like bones

is it enough to know you died in your house
without knowing how?
whose business is it
this death
this passage

who gave me this broken back?
this misplaced rib?
this ache telling me
if body is home then this home is broken
and if home is a place we are meant to die in
then it ties us back to the beginning

how do i include you, reader, when i am passing through this world
which means you, by default, are passing through my passing through

i bought a chocolate chip peanut butter cliff bar for one dollar and seventynine cents
ate it in the sun with barthes before me
i rode against the wind and spent the day coming down
punctuated by handfuls of cinnamon squares

canvas hat
flies off the biker in front of me
cartoon style on university
airborne over both our heads

dear grandma,
mom told us you are back in the emergency room
swollen face
but your energy is up and you’ve been talking ‘a mile a minute’
enough words to toss behind you like bones

i am removed from my original self

dik dik
a sense that we’ve known each other all our lives
the desire to slice myself open and carry you home inside

lion (male)
secret: i am really a human in a costume. this mane is ridiculous but convincing.
i’m supposed to miss the hunt. the feel of my legs flexing. my lungs reminding me of what elasticity means. but i don’t. and i don’t remember the old world. we’ve got running water here. electricity. i am removed from my original self. my mother told me i was not allowed to be pretty.

chacoan peccary, ice-age relic
we like each other. we stay close. w have a tended cactus garden. the spikey plants make us feel less alone. our mothers told us we will never have much, but we do have each other.

smew
my mother told me i am perfect. but secretly, i can’t walk.

zebra
we’ve decided we must scrape along the dust-dirt for food. we are more than you ever knew. our mothers split us down the center of our stomachs, told us to climb inside ourselves and live this way. our bellies the same white as a fish belly. no one ever notices we stole teddy bear ears for our own.

flamingos
call us frosting. call us useless. call us something like palm trees- easily mimicked.
mama said there will be days like this.

bald eagle
i am untouchable.
my mother told me we would die. but faster than we should. she did not lie. my mother did not have to tell me i was powerful to understand. our names on a long list of the disappeared and disappearing.

orangutan
my mother told me i was the most beautiful thing she saw. you told me she was lying.
“you cannot tell what it is.”
i am your curse. i am your gender trouble. i am all the looks you never want to be.

rainbow-feathered bird
my mother told me i will have to fight
-no she didn’t
my mother told me i will learn to fight
-no she didn’t
my mother fought me
yes
-my mother taught me that the only safe place is home
this is what i fight every time i step out the door
true

mountain lion (or puma)
i’m looking for a way out. my friend has died here. searching for a thin seam to slice open

snow leopard
my mother told me that concrete in soft shapes is not really concrete.
she lied.
my mother told me this was good enough, but i know there is earth under here somewhere

spooling / unspooling

mom: grandma’s in the hospital
you should call her when you can because
we don’t really know what’s going to happen

grandma: oh i’m so glad you called
you’re such a good girl and i love you very much

me: how do you say i love you in polish?

grandma: kocham ciebie

mom: kocham ciebie

mom: i’m tired

grandma: you know the reason your girls moved
so far away was so that they could get away from you

mom: it’s like she has nothing organized
and you’ll find pair after pair of knitted slippers
all over the house

grandma: your girls love you very much
even though they have moved very far away
they still love you

spooling and unspooling
towards /away from death
unwinding into the great crossover
softening into selves your daughter
doesn’t recognize
(i’m seeing a different her than i’ve seen all my life
she doesn’t have that fiery anger in her eyes)

grandma: i not eat very much
i drink water
lots of water
but it taste no good

mom: she hasn’t been eating much
but she did finish the container of applesauce
her hands were so shaky i had to ask her if she needed help
peeling the foil off that plastic container

the image
of my 53 year old mom
feeding applesauce
spoon by spoon
to her 88 year old mother

grandma: i have no home
me: what if you thought of it this way,
what if wherever you are, you carry your home with you
mom: after we moved her from her house to her apartment
she was angry with us
for a whole year

free typewriter tutorials

1. there was that time, mom, on the top of neahkahnie
when i held your hand and reminded you to breathe
what did it look like? first
i must tell you about the air on our faces
weaving over scraggle rock
how i must print a picture to continue dialogue
of ocean talking back timezones

2.  dear collections agency,
it is not the cacao berry clarity itself
(seagreenblue foil disk)
but the fact that, through all your research,
you knew
and for that, we are
eternally grateful

5. the tshirt in the photo smells like your room

6. nina simone on cassette in kitchen
while 5 beets bob and boil on the back burner
and two cups of hand-shelled, garden-grown fava beans
boil on the front burner

7. free typewriter tutorials til midnight
plus a discussion on the tragedy of plastic
to plankton ratio (six to one) alongside
the relationships we have to the bodies
of our dead

8. 2:17 a.m.
rain against window wakes me out of
sleep vs. blog, sleep wins

aporia

no. no no no no NO.

1961-2011
next to akilah oliver‘s name
flip flopping math around so that today is not 2011
so that through numbers i might find a way outside this
suggestion of death

and just two or three weeks ago, noticing your putterer’s notebook
missing from my shelf
and just yesterday reading roland barthes those words again
image repetoire
because it was you, akilah, who taught me this phrase
it always comes up in your voice

last time i emailed
you replied ‘come back this summer’

regret might be the word
death might be another word
dead is definitely not

echoing back to boulder days
i read agamben this week in the sun
and again heard your voice in his name
then texted google for the definition of aporia
there are some words

you have authored (into my consciousness)
and even now, two and a half years later
i tug on them and they are strings looping california to new york

aporia
that’s one way of saying it
impasse. confusion. where to begin.

obituary is an ugly word
lead letters
dragging their serifs into the earth
or are those my heels?  nooooooo.
don’t want the math to be right
2011 equaling now

for you who taught us the practice of investigative questioning:
if the future never arrives, how can we be certain about death?
what does the dream mean if it includes red ribboned rats?
if i am out on my iceberg edge  fringe and you are out on yours does that mean if i lean out and you lean out, our pinkies are at least touching?
who draws the curtain?
who wrote the first letter to the dead?

candle lit we cast nets of poetry into night
spinning language to carry you over

the only thing you need to know
about my today
is jean jacket over hoodie over sweater
7pm nightwalking
the discovery of a gravel alley and every molecule of air
daphne-scented with a woodfire side
and the tiny bouquet of some flowers whose names i don’t even know
plus a few i do (daphne, alyssum, lily?) in my right hand

to the small brown, green, blue glass bottles in
windowsills and on altars at 3624 texas street
plus tales of the beautiful heart medal of planet earth
and how i told you i wasn’t convinced when you said the g-word
800some miles north of here waiting for february snow

someone says the phrase ‘inferior spaces’

1. deepwater prarie flash of blue
hay before it yellows rims
of liquid gold

2. they have a spiritual
hunger she says from behind the podium book
layed open to ginsberg’s howl

3. woman with finger cymbals
shing cling cling
clang cling dinging
announces herself with bronze sound

4. for you
on the food poisoning mend
a spill of bougainvillea
off-peach pink

5. someone says the phrase inferior spaces
and i scratch lead against paper in the shape of
letters so that i will not forget

6. like children running behind
DDT truckspray in the 1960’s
we douse cities in clouds
of wireless signals networks passing
through the weave of our nerves
stem cells
marrow

7. we look at images from
a gallery of david hockney’s ipad art
wall hung as if paintings
you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me

8. you almost get a gentle introduction
a new zealander speaks of earthquakes
but not this time
a hush for the 75 plus
collapsed under rubblecrush

out like trout

(recently written for a collection of coming out stories/comics/thoughts/histories etc.)

unlike ace of base, i did not see the sign. but there were so many, including but not limited to:

•the lingerie section in the sears catalog. i used to get off to it in gradeschool. but the pretty boys were who i crushed out on and the tomboys were who i wanted to be like. i’m interested in this intersection between who i want and who i want to be. sometimes i still can’t tell the difference.

•(for instance) laura ingalls wilder. i was obsessed. little house on the prairie. did i want to do her or did i want to be her?

•the rumors going around my last year in high school (1994) about my best friend joolie and i. in the rumors, we were lesbians. in the lesbian rumors, gerbils were somehow involved. i’m sure this had nothing to do with our plans to go to prom together. the vision included one of us wearing a tuxedo shirt, coat and bow tie on top with a formal dress bottom and the other of us wearing the opposite. (we weren’t GAY. we were alternative riding in on the old edge of new wave).

•the indigo girls. joolie and i harmonizing to them all the time, including live and onstage our junior year when we sang closer to fine at “cabaret night” (musical talent show). (again, we weren’t gay, we were just choir nerds).

•sarah spieth. this woman was fierce. the only out lesbian in the entire middle/high school. she was two or three grades ahead of me. we lived in the same neighborhood and would end up at the back of the bus together, talking. she got so much shit, but she never took it. instead, she would tell girls in choir class (like joolie) how they had nice legs. the year after i graduated, i got a phone call. it was her, on the other end of the phone, asking if i liked girls. (i don’t think she was asking because she was interested in me, i think she was just asking because she wanted to know). i said no. probably made some short conversation and then said goodbye.

•the boy on the bus in minneapolis calling joolie and i lesbians. we quickkissed each other on the mouth in full view of his windowseat after we stepped off the bus.

•the excessive abundance of rainbows in my life (clothing, stationary, thriftstore knick knacks, coffee mugs, backpacks) at the end of high school and beginning of college. people didn’t get it. i wasn’t gay, i was a RAVER. like rainbow brite!

•my secret mystery caller. college freshman year (1995). she left messages on my dorm phone answering machine. she thought i was cute. she would leave me hints (‘i have a flag hanging in my dorm room’) about herself. we latenight phonetalked and she dropped hand-folded envelope mail for me in my campus mailbox. (bigger than my coming out. this was the moment a door opened. looking from face to face, woman to woman in my classes, wondering which one was her. noticing . i realized i had my eyes on several women, hoping they were her. this was the first time i consciously thought about the very actual, very real possibility of making out with another girl/woman). i told her i wasn’t gay (i had a shaved head with blue bangs, but that was more alterna-punk than gay) but that i still wanted to meet her/talk with her/get to know her. i told her i was open to connecting with all kinds of different people.

•the library note-dropper. college. junior year. 1996. she dropped a note as she walked past me in the library. earlier that day, i gave a presentation in a lower division poetry class.  ‘were you staring at me in class?’ she wrote. she insisted i was staring at her in the back corner of the class whole time i gave the presentation. she thought i was cute. i told her i wasn’t gay (i was just a poet. with gay friends who ran the 10% society student organization), but that i was open to being friends. we hung out several times, but i can’t remember her name now. just shoulder length dark hair, some teeth (braces? retainer?) and amazing eyebrows.

•the option girl. the option was a dance club in green bay, wisconsin (city of my college experience). green bay was small and conservative enough that this dance club was for all the freaks. ravers, bisexuals, goth kids, queers, industrial kids, grunge kids, gay boys, skaters, punks, geeks, lesbians, stoners. think bjork meets skinny puppy meets erasure meets lords of acid meets depeche mode meets ministry meets fugazi meets thrill kill kult meets duran duran. the option girl whisper/roared her phone number, her hot lips to my ear, while i danced to the tori amos remix in a short green girlscout jumper and rainbow striped tights. two days later I tried to dial all combinations of the number i thought i remembered. i’m sorry, the number you are trying to call is not in service.

•all the kinds of sex i never had with the confused/frustrated cisgendered boys i dated. one of them actually called me frigid. i don’t think he realized the weight of that word and i was still trying to wrap my brain around the radical concept of sex positivity. (which was a difficult thing to understand after being raised catholic in a house where no one ever said the word sex)

•my shaved head. (on and off, 1994 and beyond). i think this was one of the things that drew my secret admirers towards me, like a moth to a flame. no female-bodied folks ‘just had shaved heads’ then. at least, not where i was living. you had to have a good reason for it. that reason, basically involved two choices: you were punk rock or you were a lesbian. (and sometimes a third: you were just plain crazy). these options did not have to be mutually exclusive.

it opened up my eyes i saw the sign.

i wouldn’t call it a coming out as much as i would call it a claiming. yes, i was a raver, i was an alterna-punk, i was new wave, a choir nerd, a poet. but for the most part, most of my identity relied on who i wasn’t. i was not a hippie, i was not a cheerleader, i was not a jock (though i still have secret aspirations…), i was not popular, a geek, nor punk rock (though i did manage to land a couple ollies on a borrowed skateboard at the kmart parking lot my junior year). i wasn’t even one of the smart kids i hung around with. they were enrolled in advanced-placement classes. i was not.

several years into kissing queers/genderqueers on a regular basis, i attended an internalized homophobia workshop in portland, OR (what-what!!! some of you were there! some of you led this workshop!) hilariously, i didn’t understand that my participation in a workshop on internalized homophobia implicated me as some kind of queer. (it became apparent, though, after several go-arounds and mini-discussions, the nuances of that word. internalized.) so long to resisting a queer identity. half of queer portland knew after that. thanks for outing me, language.

i had resisted claiming this identity for years. it was easier to kiss who i wanted to kiss without naming it. it was easier to evade my fears of being judged/accepted by the queer community. (in gradeschool, I played doctor with my neighbor. my neighbor was a boy. I didn’t share secret hotness with any of my grade school girl-friends. this narrative was certainly not queer enough to qualify me as even an honorary queer, was it?).

No one’s gonna drag you up to get into the light where you belong…
But where do you belong?

i told her around the kitchen table at lunch during a visit home (new berlin, wisconsin) after she asked how is your house/your housemates?

i responded with the house is really good. we all get along really well. and actually, _____ and i have been dating for a while now. somewhere in there i dropped the word queer.

she had met ______ before. but she never heard the word queer come out of my mouth like that.

coming out to my parents at age 28 was a bit anti-climactic. my mom was upset with me for two days on several accounts (that i told my sister first, that my life was going to be hard, and how did i know for sure, anyway, i mean, how many girls at that point had i actually kissed besides the transwoman i was dating at the moment?). this anger/agitation/upset/shock/fear/frustration kept her in the car after we drove downtown to visit the black holocaust museum (RIP, closed in 2008). while she sat in the front seat in the parking lot, i slipped inside the one story building. i listened to a tour. i watched a film from the front row. i swear i stood for hours in front of each display, gut twisting at the cross section illustrations of slave ships.

my mom’s silence lasted several days. but it was nothing compared to the shit we went through in high school. i had to laugh. it seemed like i was 10 years late. like it would have made more sense to add that extra layer of angst while i was cutting my thighs, hands, arms and ankles with double-sided razor blades, hiding the marks with white socks and long sleeves. while my dad was yelling i just don’t know what to do with you anymore, you’ve crossed the line after i dyed my hair fluorescent orange and insisted on going to school in ‘men’s’ pajama pants. while my parents got a hold of a zine joolie and i published which included a survey asking what would you do for a blow job? followed by a list of answers from our classmates. this in a house where the word sex was never mentioned, was enough to bring it down. in flames. (new berlin was burning).

the celestial pony express

1. dream:
airport-stuck overnight with
library access two
huge volumes (5 inches thick) of books in our hands
one, a collection of poems post 9-11
another, a collection of other poems
both, leather bound and old looking
with hand-written call numbers
and gold on the spine
a guy
gentle and in his 30’s
let’s read back and forth
one by one
we say
waking up with his voice: my name’s cipher
and before that, ocean
and the road that leads to it
bright blue tidepools
sunshone

2. dream two:
you tell me that i will live until i am 85
when i ask when you’re going to die
you say 38

3. in honor of the archive:
mail
to be delivered by celestial pony express

(click image to enlarge)