in first light

first gut-punch of the day:
amy goodman reporting
today marks the three year anniversary of a family doctor (george tiller) who administered late term abortions
he died after being shot point blank in the forehead at church in wichita
(and this was after his clinic was firebombed in 1986 [to which tiller responded by displaying a sign that read hell no we won’t go] and was shot five times in both arms 1993. the anti-abortion activist who shot him and received numerous death threats)
the second part of the gut punch:
The anniversary of Dr. Tiller’s murder comes at a time of renewed violence against reproductive healthcare providers. Last week, two women’s clinics in Georgia, one of which provided abortion, were hit by apparent arson attacks. A New Orleans group that offers services and education to sex workers, transgender women and poor women of color was also struck by an apparent arson attack last week. According to one report, the arsonist targeted a room with sexual health education materials, including models used to teach self-breast exams and boxes of condoms.

and some might call that arson an effigy
a symbolic fire set to every woman, every sex worker, every trans woman, every working/poor woman, every woman of color
that we are burning
and standing our ground
and by standing ground i simply mean
showing up
going on
in the face of powers/people/systems that hate our bodies, our  autonomy gaining hold


today constructed of a million points of connection spiraling me back
defying the spacetime continuum:
1. morning garden garlic harvest
sun on sleeveless shoulders
ties me back to danny
(some of this garlic has descended from seed he gave me
four years ago
that i’ve planted and re-planted.
ties me back to minna
(someone who in this current spacetime
no longer exists in physical body
therefore can’t wrap arms around
til our laughter mixes in the air around us)
and how the first time i planted garlic
we were howled in the missouri autumn wind
our freezing fingers
our hair whipping
our boot dance a kind of power-up
our mischievousness
our inside jokes
our laughter that eventually lends itself
to not being able to sit across from each other at dinner
without keeping a ‘straight’ face
2. rooster sound rising from the dry/dust hills
of east county
the sound of mornings from a trailer
on sauvie island
view of doug firs out the rectangle window
fog tucking itself around needled branches
waking into dark
fingers in dirt in first light
3. smell of east county grass while ascending uneven driveway
ties me back
to rolling rutledge prairie
pockets of cool where land dips down
every bale of straw
i’ve ever handled
or taken apart
4. i know it is a go-round/
sharing moment
but when the coyote get going
howling so that sound makes a circular shape
i want to ask adam to hush
which is what i would do
from the doublewide
on the rented side of the land
which is what i would do
in my tent out in revolution grove
which is what i would do
even if i was alone
hush myself in the midwestern night
tears in eyes
chill along spine
a sound a reminder that still something out there
ran free
(and in those days that sound
tied me back to rod
who drew a coyote for his signature
when i wrote him in prison
because he was feral like that too)
recall june-bugs on screen doors
recall how quiet the night could really get
5. when we line up on the hill top
to sit and sunset-watch
i am looped to you
knowing what that bridge can mean sometimes
and i am looped
to an overlook in portland
where i’ve sat for sundown and stayed until the dark sends chills and the mosquitoes
bite behind the knees
an overlook in portland where, if it’s springwarm and clear right now,
the grass is packed with blankets and hipsters/punks/20somethings/queers
beer in brown bags
sometimes birthday cakes and sing alongs
looped to an overlook in portland, where, if it’s a nice day
some of  my chosen family
are also gathered
watching this onfire orb sink itself
into west hills horizon
and people are watching this sun from other places too
and the chance that someone/anyone i know
is fixing their eyes on this glowing
is so high
that chills run themselves in circuits under my flesh
that tears blur this bigstar vision
this sense of connection
so sharp and deep
i am almost no longer
my body


bessie smith on the gramophone
we set a half hour timer
and defy it for an hour after
we have important things to talk about
like houndsteeth and bridges
like hipbones and missing

eight thousand sheetcakes/the same spirit

8thousand sheetcakes
i joke
knowing that in a time like
all this hospitaling
such a joke
could be considered badly placed
but i imagine you’d appreciate it
(it is one form of not weeping at the world)
as i walk south
pink/white circus animal cookies and bready sandwich
tucked in my bag


there is no getting better from here
she says
something like it
not omitting the possibility of healing
but attempt towards understanding
the name
for a body/brain/eye/vision that has felt not right for a while now


i loan you kidsize sunglasses
to match the circus animals
whose multi-colored sprinkleseeds we plant in grassy
patches and  sidewalk cracks

we consider the possibility of squawky
as both a shape and a sound

maybe five or ten minutes after talking about
how bart cops shot and killed oscar grant
wayne tells the lecture class
how his students
(east oakland high schoolers)
walked nine miles
to the school board
to keep them from shutting down their school
and even though the schoolboard voted to keep it
the state voted to shut it down
so the state shut it down
how the cops were dispatched to stand
along the route/at the schoolboard meeting
because the state is forever fearful of empowered black youth
and later the cops crying/praying with the students in the hallway
at the news

as a teacher, you gotta do two things
he says
first you have to remediate your students
and then accelerate them
(get them to work harder than anybody else
not just in school, but for their entire lives)
for example,
if you’re talking about this in terms of food
if someone’s starving/malnourished
first you’ve gotta get them the nutrients they need
before you can begin feeding them
first you gotta run your students through remedial math
before you’re pushing them to take on trigonometry
and this is where many school systems fail
once you catch your students up
you’ve gotta keep challenging them to do what they think is
like presenting a speech at a conference amongst phd students
not only creating and presenting a speech
but getting the student who shrinks the tinyest
when asked to share
and barely looks up from their books
to stand in front of 200 phd students
and deliver their genius
somewhere in there is a michael jordan story
something about how
when his other teammates would be out partying late at night
jordan would get to sleep early
and be the first out on the court practicing in the morning
the kind of showing up
that irritates his teammates
now matter how hard they try
he’s always there first and he’s there ferociously
every morning
i don’t even like michael jordan
wayne says
but i keep talking about him
and this is what jordan said when asked why he played so hard every night:
“there might be one person in that crowd who has never seen me play before
and they will probably never see me play again

and though i can’t say the same for this blog project
it is the same spirit
it is me showing up to the court before anybody else on my team
(or long after they’ve gone to sleep)


water of the coffee variety
you say
which i think is a way
to keep from giving in to the full-on wave of devastation
of being served papers
that said
you are banned from starting/working with
another non-profit
struggle of students lost but never let go of
of juniors that weren’t allowed to become seniors in the high school they began in
because the state shut it down because the state was afraid
same way the state was afraid of young black people in the late 60’s and 70’s
for offering free breakfast and healthcare
to their communities


i don’t remember her name
but it has an a and z in it
maybe an h
we talk about santiago and mexico city and milwaukee and san diego
and at some point we get to talking about water

to call you herman@

morningpoem communique to get me through the harrow
by benedita da silva:
you travel for miles on end
your feet on the ground

swollen, barefoot
in pain
sometimes hurt
but you know life
yes, that you know.
feet of a naughty kid
running through the streets
jumping like a tree frog
it’s sad to see your feet
on the burning ground
shining shoes
for those who have. yes, your feet
standing tall
it’s so good
to see such courage
in you
that you find today’s courage too


the day in flowers:
first, the photomail of hot pink bougainvillea
then, something like a rudbeckia
nestled in bike seat
after a shuttlebus crossover


how is it possible to miss a streetcorner
to miss an unexpected pink tshirt
to miss a place i waited
we met
for tiramisu ingredients
how is it possible to miss
a location
that held us
in the onset of disintegration
how is it possible
to want to reach back for a second
beyond my control
and re-shape the slope

last night’s sacred circle still
rippling out
from my marrow
makes it easier to smile
at others here makes it effortless
to stand tall


when wayne called you by your chosen name last night
i say
i felt its power in my blood


is it fucked up to call you herman@
when we kiss like we do?
cuz i kindof like it


several phrases from a summer-tour draft:

by embracing the concept of cross-pollination, we hope to not only bring our art and knowledge to you in these co-organized events, but to also carry yours with us as we make our way to our next destinations. (we are considering making a trunk/box that shares/catalogues these things so folks at each stop can benefit from what those before them added. or a resource chart that everyone at each stop can add their skills/arts and contact info.)

we want to meet you. we want to collaborate with you. we want to exchange wisdoms with you. we want to share our art and take in yours. we want to carry your ideas with us into our work and our destinations and leave some of ours to bloom with you.

held and holding

in the dream, i was heading north
and maybe a little/a lot east
in the dream, other parts came before
but all i can remember is bus windows
and the landscape rolling
in the dream
i was surprised at how quickly the tall trees appeared
(the kind that 217 said those are tall trees about
in the background of the halloween farming picture
on sauvie island) you know, conifers.
and i remember thinking
that sure is a lot of grass to mow
that sure is a lot of yard to have
for an old barnhouse
but that barnhouse is old enough
that that’s just how they did it then
the grass was almost too bright
and the towns moved from rural to more town-ish and
back to rural again
there was everything to look at:
rusted mailboxes
the rhythm of the fences
corrugated metal and wood siding
old rummage sale signs
sun glinting in through branches
and when we arrived at the corner store / inn
(down a long driveway and unsurrounded)
i got out to step into the field
could barely believe
the fast-moving river thundering out from under
all that snow

when asked what he’s up to
bb replies
gettin ready to do that prole stroll
(caffeinated and cleanshaven about to mount his bike
and ride in the direction of whole foods)


via satellite
debbie and i
uncover a key-phrase
for the approaching tour:


forgive my appearance
217’s dad says rising
from the dinner table
i’ve been working in the garden today
he references a feeling about the 1930’s

and how it doesn’t hurt to get a head-start
asks if i like rosemary,
and part of me wants to tell your parents
dinner waiting on kitchen plates
what we do

pinkorange sun
wrapped in cloudswath
as we secret-route our way
towards the i-5
where signage marks
freeway shoulder as bike lane
(oh, san diego)


this is not the first time i have stood in a circle with folks
to honor their/our resilience/survival/brilliance
it is not the first time i have circle-stood
and honored/acknowledged the land we are on
(some of us invaders)
this is not the first time i have stood in a circle
that begins by acknowledging the oldest and youngest by name
this is not the first time i have been smudged
by dried/wrapped sage
held in front of each circle-stander
this is not the first time i have called in those who have passed
have said the names outloud
those who have helped us get where we are today
this is not the first time i have acknowledged in such a circle
struggle that came before us
that we carry
that allowed us to become
this is not the first time candles mark the four directions
this is not the first time we used fire and water and earth
this is not the first time the depth of sacredness
brought on an ache

but it is the first time i have done so
on a campus
(on a particularly harsh campus
where doors of buildings/classrooms
mostly signify
the places we must check our bodies
our hearts
must leave this contraband behind)
it is the first time i have done so
on the gravel roof of the social sciences building
where ocean becomes illegible (dusk) to the west and
an orange light galaxy glimmers in the east
it is the first time i have done so
with a community of people largely unknown
yet family-feeling
it is the first time i have done so
in a place that wasn’t built by us/for us
it is the first time i have done so
in a place that doesn’t want me
a place that wasn’t supposed to let me/us in
a place that kills me/i die in
on the weekly
a place that presses down
this is the first time someone has dared to name these things
in this place
in the presence of a group of us
this slamming of sacred and profane against each other
this daring to let life
this peeling back
this naming of the uncommons
and how we build it
every time we manage to bring our bodies
our hearts past the check points
this daring to acknowledge the ways we re-shape
a cold-edged place
(the power of josh’s name in arizona’s voice
and the power of  knowing who that is
the power of kate’s name in my voice
and the force of the fact that her words actually did get me here)
these are the things
that left me roof-top reeling, held and holding
under star-sky
in cool air

bring us closer

i tell F
i think we should do a chapbook
with all our F photos
don’t you?
just after christ and i lean in for a photo
and i think about how good
the colors of our shirt/sweater
look together

i step out of my shoes
barefoot to yank weeds
turn earth
transplant home-started lavender and peppers
plus farmers-market sweetgrass
to later dry, braid and burn
(a smell that will always take me to the haunted quarters
of the top floor hobbit perch
of a care-took plot of
botanical gardens
a mile and a half into waipi’o valley)


one of the ways i think death works
i say
is to bring us closer to those that are still alive


corinne tells me about the brilliance
of art’s letter-writing project
and i realize i’ve never given a shout-out to art (far as i know)
on the detail collector
so this one’s for you, force of brilliance


corinne says
it’s a rough place to be a radical subversive dynamic person

speaking of san diego / grad school

and she mentions compartmentilzation (you see it. you name it. you move on.)
in terms of receiving news/information in the u.s. today
what you do in your work is to interrupt this, so that people become witness.
you allow people to emotively respond, rather than to shut down
and by this time, i am emotively responding myself

the punch, the power of being seen
your work is earnest
she says
being earnest in academia is a tough road to walk
because people disparage emotion in academia
where the emphasis is on intelligence (which couldn’t possibly include emotion.)

and then
she talks about my grounding in poetry
my history
how i have been a poet/
teaching/putting work out there
in so many communities
across so much time
within and beyond various structures
which is the hugest offering of contradiction
to my deep seeded belief
that i’ve just been some kind of sub-poet
this entire time
(not enough published
not enough readings
not widely enough known/recognized
doesn’t take self seriously so why should others
writing invisible/inconsequential work
trying but not quite there and never will achieve arrival)
teed, i don’t call you wingman for nothing


things lester, joshua, 217 and i chart on the ngram viewer
include but are not limited to:
dr. seuss and shel silverstein
oral sex and anal sex
cunnilingus and fellatio
while joshua digs into an icecream drumstick
disappointed at the cone’s
chewy softness


we have become good
at walking each other
half-way home
we have become better
at leaning in


ayla emails
says i need this
and she is perfectly

your 150%

on the back deck wicker
with rosie in e’s lap
old chicken eggs in a basket
and a kleenex box sprouting  blue tissue
i appreciate the bougainvillea spilling out along your driveway
i say
i appreciate your showing up 150%
i appreciate how this is sacred


woman walking dog
layered up for the gray
a bit of dazzle passed and forth between us
smiles travel a tin can wire


a plate of oatmeal cookies
a birthday balloon tied to a back of a chair between the front door
and the kitchen
one of the first recordings from the late 1800s/early 1900s (i forget his name)
crackly and playing instruments that sound almost like music boxes
at some point i look out
and the clouds have turned pink/gray and are patched across the sky

217 pours me lemonade
217 serves me soup
217 asks if i am cold on our walk home and i forget to sky-scan for moon


at first i think the piet mondiraned riddle
has something to do with arizona
then mirrors
we are always with our shadows


every restaurant should have one of those
i tell 217 as we walk out of tam’s thai down adams ave
and by one of those i mean
the guy who apologized for not wearing a suit
while he took our orders
the guy who asked if he thought he should wear a cape
the guy who laughed and we laughed back when he said
i’m just here helping tam out
i don’t really know what i’m doing


sometimes we pick up stones
carry them in hoodie pockets
for so long we can’t remember
where they came from


we find the words
curled on the white couch
do you feel safe
she asks


every _____ is a form of missing



husk words

dear readers

i have been reluctant to write.
perhaps you have noticed.

perhaps you have noticed that even when i’m writing, i’m not really writing. i’m not really there.
i mean, i am there, but the writing is not really there.
or, the words are there, but they are husks.

i think it has something to do with it being the 8th week (of a 10 week quarter. not any quarter, but spring quarter. the last of the academic year. my second year of grad school. my second year on a campus where it seems there is literally no place to get comfortable. except for some patches of grass sometimes. but even then, they are usually damp from the excessive waterings.)

yesterday, when i could barely drag my ass to school [how is it that moving my body from point A to point B can sometimes seem like the impossiblest thing?], instead of telling my students how tired i was, i congratulated them for showing up. consistently. i said you should give yourselves a round of applause for showing up. which is always a funny gesture. awkward. patting yourself on the back. giving yourself a hand. (i’m not a fan of these phrases. but i am a fan of the kind of gesture that says hey, badass self, i’m gonna celebrate  you right now for being here and being who you are.) and so they clapped. wearily. maybe even half-heartedly. or awkwardly. perhaps  they feel just as awkward about that phrase, give yourself a hand, as i do. but i took heart. hearing them laugh uninhibitedly later. feeling the presence and energy they always bring into the room. presence and energy which breaks through even the thickest of mondays. that presence is louder than any half hearted clap.

reader, maybe i am here tonight to tell you about my students. they are brilliant. and i am so proud of them. and then i do things that feel like a parenting moment where, later, i kinda hate  how i chose to respond in a certain moment. (like my frustration at the class when half of them didn’t bring in a print of their graphic novel cover designs for the midterm even though it was clearly stated in three thousand places. i felt bad for allowing them to see the disappointment in my slack face, my dropped shoulders. i felt bad for thinking pull your shit together, people! it was not a very empathetic thought. i felt bad for laying down the law. so bad that five minutes later i said i still like ya’ll. but this is serious-time…. deadlines… follow through. and the same part of me that doesn’t believe in grades wonders why i care so much about them doing what they are asked/required to do. perhaps because those things are also a form of showing up? and what do i want more in the world than for people to show up. whatever it is they’re doing. i want them to engage/be engaged. i recognize this can look all sorts of ways. and in fact, maybe they were so engaged in whatever they were doing over the weekend/before class that they forgot about the deadlines and requirements. maybe they just spent the past hour laying under a tree staring up at the shape of the branches against the blue blue sky and occasional cloud strands unraveling. maybe they were making out with their dates. maybe they were sleeping in. maybe they too were weighed down by death this week. the demands of college are often so inhuman because they require the devaluing, the dismissing of the importance of such moments. so maybe next time half of the class shows up without their work, we can do a go around aboutwhat they were doing instead of printing out their homework. so at least we can delight in the other forms of presence they were engaging in.

this quarter i’ve struggled with not being able to plan for section until i am on the shuttlebus hurtling towards the great sprawl of an institution named ucsd. the procrastination has become that bad. but momentum/motion/movement lends itself to thinking. and i show up with a usually well-constructed map for us to follow or take apart. even if it was only 30 minutes of planning while sitting over the wheelwell with the amtrack tracks to my right and mission bay throwing the sun back to sky on my left. i still brought myself. i still brought my ideas. my work. i bring it. and apparently i consider bringing it part of an interdependent model. my bringing it depends on their bringing it and vice versa.

i lost it when, after preparing my students to pair up and offer feedback  about each other’s work (with sample questions posted on the screen at the front of the classroom), x [who spent most of that time chatting with the classmate next to her] asked what are we doing when it came time for her to choose her partner.  in this case, losing it looked like giving an exasperated raised eyebrow and waiting for her to look around and find the details that would help her answer her own question.

i also lost it when, last week, we were talking about how edward curtis would make his indian subjects more vanishy by instructing them to shave or  handing them a headdress (or other items from his costume kit) to wear for his photos. x said, well i doubt curtis actually did that. to which i sparred back were you in lecture [when wayne elaborated on this exact point]? to which x said no. this kid, who is usually in the position of putting people in their place needed that kind of check. that kind of humbling. here, losing it was a kind of gloating. a kind of hah! a kind of touché  for a kid who is very perceptive but always thinks he’s right and doesn’t need to go to lecture because he doesn’t see how it’s related to the reading material.

readers, i also want to tell you how good it feels to laugh with them. all at once. big. loud. i want to tell you how we build the space together and how much it means to me that i feel comfortable throwing jokes out there. how amazing it is that there is space for me (that they’ve built) for me to be myself.

dear readers, i’d like to share an email from my poetry workshop professor:

subject: assignments

Dear 202 Students,
Going through my bag, I found that I have new poems from only four people: L, E, H, and
K. And I am missing two anthologies, H’s and B’s. You will need to get these things to me before the next class.

readers, i want to tell you how i don’t want to write that fucking poem. they are living far from me (the poems) right now. i don’t give a fuck about my poems existing in that (workshop) space. i don’t give a fuck about turning something in just to fulfill a requirement when i have been doing so every week and each one amounting to some form of failing. can’t i just have a free bingo square on this? especially after i did turn in this week: an imitation poem, reading a presenting on a poem from the book we read for the week, a 70 page anthology i compiled and 10 feedbacked poems for my classmates? is that not enough? you weren’t supposed to notice the absence of my shitty work. you weren’t supposed to make any effort to want to read another unfunctioning piece. did i mention that the only poem of mine you liked was the imitation piece i wrote last week when you disclosed that you were on vicodin for back pain which was making us all sound smarter to you. so how about this. here’s my poem for this week:

these battles. they are good. but they are tiring.

dear readers,
there are other things that today was made of
like saltsweat on my face, at my neck-nape in the garden. yanking weeds and hauling bricks.
like the sunflowers finally opening. petals yellow tongues licking sky.
like rainmist on my bikeride home after a studio visit. a studio/work space i might share with my melinda starting in the fall.
like the story of a twitching eye that may just have to do with muscles or a neurological disorder/situation that i am orbiting around trying to get closer to on each pass.
like chocolate cookies delivered by the bakery fairie.
like the story of avocado on toast with tomato slices for breakfast.
like how i didn’t want to ride my bike down that same old street (the street where i have to fight at at least three points to take over an entire lane so the cars don’t kill me) in order to sign something at the bank for our house account, so i got a ride with rachel and then we went for yogurt.
like how i get to looking up arizona boys ranch (a place someone i know spent time at) and learn of the death of nicholaus contreraz how i wrap him up and carry him
like how perhaps since the day i arrived in san diego, today is the first time i really recognize myself in the mirror.
[dear reader, if you have made it this far, a shower of gold star stickers spilling upon you that you may post on your charts of achievement for the day.]