26 March 2019 / 6 April 2019

The absence of a regular writing practice – the kind that isn’t really for any particular purpose, no deadline, no frantic scramble in a particular direction, nothing especially good most of the time, but just allowing the space for language to happen in a way that is both solitary and not – the absence of this feels like all the toxins that should be pushed out and processed through heavy-handed metaphors and unnecessary obscenity are all just collecting, pooling up in the small of my back, in all the places I would like to be touched but am always too tired–

language that picks up the slack for all my insufficient organs, the only way the obscure workings of my fallible body can be parsed through into sense //

my sense of touch is a sense of language //

I like to kiss with both eyes open (so the sense of touch can once again be sorted into a sense of communicated language, even if only the silent and physical variety) //

my depression lives inside my body and language is the puncture wound that allows it to flow out //

perhaps too long I have confused writing for longing, for an epistolary form of unrequited design (I meant to write “desire”, but perhaps the mistake is too telling to ignore, so it stays), and not a biological process that is ultimately about the system of myself // writing as a means of recalibrating, writing as a tool of strengthening, not as a tool of seduction, not as an endless scream that does not require breath of the drowning //

the image over and over of the body breaking its borders // of the velocity of desire // of the mutable form

I have never known the illusory comfort of being just one thing at once, and I wonder what is wrong with me // writing as an act of bridging, of overlay, again of recalibrating (where do your boundaries lie) //

chaos in the blood // the flat refusal of the closed door // the longing, the longing, the way I am forever being reshaped in the image of desire // desire both for the desired, and the desire to flee (the desired, the landscape, myself) //

I spent too many years writing poetry because I was in love with poets. // I thought somehow that if I spoke their language (forgetting that it too was mine) then we could stave off the inevitable moment where all communication breaks down, where we have nothing to say. // to have finally found a lover that does not make me want to write poetry, but to simply to look them in the eyes and always tell the truth. no ciphers. how strange, to be seen. //

now I can return to all this dashing my words against the rocks for everybody else, knowing that I will no longer turn to sea spume with the dawn.

a dream, 11/17/2018

content note: accidental death 

I had a dream about the large extended family of a woman who had died young. On the anniversary of her death, I was watching the family explain what had happened, in the place where it had happened. 

The young woman was nineteen years old, and had just been married. The newlyweds moved into a modest but charming house with a big yard. The yard had quite a few trees, some fruit-bearing, some not, and so they set to work assessing them. The young man decided to chop down a tree to clear the space for a garden, and the young woman had climbed up a very tall fruit tree to check its health and the quality of its fruit. They were a bit like mangoes, but larger and more green. 

As I listened, the young man stood at the stump of the tree, pretending to chop at it with the axe he held in his hands. He explained that he had never cut down a strong old tree before, and it had proved much more difficult than he anticipated. As he kept chopping, he heard a terrible sound. A thud. His new wife had fallen from the tall tree, struck the ground, and died. 

I listened from the branches of the tree, which still stood, and looked toward him, where he stood at the stump where the other tree had been. The whole family was there, grandparents and siblings and honorary cousins, and the young women were in the tree. 

But when it came to the part in the story when she fell to her death, the young women of her family stepped out of the branches with billowing sheets of white fabric, parachutes, gliding softly through the air in graceful arabesques until they touched the dirt. 

Some of their movements were less like gentle falls and more like flight, their hands guiding the fabric in the air in a dance that was brief but slow and meditative, mournful but also with some touch of joy in the action. It was as if by recreating this tragic event in safety they could defang it somehow, defuse its power. 

Watching their skill I realized, this was not the first anniversary of this event. I looked at the young man and I realized he was not the widower – perhaps that was his grandfather, or his great-great-uncle, and it had been decided that this year he would play the part. Each year they told the story of the woman who had died, and each year they would keep her alive, floating softly to the ground on homemade wings. 

(a photo of me in probably May 2001, one of very few photos of me from that year, looking nothing like I usually did and trying really hard to look like someone who might be popular in high school. this was a couple of years before I came out, chopped off my hair into a mohawk and dressed mostly in butch hand-me-downs I’d stenciled things onto, paired with those bondage pants from Hot Topic.)

There are not a lot of photographs of me that predate 9/11 that are not from the ‘90s, not from my actual childhood. On September 11, 2001 I was still a few months away from my fourteenth birthday, an awkward freshman in high school in the small town I’d lived in all my life. Shoreham, New York, is a seventy-three mile drive from where the towers once stood. It’s shorter as the crow flies, of course, or the plane. A town full of people who take the Ronkonkoma line to Penn Station five days a week, shuttling between a beach town where everyone knows everyone and the Center of the Universe. A town where everyone knew someone on that block. 

I never quite know what to say about it, so I keep picking at the memories each year, all full of panic even when it sneaks up on me, even when yes I always remember September 11th but maybe I forgot that today was Tuesday and I wonder why I wake up sweating. Maybe it is a sign of adulthood that this time I knew it was coming and I slept alone for the first night in a long while and maybe I didn’t even have bad dreams. I just woke up thinking about my father, who never became a New Yorker, a thing that I have always been since birth and a title I don’t necessarily deserve, but he took that train, all that back and forth, when I was a tiny little baby who knew nothing. 

I got my first camera in, I believe, 2003. My hard drive suddenly swells to fill all my young attempts to figure out not only how a camera works, but what I look like. This is still how I use cameras; to express, to document, to help me remember, to preserve, to celebrate, but also to sort through the fact that I exist in some physical form. Here I am. This is what I look like. I am a body in space. I often say that I’m a narcissist, but maybe I’m more of a detective. 

There’s this stretch of time from maybe 1998 to 2002 where there is not a lot of documentation of my life – there are some physical photographs somewhere, buried in a box in my mother’s house – and so sometimes it doesn’t feel real. (Earlier than that, age 10 and under, just feels like the vague fog of childhood, an era that certainly happened although I don’t recall much of it in detail, certain moments sticking out and up into clarity like skyscrapers wrapped in mist.) These dissociated years roughly span the experience of middle school, perhaps not a surprise. Junior high is often a deeply trying time for the weird and queer. Hell, it’s a deeply trying time for almost everyone. 

But a strange result of this trick of timing – a moment of real fear on a national scale, with an even more intense impact on my particular location in the country, occurring right when I was launching into my teenhood, mere days into high school – is that life prior to that moment barely feels real. 

The difference between me and those several years younger than me is not that I clearly remember living in a pre-9/11 world, but that I clearly remember the moments in which we pushed through some membrane of time into a post-9/11 world, those minutes when we just hung in it, suspended in total uncertainty. 

The phrase “never forget” always strikes me as so strange. There are things burned so deeply even in my faulty memory that they cannot go. I am sure for anyone who actually stood there, looking out the window, and rushing their colleagues down the stairs and up the block and off the island while the scene plays out again and again behind their eyes forgetting is not something to imply is an option. is the sentiment underneath “always learn”? isn’t it a warning for the future, for the ones who weren’t there? or a command not just to replay our memories, but to have them be understood as a part of everything that came before and also everything that comes after? 

I don’t know. I don’t know anything. This day makes me feel small and afraid. This day is my first memory as a version of myself that doesn’t feel so impossibly distant from who I am now, although so much has changed. 

It’s probably worth saying: this day isn’t about me, obviously, and I feel vaguely guilty even writing about it this way. I think, I should have written something eloquent about the lives lost that day, or the many lives lost later and the awful racism that some people used the suffering of that day to justify, or the incredible resilience of New Yorkers and their unique place in the national identity of this country. I also think, other people have done that better than I could. I think, I wasn’t really there, I don’t get to speak about this. 

But even so many years later, I have an intense and complicated emotional response every time I look at the calendar and see it’s September 11th. Each year I find myself trying to process that, dig through another layer. Thanks for listening to me pick at old wounds.

I am sorry to say that now, when I think of you

it is as if I were opening a box, unsure of its contents, and suddenly cut my hand on a ragged edge, I am swearing and I am dripping blood on packing tape and I am feeling very stupid

I am berating myself for making a mistake that has caused pain, while also knowing it is ridiculous to blame myself for a series of events that led to an accident 

this metaphor doesn’t have quite the legs I thought it did, but I can do no better, I am too busy bleeding, or trying not to think of the fact that I am wincing when I move my hands to type

this of course has not actually happened

I just accidentally thought your name instead of someone else’s–some years of lexical habit are slow to break–and it was like a knife in three syllables in my side

I can say that these truly dark months have been the result of poverty, of a crisis of calling, of the loss of stability and certainty and sunlight 
and yes that is of course also true 
and it is true that these new sufferings are at least a release from the aches I felt before
but yes, there is a vast black hole running through my chest and three years of my life that I refuse to look at 
a dead field that I have cast so many glamours over 
so that my eyes may slide over it, beyond it
passing by each day neglecting

I do not know if this will ever stop hurting
but this is the only way I know how to heal:
like a shark.


1/10/2018

I imagine myself a small animal, nestled in a little hole. I have been making a nest out of discard, out of whatever is left around. A few seasons go by and I move country, I head south or west or into the forest. I make a new nest. I do not spend a great deal of time wondering about what kind of animal I might be; I am too busy surviving. In the winter, I spend much of my short day asleep, or in the haze of near dreaming.

I consider what I know of animals, and note that I think of their relationships as all or nothing, prairie dog or lone wolf. I am sure this is not actually the case, on the level of a species, on the level of an animal. I consider the possibility that I am projecting. I consider getting a pet.

I have a tendency to be all or nothing, on the level of a person, on the level of people. Spending so much time alone feels like trying to catch up on sleep after years of being under-rested: a groggy feeling tinged with vague guilt, but all blended in with great relief, and with a certain curiosity about who it is that I might possibly be, occupying space simply by myself.

Crouched in the field, I listen to the wind in the trees.

11/27/2017

as my heart splays and threads itself across town
I wonder why gravity pulls me hard to broken men –
perhaps they remind me of my father,
or the broken man inside myself
or because the tools I sharpened to repair myself
ache for use I will not give them

I ask the moon, a shining bowl tipped and full and it says:
      because you are empty
      because you are too full
and it ducks behind a building
leaving me quiet
I imagine an altar covered in needles and ash

the moon adds a parting shot:
maybe you should try dating a Taurus
or maybe truly well and good no one at all
to pour yourself out in different ways
to find that verdant field within yourself
that you are forever seeking out in others

build yourself a rough-hewn house of good strong wood
so you have somewhere to turn to when winds blow rough off course
build your home up safe from flood, protect yourself from fire
though you are made of all most flammable parts
learn what you look like in the mirror
and you finally won’t need one
you will see clearly through the steam

you like the broken because you yearn to enter in
but remember, not all points of entry
must be made of shattered glass
sometimes you can simply walk in through the door

10/31/2017

The horrific realization that one thing that has made me the way I am is the fact that I have forever been accustomed to instability, and that this in turn has made me accustomed to all decisions being reversible. When all is chaos, when the people around you forever turn their emotions on a dime, scream and kick walls and then ten minutes later profess love, beg forgiveness, this has the strange effect of making everything fleeting. The meaning sucked out of all action beyond the present.

Your parents tell you they are getting divorced, and then they don’t. Ten years later, they do. Years and years ago, your lover leaves you, and the next day acts like it never happened. This happens at least five more times in four years. You are threatened with death, clinging to metal screaming on the street, you are threatened with money being shoved at you and with money being taken away, you are threatened with sex being shoved at you and with sex being taken away, everyone is too fucked up on something and in this and you are taught that these are romantic gestures. That the turmoil is a sign of care.

And so, now, a thousand lives away, you learn you still carry those lessons in your heart. That breaking up with someone is a way to show someone that their behavior is unacceptable, that you will not stand for this, but also it’s a tool you use because it isn’t capital punishment, not the nuclear option. That’s the slow, mature, and measured voice you use when severing the limb in surgery, not the heated cries of battle. And now, you are devastated because someone kinder, softer, more genuine than you finally took you at your word. And you don’t know what your words even mean, let alone what desires lay beneath them. Ash falls quietly from the sky.

11/20/2017

Let the death of Charles Manson be an opportunity to discuss the ways in which many men prey on younger women, use sex and love and drugs and religion and fear as weapons of gaslighting, as the carrot and the stick they use to control them.

Charles Manson’s favorite book was “How to Win Friends and Influence People”–a book read and obsessed over by many businessmen, politicians, and other people in positions of power. One of the most notorious murderers of America’s history used the same prescribed tactics as many of its CEOs.

We think of Charles Manson as exceptional, but he was on a certain level a perfectly ordinary result of the cultural systems that produced him. He simply took what was given to him by toxic masculinity, systemic racism and misogyny, a broken prison system, his religious upbringing and damaged family, and the sad spiraling out of the end of the 1960s, and he mixed it altogether into poison. Manipulating vulnerable people, mostly women, some barely more than children, into enacting your violence for you is, unfortunately, nothing new.

The more I learn about cults and serial killers, the less I think of them as outliers, freak accidents of society, and more as the terrifyingly logical extension of omnipresent and insidious cultural tendencies that we need to push back against in all their forms.

Let this news also be an excuse to listen to the solo work of Dennis Wilson, the Beach Boy who thought he could get love by giving people gifts at a never-ending party, and instead found himself with Charles Manson and his Family living in his house, meeting his well-connected friends, borrowing his cars to commit robberies, until Wilson finally cut ties. It wasn’t too long after that when things got very, very dark, and it seems like Dennis never quite got over his past enabling of a man he eventually discovered to be such a monster.

The Beach Boys drummer drowned to death in 1983, diving off the pier in Marina del Rey over and over again, supposedly trying to recover a photograph of his ex-wife that he’d thrown off his boat long before. In the 1970s, however, Dennis Wilson recorded some really incredible solo music that has gone fairly under-appreciated. “Pacific Ocean Blue” and the unfinished “Bambu” are really worth a listen.

http://www.youmustrememberthispodcast.com/episodes/youmustrememberthispodcastblog/2015/6/9/charles-mansons-hollywood-part-3-the-beach-boys-dennis-wilson-and-manson-the-songwriter

https://open.spotify.com/album/08CyNpU6VJMtGmR7DYjNmQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB6REIZ5GbM