In a kitchen,
That makes it important.
I bought it for 5 dollars.

My uniform of subdued gender.

The curves of a woman
Only travel so far.
They will lead you toward an
Unsolicited shoulder
Massage from a sous chef.
Who says,
You seem so tense.
Well, you are touching me.
So, yes.

I was looking for my hat.
The book of his poems must have gone
Sliding off my mattress
With the rest of Monday morning.
It was waiting in the doorway
When I got home.

Had already learned the sound.
My footsteps, on my toes.
Like some failed ballerina.
How I never chose
The right key for the second lock on the first try.
The ring of bells that mark the end of a day.

Panting frayed pages.
Begged to play
To be fed.
It barked-
Take me on a walk!
To that coffee shop.
I like the girls that sit there.
They are a bakery case full
Of my day-old mistakes.

I have no energy for this evening.
Spent all day fermenting
Yeast-leavened doughs and steam-leavened stanzas.
I moved to Brooklyn,
Now even my poems are gluten-free.
I am wrapped in sugar and sweat and red hat.
I paid 5 dollars for this,
It’s important.

I awoke with his words on my bed-side table.
A reminder to take my birth control.

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This post has been edited to protect the identities of individuals involved in these events.

Saturday,
He said something that
Shattered my rose colored lenses.
Ever since, I’ve been batting pink glass
From my lashes.
Asking my reflection,
What the hell happened?
Her eyes used to know better than this.

Sunday, I watched this, and decided it was time for a change.

“Condoms” by Adrienne Nadeau

There’s a line about coffee that burned my tongue.

Monday morning
In the elevator
I was smiling at the buttons like a fool.
Free, for once, from the exhausting confines of infatuation.
I needed a week to walk in the woods, figuratively. To escape the electric hum that has been shaking my ribs since the day I moved here.
To sweat the caffeine from my system.

Then he said,
“I’m George, by the way.”
I hadn’t asked, but he made me wish I had.

These days it seems I only sleep during thunderstorms.

“Who do you want?”
Him.”
“Why?”
“Every time he says cocaine I want to cut up his words and snort his lines.”
“I have no idea what that means, but OK.”

I’m considering having two tattoos inked across my chest.
“This poem is not (just) about you.”
And
“I will not be your mistress.”

Every time he says moonlight
It reflects off my skin.

Words have a way of moving beyond these borders.
I should warn you.
This conversation is being recorded.

There is something to be said for the nice guys, for an evening filled with forehead kisses. It just doesn’t belong in a poem.

Upper east side sunrise. Red lipstick and coffee cups. I hadn’t slept yet.

A woman asked to take my picture.

Marilyn, the morning after.

I am supposed to be on vacation from making mistakes.
Supposed to be.

The boy was built for loving
Not for touching.
He’s all moon dust
Sedated-testosterone
Long conversation and.

Does this count as another subway poem if I just missed the train?

“It was nice holding [you] though.”


He sat at my table, and began,
So, what you said up there in that poem, about older men…what did you mean by that?”
“It doesn’t apply in this situation.”

“We were talking about you.”
“I heard, though just my name. What did you say?”
“I told him I was upset with him for taking you away from me.”

Correction: I am taking myself away from you. Far, far, away.

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It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

I didn’t think I had to post this,
Until yesterday afternoon.
I walked in to the women’s restroom and I saw a woman pulling the same tricks I used to. I waited for her outside and politely, subtly, reached out to her.

This was my big guilty issue for years and I am proud that it isn’t one any longer. I saw on PostSecret that this week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, so I have decided to re-post a poem I wrote in October about my struggle. For her.

I am often told that my poetry is shocking in its honesty,  many people told me they admire my ability to go on stage and reveal these things. It was never difficult for me, until I wrote this piece. There is so much shame that goes along with bulimia, the entire illness is about it. With the help of my sister and my mother I no longer struggle with it, but the thought of reading this poem in front of my father terrified me. He’s old school Italian-American and these issues are often tricky to convey across gender lines.
Over Christmas I recited it for him.
It felt good.

So, before the poetry, here are a few links:

PostSecret has some great cards up this week
http://postsecret.com/
Frank Warren offered this link on his social media:
https://www.mentalhealthscreening.org/locator/nedsp/
Here are a few links I recommend:
For more information and how to get help:
http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
A questionnaire from Overeaters Anonymous(who offers online meetings and resources)
http://www.oa.org/newcomers/is-oa-for-you/

Now, My story.

The Diet Plan of J. Alfred Prufrock

Prufrock measured out his life in coffee spoons
I have measured out my own in grams,
Ounces, pounds
Percentages.
All these countless measurements
In the relentless pursuit of precision,
Perfection.
Let me tell you the ingredients that
Make up a  pastry chef
Sugar, spice,
And blind determination.

For I have worked them all already,
worked them all:

Have worked the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life in tablespoons,
I know the soufflés falling with a dying fall
Within the oven in the other room
So what shall I consume?

And yet,
The rest of my life has been
An endless cycle of
Restrict
Binge
Purge

Sugar has always been my
Drug of choice
Hell, I made I career out of it.
Just another desperate attempt to
Control the thing that
Controls everything.

All these numbers crush in on me
Memories of the day
I weighed 107 pounds
And Kyle told me I looked
fucking amazing

The best part of my mother’s death
Was that it was the only time in my life
That I ever stopped
Eating.
I guess,
I lost the greatest part of me.
In the end she weighed about 17 pounds.

Sometimes I wonder, what it was
That brought me to that place
Where I just,
I couldn’t
Eat.
Now I look back at photos of her funeral
And think
God, I was so skinny.

Last year I gave up my body
For a job.
I quit sleeping,
Destroyed my metabolism
Ate my feelings.

Last year he broke my heart
It bled into the rest of my body.
Expanded.
Until there were all these
Extra bits of me
To criticize.

I have spent the last 6 months
In the body of another woman
Looking at her through my own eyes
I look back at my journals
Realize that I wasn’t much happier then, at
114
111
107

In the end  my life
Has not been ruled by numbers,
But by shame
(They will say: “How her arms are growing thin!”)
Guilt
Binge
Purge
Restrict
Just another woman’s circus bit
Pay your dime, buy your ticket!
Watch me perform my greatest trick.
My World-Famous Disappearing Act!!

And maybe if I just give this up,
God will give her back.
Or maybe if I just
Sacrifice this meal
Everything will be alright.
Or maybe if I just
Reach this number
Then then the anxiety will get better
(“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker”)

I’m unsure if any of these realizations
Have left me anywhere better because
All the self-loathing
All the extra bits of me
Are still here.

I guess I am just terrified to fall in love again.
To let anyone see this,
Unwrapped,
As what it is.
This, Meaning me.
Me, Meaning my body.

 Love complicates everything.
Love has left me, at least this evening
Staring at my empty stomach
Thinking- What if he should see this?
Should I go back to my old habits?
Is it worth it?

It isn’t.

There are moments
When I despise myself enough
That I would invite all of that pain back
If only just
To watch myself
Disintegrate.
Because I keep on thinking.

Won’t losing weight fix everything?

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How to make a baker smile.

The other day someone asked me,

“If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then what is the way to a baker’s?”

“Never claim you don’t have a sweet tooth. I guess?”

I saw him in the hallway earlier, we both smiled too wide for a Monday.
He noticed that I wasn’t wearing my glasses.

I worked a long day, it ended after the hour it began. Which is fine, just a cost of loving what you do. Except, at the end of the night, after mopping, I slipped and fell in a way that will surely hurt tomorrow.

My mind focused on the impending bruises of Tuesday, I was ready to go home.  I was locking the kitchen door for the night, on my way to take out the trash. My last chore. The last thing between me and my bed. He snuck up behind me and quietly took the trash bag.

So, to answer the question: That is how.

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For Chris

I still see you sometimes.
Well, I imagine I do.
New York does this
Gives.
Takes.
Makes promises it can’t keep.

It was warm today.
The air perfumed with that glorious in-between
Scent of snow
Footprints
Cement.
The trees hummed false promises of spring.
It’s blood orange season.

I didn’t see you, but you were on my mind.
Been about ten months.
I still don’t know how you died.
No one would say.
I found out on the day after your funeral.
On Facebook.

Your roommate said,
The family wishes to keep the circumstances surrounding his death private.
You were the first friend I made in New York.
You were the first lesson I learned.

The ingredients for
Your birthday cake
Were on my kitchen table
Still in the bags, with the receipts.
I left them there for two days..
I let the butter spoil.

The last of your words I can recall,
“Alessandra, you look lovely, as always.”
I am thankful that on the three occasions I saw you
I took the opportunity twice to say,
The world needs more doctors like you.
You were applying to medical school.
I guess twice wasn’t enough.

This is what it means to grieve an almost.
To ask,
Am I allowed to miss you like I do?
I had been reminding myself
In the days leading up to your party
Not to drink too much
For fear that I would kiss you.

I went into work that day.
The chef told me,
When I was 22
I have a friend.
He killed himself with a gun.
In the head.

I cried over the dish sink.

This weekend
I finally baked the cake.
The recipe I wrote for you.
I gave it to three men.
I gave no explanation.
Save to say,
It’s blood orange season.

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Oh dear.

I didn’t sleep last night.
Between the hours of two and three this afternoon I consumed enough caffeine that I skipped over the jittery panic phase and have completely lost my ability to function like a normal human being.

I have no words to properly describe how I feel right now. This is a profoundly unique experience. All I can say is, I am starting to wonder- what the fuck was in that tea?

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Please, remind me of my resolution.

I saw her for the first time in a long time
Everyone seemed inclined to inform me
(warn me)
Of the precise location she was standing
From the moment I walked in.

She
Was drinking red wine,
The pattern on her tie
Almost-matched-but-didn’t-quite
The one on her pants, though
She
Said she had tried,
But I’d venture a guess
She
Preferred it like this,
Just a bit off.
She
Had too many things in her pockets and
They stuck out from her body like
Drawers left open on a nightstand
While searching for something lost.
She
Had cut her hair in a rather nice way and
When she said,

“Hello.”

It sounded like an exhale.
She
Has that way about her.

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Sirens, continued.

He says,
Meet me at these coördinates
We’ll get drunk, make love
Then write about the moonlight
I’m not much of a sailor
But I’ve been tying knots
In his limbs for weeks.
Would kiss his wounds
With salted lips
Could make love from this mistake
Abandon my map.
Should probably turn back.

He pulls words from my skin
Knocks over my ink well
Holds me under till I drop my pen.
He asks me when I finally will.
Give in.

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Boston.

I am young enough that he
Holds my age against me.
Though not so young
That he feels guilty.
Holding my hands behind my back,
Holding me against his moans.

Just enough for him to look at me in
Red-lit
Red-wine soaked
Red post-coital glow
And say,
I didn’t think at my age, I’d be dating a 24 year-old.

He didn’t ask me to stay,
He just said that I could
I am old enough to know the difference.

All these men,
They ask where I grew up.
I say,
Boston.

I don’t tell them-
In October.
On the steps of the church down the street
Where I would wander.
Met others, made friends
With the characters on break from an AA meeting
Smoked too many cigarettes.
Rebelled, broke hearts.
Left love notes taped to the door.
Left my first lover.
It was a church that I never entered.

I grew up in October
When she told me it was cancer.
When I
Collapsed
On the steps.
Made a heaving, stuttered attempt at prayer
Banged on the door.

Asked Him why he’d let me save her
So many times before.
I’ve lived more than 24.  

But when he asks me,
Where?

I just say,
Boston.

I don’t tell him,
At 8 Holly Gate Circle
At 8 years old.

On our kitchen floor.
My mother lay there.
This was the first time
T
hat he let me keep her.
She slipped away
In line with her
Plummeting blood-sugar.
I sobbed to the beat
Of her beeping glucometer.
S
he danced towards white light
Diabetic coma.

I was 8 years old
Digging through her purse
The way I used to dig through dirt

In search of an
 emergency injection
Tapped air from the syringe
Stuck the needle in between
The freckles of her skin.
Clutched the telephone
Untangling the cord enough
That I could touch her
Called for
an ambulance-

But,
When he asked for my address
I just said,
Boston. 

I didn’t tell him,

At 11, maybe 12
In the arts and crafts cabin
Coughing on salt that he forced down my throat.
 Left scratch-kneed girl
Over-seasoned with guilt.

The aftermath when he told,
The bitter taste that it left-

Was worse.

Sitting on a picnic table
When my counselor whispered,
Whore
For years this was the story I never wrote
,
But by 17 I had healed
I told my mother
Who, in turn, revealed,
What
happened to him.
You see,
I grew up in a small town
45 minutes away from the city.
With the largest case of sexual abuse in the state’s history.
I grew up with boys who
Learned to love this way.

But when men ask me
Where I grew up
I just say,
Boston.

 I don’t tell them
On the steps of Sacre-Coeur
Standing out of breath and
Just out of B
reathless
Nineteen, practically penniless
W
andering alone in Paris.

I grew up laughing,
Too hard.
I grew up in his arms.
I grew up on the day she died.
Months later when I realized
The difference between dead and gone.
Standing on a bridge in Amsterdam
The first time
I realized I was in love.

In the hallway of the hospital
Waving my grandfather’s advanced directive
At the doctors.
Insisting
That despite my age
He had trusted me to speak for him
To recite the poem
Of his h
ealth-care proxy.
Not to let him live
This way
I grew up when I let him die.

  I grew up dreaming, breathing New York
Waiting for the right moment
Earning my way.
Learning from my mistakes
Sewing up wounds
I grew up writing poems about men like you.

How you’ve been marking off the days
Waiting on a calendar girl
Go ahead kid, call me February.
Call me May.
Call me the one that got away.
Call me October-
Call me twenty four.
(Call me, yours)

Go ahead kid,
Ask where I grew up.
I’ll tell you, like I did before,
Boston.

 

 

 

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He believed I was a girl worth loving.

My grandfathers are gone now.
So, I have an adopted one.
New York does this.
Gives. Takes.
Makes promises it can’t keep.
Drives you mad with grief
Longing and winter.
If you can make it,
It will give a little more.

It’s funny,
He doesn’t know it.
He carries on the same sentiments.
Same complaints
Berates me for my low self esteem
Gets me to write.
Sees past all this pale of mine
Listens,
Reminds me
My heart still beats,
sometimes.

Pa was hard to talk to
Like, running up a steep hill.
Like, running out of time.
His heart so broken
He forgot that mine was built
From the same faulty parts.
He didn’t understand why I left Adam.
It became a fevered rant of
How my grandmother left him.
Then he stopped-

When I began crying.
He couldn’t fix this emotion
But he could call his clock repairman.
My hands weren’t moving in synch.
I was just
Popped springs
Rusted gears.
His broken granddaughter clock
Spent three years collecting dust
Being wound up in the wrong ways.
Three years counting the same day.

I tried to tell him he was the only guy
I had any time for,
He told me he would gladly be miserable.
If it meant love for me.

In his way, he believed in love.
The Socio-economic benefits of co-habitation.
In making a genetic contribution to the population.
He did not believe in marriage since,
Divorce is both inevitable and expensive.

He believed I was a girl worth loving.

Which is a significant something
From him.
A soldier with a ribcage that rattled.
Shrapnel bits
From lost battles
Scarred reminders of a blonde bombshell.

My adopted grandfather
Seems to have picked up where Pa left off.
He says,
So are you seeing someone?
You seem to be writing all these love poems.

I don’t know if love is the word.
Or seeing,
I have words for each of them.
He understands
There are two men.
There were three,
But I am done with him.
I don’t know what will happen.

So I left out the story of the
“Right” one
Who tells me,
Ever since we spoke last I’ve been humming this song.
Have you ever heard it?
Who stops just to say,
I saw you leaving yesterday.
In a red shirt.
I liked how it looked.
I like how you look in red.
But,
He just, isn’t.

I told him of the other
How he comes and goes and
Disappears
How I lose interest
We are just two wanderers.
Then out of nowhere he shows up.
He surprises me.
But, I just don’t know.
I have set the bar extremely low.

My new grandfather told me,
“It sounds like it isn’t going anywhere.”

So I said,
Give it time.
Then felt my hands start ticking again.

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Call me Valentine.

Bring a date.
Bring the tattered remains of your broken heart.
Bring me a love letter, and call me yours for the night.

I’ve said I can’t reveal much more of myself than I do with my poetry, I was wrong.
So, come and watch me recite poetry in my lingerie

 Stuck On Cupid: St. Valentine’s Day Love Notes
An evening of music, poetry, and burlesque. Featuring: EmZ and Tierney Boisvert, bands The Bleed and Satorii, and the Titillating Tongues Collective. Hosted by comedian Ashlee Voorsanger.

The Titillating Tongues Collective is an outgrowth of the Inspired Word’s monthly erotica series by the same name. It includes poets Aimee Herman (who has hosted Titillating Tongues for over two years), Nichole Acosta, Jherelle Benn, Verandah-Maureen Shepard, and Alessandra Francesca as well as burlesque star Essence.

Did you see that bit above where they mention my name? You probably aren’t as excited about it as I am, but you should be.

Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014

Tammany Hall
152 Orchard Street
Manhattan, NYC
http://tammanyhallny.com/
Time: 6:30pm
21+
General Admission: $10 at the door
or
Advance tickets can be purchased http://valentinenyc.eventbrite.com/.

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Sirens

I heard him before I saw him,
and I looked at my friend and said,

“I want one.”

I wanted to learn the song of his skin,
Instead, I asked him what it is to be a siren.
The stories of the lines he’s written
Of the women.
He lured in to the water
Could he still remember the count?
How many had drowned?

Could he still taste the salt.

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SoHo and Serendipity

Part of my job at the bakery is working at tastings of our products in the stores we sell in. You see this all the time, except in our case the person sampling the product is the person who actually made it. I care about it, I care about what you have to say. I made this with my own hands. When you buy cookies for lunch, I can afford to eat dinner.

For the most part I have been working at the new Whole Foods in Brooklyn. It’s an adventure in all things Park Slope. By things, I mean babies. I spend my day awkwardly gasping for air in a sea of glowing, flawlessly coordinated families and their glowing, flawless children.

There must be something in the water(The raw coconut water, that is) because I fear if I stand there long enough I will get pregnant.

I have actually really grown to enjoy the crowd, and I see some of the same people and their glowing reviews make my day.

This week was a change, I had to demo at a store in SoHo. I sometimes joke with my Boston friends that,
“Brooklyn doesn’t know what to do with me.”
I’m not the specific shade of un-cool they adore, I am just not cool.

There’s a difference. It involves show-tunes.

Meanwhile, SoHo just doesn’t want anything to do with me. I was placed by the front door, and every time it opened I would shiver while trying to break through my frozen shell to mutter,
“Would you like to try a cookie?”

Clearly, these people don’t do cookies. Gluten free or otherwise. The first girl to talk to me was named Liz and I actually said,
“Oh God, finally a human.”
She laughed. She bought a cookie.

Eventually, I switched my sales technique to standing stone-faced and avoiding eye contact. I kid you not, it worked. I sold most of our product.

As I was shutting down, he walked in.

Now, I should explain. This was the third time.

It was June and I was on the subway heading home from Pa’s apartment. I had stopped at Bettie Paige to pick up a dress, and I had the bags with me. He caught me on the train, did a horrible job of pretending to read his book. When I got off at Union sq. I turned to see him smile at me.

He posted a missed connection on Craigslist.
“I hesitated, then ran after you towards the L train. I was too late.”

I was reluctant, as the post mentioned my Bettie Paige bags, and I was not out for another(That’s a whole collection of stories) date with a guy who thought I was a bit more Bettie Page than Doris Day. So my first thought was,
Clearly this guy is a serial killer.

My roommate set up a fake email account for me, and we exchanged correspondence until I decided it was safe enough to meet him in a public place.

We had two rather nice dates, then I never called him.
I’m not exactly sure why, it just wasn’t.

Then, a few months ago I walked into one of the open mics I frequent, and guess who was sitting in the back. Turns out he has been going for years. He had no idea I was a poet, I had no idea he liked poetry. He was with a date so I went off into a corner as to avoid trouble.

Then, Friday, in SoHo. He walks in.
He said,
“You just keep on showing up.”
So I said,
“Would you like to try a cookie?”

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Inhale for once.

I changed my mind about him.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a terrible thing.

Maybe I need a break from all this trouble.

All this poetry.

There’s something to be said for  lovely evenings and leaving the story be.

I’d like to escape the story for a weekend, with him.

 

 

 

 

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halibut-point-sp-10-13-2013

He asked me,
Have you ever wanted to say,
“Fuck it all”
Run away to the wildness of Vermont?

I’ve had those moments.
Except,
New York has always been the place I wanted to run to.

I’ve been daydreaming relentlessly.
Mentally, I’ve been standing
On the rocks at Halibut Point
Since four in the morning.

All day I could taste the salt.

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When in doubt, turn left(continued)

I have grown weary of this concept, perhaps I will resurrect it later. Until later, here is what else there is. I just don’t think the story is clear. The story is there, though.

So, you can guess which way I went.
Stumbled in to the arms of the wrong one,
Followed him around corners
Into his bedroom.
Spent the next day washing wine from my system.
Retraced my footsteps,
Tried to
Reverse.
Tripped over 2 a.m.
Bruises he left.
Past midnight glass of wine,
Before four cocktails in,
To 10p.m.
To my decision.

I thought of the man I’d turned from,
Run from.
The right one?
The other one.
Who teased me for the way
I protect my chest with my hands
When I speak
I said,
I think you’re confusing
My heart and my breasts.

I called him
Offered up a French 75 and apologized
When he asked about that night.
I lied.
I turned left.

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“When in doubt, turn left.”

The story begins over bourbon.
No-
The story begins in Brooklyn.
The story begins with him.

The story begins on a train,
As any decent story should.
With a woman dressed in red,
In the sixth row of the second car
Of a train leaving New York.
Shuffling toward Boston
As no decent character would.

Well, the story begins with me.
With poetry.

The engine nags the tracks,
With a hiss,
Resigns
With a sigh.
Resorts
To the silent treatment.
Plastic clicks of
Slammed
Luggage compartments
Conductor’s announcements
Punctuate the sentences.
Drops of bourbon stain the second stanza.
Bleed though the paper
Reveal the mirror image of a
Girl’s phone number.

Here in row 6,
It could be any year.
Though it’s surely December.
The 23rd.
The day before the day before.
The air saturated with the roar
Of conversations stumbling toward an argument.
Reminders of the last minutes-
The Cousins they’ve forgotten.
The impulse purchases.
Timeless husbands making timeless mistakes.
In fact, it could be the days
Of men who still wore hats.
The whole scene filmed in black and white.
It could be
Silent.

Suddenly,
The page vibrates
My cell phone rings,
Reading the message on the screen,
I realize.
I exclaim,
             Oh shit. He read it.

The story begins with poetry
The story hinges on a mistake.

I met him on a Saturday afternoon that was meant for someone else.
What matters is the moment I turned left.
You see, I was caught.
Not in a lie, not yet.
Just standing in between two men.
I should have turned right,
But instead-

It all goes back to my mother.
To the days before I could drive a car
When we would wander.
Get lost in what we deemed
The Bermuda triangle of Boston
My mother taught me,
“When in doubt, turn left.”

Which, makes zero sense.
Which, in practice,
Has never lead me anywhere
I meant.
Instead, it’s usually the start of an adventure.
A story of the trouble
A woman like her could cause
A reminder
That she never warned me of the flaws
Of turning left.

To be continued…

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One. Year. Later.

One year ago was, by all accounts, what should be described as the “worst day of my life.”

When it happened, I promised that it would be the start of a great story.
It has.

Today, I celebrate.

Everything fell apart. In the span of three hours. I found myself without a partner, a home, and a job. It was heartbreaking, but secretly what I wanted. It was also the most liberating experience I’ve ever had. I packed up my car with the bare essentials, as if the house had caught on fire. Then I left.

I left.

I never looked back.

I have seen many times in my past that though I worry over small situations, in the face of a true emergency I’m a good one to have around. This was an emergency- the house was on fire. My entire life reduce to ash. I didn’t know what to do, so I called my father and he said,
“Just come home…just come home.”

I knew he needed it more than I did.

So I set my sight on Boston, but I promised I wouldn’t stay. This was my chance at New York.

I was here by February.

This city has been everything I ever dreamed it could. The first time I have ever exhaled.

I was talking with a new friend last week, about the warnings people give when you tell them you are moving here.
They say,
“New York is so dirty.”
“New York is so expensive.”
They warn,
“New York is hard.”

They forget that love is hard, love is expensive, and sometimes love is dirty.
This is love.

In the last year I have accomplished so much, seen so much, loved so much.

Pa.
My Grandfather.
He has been the greatest of this. He is gone now. Had I waited, I would have missed my chance entirely. I spent so much time with him, and learned so much more about him, and myself, in the process. I wrote more about Pa this year than I have any other man. He deserves it. I miss him, but love is sometimes worth the cost.

Poetry.
I started writing again. I stopped writing when I started hurting, and on the day I left him it had been almost two years since I wrote anything of significance. I took ownership of what I had merely considered my “bad habit” until now.

I read my first spoken word piece in August. By October, I was asked to join the Epic XII. The vote of confidence Nichole Achosta gave me was worth a lot. As of today, I have 3 features(including my first) and 2 exciting collaborations to look forward to in the next year, as well as a film project.
Just, astounding.
This has been overwhelmingly rewarding, and the lovers, mentors, friends-
No, family-
that I have met along the way are the characters I’ve been waiting to write into my story.

It took me ten minutes to find a job. Well, it took me ten minutes to receive a response email. I play an important role in a small company, where I’ll gain the skills I need for when I start my own small company. I stuck it out part time until the business grew to afford me full-time. I spent eight months in a French bakery mastering croissants and the ways of moody French men

I watched a lot of sunrises set to the sound of French love songs and perfumed with the scent of fresh croissants

I moved to New York, but I spent the mornings as an American in Paris.

I wrote stories.

I drove a wedding cake 16 hours to Asheville, successfully. I watched two wonderful friends get married.
It was worth all the trouble.

I decorated a cake for Pa’s 91st birthday using only my right hand(I am left-handed)

Love. There has been so much. I reunited with old lovers. Nicole is back in my life, a love in a different sense. Devin has been a great friend. I spent one night with a man who was leaving the country the next day, we still write. I will meet him one day in Bruges for the greatest second date in the history of second dates.

I have a healthy relationship with my father for the first time.
I spoke to my brother again after two years.
I have been able to bring my extended family back into my life.
I see my mother reflected in every bit of glass this city has to offer.
She shatters on sidewalks and raindrops- I miss her, but I get to have part of her back.

I have broken hearts and almost had mine,
I spent too much emotion on red haired poets
and learned my lesson.

I learned to love solitude, independence, myself.
I don’t need companionship,  it has made my relationships far more rewarding. Has better opened me to the opportunity for something worthwhile and healthy.

I finally came out to my family.
I dated a girl named Cecelia, but I broke her heart.
That sentence will always make me laugh.

I have had a lot of love this year, and a lot of poetry.

The best of which has been this city.

There are things on the horizon-
Travel.
Owning a home, maybe a business.
There are red dresses to wear and adventures to begin.
Trouble to cause, trial and error, hard work and reward-all the things.
Smudged lipstick and calligraphy ink-watch me paint this town with them.
There will be dinner at Per Se on my birthday.
Today, there will be Champagne.

And as always,

Infatuation, Bourbon, and Poetry.

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Sometimes beautiful sneaks up on you.

I’ve grown weary of the games that I’ve been playing. Of keeping my distance. Of my wandering attentions, affections. I’ve grown weary of my lack of emotion.

I spent the evening quantifying my lustful ways, asking three men (and one woman) the same questions. Seeing who was brave enough to play.
To say.

Only one of them kept my attention, his stories of summer.
Of boats and parks, long walks and,
“We didn’t drink until the third date.”
His comment on the meaning of 5 dates in, of 5 months later.
Of, her.

Of,
“I can’t answer that, except to say within the last 5 years , because things change-their meaning changes.”
And then,
“She took me for a bike ride.”

How, when I asked if he had a favorite word he asked,
“Does it have to be in English?”
Then said,
“Pamplemousse”

I smiled, recalled to myself the story of how that was once my nickname. I filed it away with all the other things I choose not to say.
To him.

Funny, I try not to bore my muses, to instead devote my time to extracting stories from sighs and red wine. In the end he’s been the only one to ask, the only one who knows a thing about me. The only one to keep me wondering.

In the end, he’s just poetry.

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I’ve been sorting through my old writing, having run the inkwell on my muses dry for the week.

Well, I just haven’t seen any of them. I’ve been stuck in this apartment shaking off fever dreams,
Coughing up the consequence of my weak American heart.

I have nowhere to run to anymore. New York was always my refuge, my excuse, my explanation for why something wasn’t enough. Or someone.

Well, I guess there is always India. Mexico. Bruges.

New York was something different. just feasible enough that at any moment I could escape. I did escape. Often. Until I finally moved here.

This is what happens when I get locked in my bedroom for three days. Alone. Until now it’s been enough. This city, I mean.

He asks,
But what about his skin?

I am in a fight with my dead mother. For the first time in almost 5 years she has been making regular appearances in my dreams. I resent her for being the inspiration behind my best writing. She will never know! She will never know. The frustration of that matter is overwhelming. I understand that as a human I am worth more than the part of me that is missing. Her absence has made her more of a presence.

I am the only art project she ever finished, and she will never know.

I should channel this artistic frustration into something worthwhile.
Or onto someone worthwhile.

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This poem has been brewing for some time now, here is a bit of what I finally wrote down. It’s for him.

My brother is
The statue they built in your honor
They put your name in the middle of his.
In the hope that wherever it is
That he wanders
You will remain, to keep him centered.

My sister is
The hazel-eyed headline
Of every article you cut from the New York Times.
She has every statistic memorized.

And I,
I am the girl who made a promise she couldn’t keep.
When you asked me to be your suicide note.
Instead, I am the signature
On every love letter
You never sent.
I am the only woman who never left.

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From an upcoming collaboration with Nichole Acosta.

Most of what I said last night was a lie
Every time I said “You”
But meant “I”
Every time I looked away and told you
I was fine.
All those dramatic and drawn out sighs.
Just imagine,
If for once, we cut the theatrics
If I was honest.
If I told you that my day was a mess
That you are my closest target
That I wish you would just
Kiss my neck
That I wish you would just
Wash the dishes.
That I wish you would just
Stop looking at that screen and,
Just look at me.

What If I admitted
That love is too expensive
The supply of your affection too limited
My demand too high
That I can’t afford the vulnerability
At least, not in this economy
Because this isn’t a relationship
This is a game
This is a power-play
I have calculated the odds
The cost of a new heart
I can’t pay for a transplant
I won’t show you my cards.

What if I admitted
That I want to build a home in your arms,
But I understand the risks
I’ve reviewed the statistics
The cost/benefit analysis
The overwhelming evidence
Which suggests
I shouldn’t gamble with my trust again
Because I’ve learned the lesson,
That the house always wins.

So go ahead,
Ask me one more time,
Watch me tell you,
“I’m fine.”

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If only

I keep meeting men
With the same name.
By the time the 5th one introduced himself I said,
“Seriously?”
And just walked away.
I never explained.
He knew I was a writer.

I turned from my scotch to the snow,
Closed my journal behind me.
Perhaps he eyed the cover,
He asked if I had somewhere to be.
I said, no.
I was just thinking that snow
Means something different here.

He asked if I performed,
So I recited a poem for him
At him.
I brandished my weapon.
Then he asked my name
“I just figure I’ll be hearing it again sometime soon.”
I smiled,
“If only.”
And he told me,
“That can be the name of your next one.”

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Take away as much mystery as possible. What is left?

Draw five cards.

In dim-lit psychic parlor
In back corner
Of old Boston building.
Between cobblestones and church bells.
The receptionist said,
It’s very rare to see a woman request a male psychic.
Well, if women can’t be honest with themselves
How can we expect it from others?

I sat across from Keith
Perfume of incense,
Con artistry and divination
Conversation and prestidigitation.
I asked him to tell me of love
And all the other usual nonsense.
Then I drew 6 cards by mistake.

Keith broke character
Holy shit, there’s a lot going on here.

I don’t know if I agree
With what he told me.
His warnings of the second week of January.
When evidently,
Some lover with whom I have unfinished business
Would wander back in.

That must mean this is finished, then.
But go ahead, call me lover again.

This is coming at you one way or another,
You can’t stop it.
You just have to let it
Run its course

I’m not sure if this counts,
If I have paid my dues.
I’m not sure if I believe in Tarot cards.
I’m not sure if I believe you.

This is like something else, some other moment.
The strangely familiar landscape
Of his apartment
Prisms hung in negative space
Everything is white,
Except the wine.
(I am trying not to spill)
There are mirrors everywhere.
There is limited candlelight.

I know this book.
This photograph.
I saw it during that museum visit.
With Johnny,
Right before I broke his heart.
I know this shirt.
I bought it for someone once.
This word.
This room.
This overwhelming sense of déjà vu
Seems in itself familiar.
How did I get here?

I asked him to tell stories
Of best and worst and histories
I asked him of his fixation
On his own mortality.
He kept saying
If I make it that long.
I asked him
Do you make a habit of bringing home
A lot of women?
Less of a question
More an observation.
Choreographed foreplay of glass of wine,
Can I kiss you now?
Can you,
Promise me something?
Promise me that no matter what
Happens with us

That you will still give me
Your smile,
And sometimes a cookie.

Last time I was here I left with
Another woman’s hair on my sweater.
Last time I was here I assumed would be the one time.
I assumed he wouldn’t explore my writing.
I have compiled a lot of assumptions
About this one.
Go ahead, kid
Prove me wrong.

I have grown accustomed
To New Yorkers
To their wandering attentions.
I have become more like them
Though less jaded, more fascinated
Thing is.
I thought there would be more poetry in this.
Instead,
I just heard the same story twice
We were friends, we became lovers.
      She is like a sister to me.
   I still talk to her at least once a week.

The bookshelf was rearranged.
Last time
I spent the morning dissecting it.
Plotting my escape.
Humming along to Nick Drake.
I never admitted,
I have always loved this song.

This time, he
Pulled out a black box to show me.
Have you ever seen these?
 They are designed to break creative blocks.
Then he said,
Draw a card.

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I have lost 13lbs in 7 weeks.

I joke that I just want to get back to the body I used to hate. Which, means I am a bit over half way there.

Either way, these antibodies picked the wrong girl to mess with.

Still have a month until the medicine kicks in, so here is a fair warning to the world-I have been running at half capacity for two years. So, who knows what I can accomplish once I have reached a reasonable level of health.

Also, I will be attempting to phase dairy out of my diet with the New Year. So all of my poems will be about cheese from now on.

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On a sleepy train ride back to New York. The man next to me brought no books, has no distraction. He stares at the seat in front of him. I claimed the window before he sat down. I can feel his resentment growing.

He wears a crest ring on his right hand.
He hates me.

He woke up and started reading over my shoulder.
Now he really hates me.

American looks rather lovely today, in shades of gray. Rainstorms follow us, or maybe we are just meeting them.

A storm-cloud forms in Connecticut, and meanders north at whatever pace it is that Sunday afternoon storms do. If Alessandra boards a train in Boston, how long before she remarks about the beauty of the rainy day?

We pass empty beaches, I wish the train would stop, allow me to get out for a few minutes. Just stand. Not so long as to feel cold, just long enough to take in the air. Hold some salt to my skin.

I drove around with Taylor, told him that this wasn’t what I wanted. Not him, the setting. Midnight deserved more than these side streets. If I had to leave the city it shouldn’t be for the suburbs. He drove to the nearest break in pavement, parked by the river. I was not wearing the right sort of shoes to creep down to the water.
So instead, we just spoke.

I am ready to leave Boston, I wanted to drive to Rockport. I understood that halibut point would be miserable, frozen over. Dangerous and probably closed. I still wanted to go.

I thought I would do more writing this week. Instead, I coughed up Brooklyn on Monday in a consumptive fit. Blood-letting of muses used up my inspiration. I have spent the rest of the week attempting not to focus my attentions on the wrong ones.

My father met me at the station when I arrived, which was rather sweet. Jump-cut to me running towards him, dramatic, wrapped in red coat. Hugs and affection and such.

No one to meet me at Penn Station.
Which is just fine by me.

 

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I love the cover of my new journal.

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The poem of the seven veils.

People often ask if I perform burlesque.
I don’t, but I read poetry.
Can’t reveal much more of myself.

I called up an old lover of mine
How about we just lay on the carpet
And drink too much wine?
It was that kind of night, we both needed one.
He walked into the kitchen,
I stood on my toes, stretched towards wine glass
He said
“Every time I see you,
You look more you.”
Well,
“New York gives me an excuse.”

I wondered how many times I had
Pressed the pattern of the carpet into his skin.
He smiled like 17,
Smelled like tobacco leaves.

We spoke of escape,
He was driving to L.A.
I was still breathing Brooklyn
I revealed what the psychic had told me,
About the impending doom of
The second week of January.

We spent the evening
Pressing old stories into skin
Bite marks, moans
Cigarette burns.

I recited poetry,
He laughed at all the right lines,
Reminded me,
“You collect a lot of ammunition.”

I asked him,
“Why do all the bad decisions have to be so good looking?”
And
“When did it become so hard to be easy?”

I sighed, admitted
“I’m in trouble with this one.”
Then again
Sometimes you just have to do it for the story.

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