I used to write about Assotto Saint
Slamming his hand down on the pulpit at Donald Wood’s funeral
when it was common to hide the cause of death of
young men who’d died from AIDS if they were buried at all
and weren’t abandoned
Someone told me about a thin boy
Thin with fear and death
played piano for the choir
no one touched him or talked about it
I know in my mother’s family
her mother’s sister said a parasite had killed
her son when he died suddenly
But I remember once him coming out of a Gay bar in Boston
all the white boys said, “How do you know her?”
I don’t know if he or I said cousin
I’m his cousin
He made me promise not to tell anyone in the family
I’d seen him there
So when they said parasite I knew something didn’t ring true
His mother a seemingly healthy woman died shortly after that
but I always felt their deaths were related
His mother either from the lies or repression
or a broken heart
having lost her young son
And I know everyone blames Jussie Smollett for his lies and staged attacked
but it makes me think there was something very toxic going on
that he didn’t feel he could talk to someone
Either that he was covering up an addiction or a hookup.
Watching Assotto stand up at Donald’s funeral and tell the truth
goes down in history as one of the bravest moments I’d ever witnessed
Either that or Audre Lorde spreading open the arms of her dashiki
the bravest woman we’d all witnessed
telling a crowded room of followers
I began on this journey as a coward
That or seeing a friend at the height of the AIDS era
at a bar his face covered in purple welts
refusing to hide
going out in public
That or Donald Woods being feeble
barely able to walk
accepting an award as a director of AIDS films
Or an ex-lover on a beach taking off her top and refusing
to hide her mastectomy scar
Or when Danitra Vance performed at The Public Theater
and danced naked revealing her mastectomy scars
and Audre refusing to wear a prosthesis
Or when Zakes Mokae in Master Harold and the Boys in the first Broadway play
that a cousin took me too
said to his white master, “Have you ever seen a Black man’s ass?”
and pulled down his pants and revealed himself to the audience
I was sixteen years old
Or seeing my mother beaten religiously
and still go out to work as if it hadn’t happened at all
Or even me surviving so many incredible tests
Once when I was talking to a doctor, I doubted my strength
He looked at me incredulously and said, “You are strong.”
Another doctor looked at me
And asked isn’t anyone there for you?
And another said you deserve to be taken care of
Today once more I am nursing my broken heart
Caused by someone who betrayed
was not honest
That and attending an event and asking white people to give up
their seats to Black people who couldn’t sit down
And seeing social justice in action
Yes I often think of Assotto for the important place
he resides in my history
But today I am examining his tactics
pulling the tools off the shelf
dusting off the weaponry
in an exhibit
because today I need to use what he taught me.
Today I feel that puff of rage
That continuous assault
And I want to stand up and testify
though I too haven’t been asked
I want to interrupt all the proceedings
all the places Black lesbians have been erased
Like looking down at a manuscript
seeing that they asked a young white woman to write about
Black queer history
when it’s been my area of expertise
Or only attributing ’80s and ’90s AIDS activism
To ACT UP
I want the point of outrage now to not only the historicizing of AIDS
But the fact that women and Black lesbians
have been erased from the dialogue
When there were so many organizations like GMAD
Other countries ADODI
Men of All Colors Together
Salsa Soul/Arican American lesbians united for Societal Change
Las Buenas Amigas
Or asking where are all the Black lesbians on Pose
because certainly they were on the piers and part of that history
And why are white men constantly at the helm
to tell our stories
And why don’t white queers recognize this
That and seeing panel after panel being organized on history and art
all things important to the world and no one thinking or noticing
it might be important to have a Black lesbian present
Just like they kicked Stormé out of
the Stonewall narrative.
And what about the people who weren’t on the streets
but in jobs
fighting the system
The dykes and queers
meeting each other forming community
and connections and families
Just like in South Africa where they prevented intermingling
but ways were found
And each time we touched or loved
found each other in darkness and light
It was resistance
Each time we told each other You’re beautiful
You’re not wrong
It was resistance
When we stood up to the parents and families
and courts and those that shunned us
It was resistance
Wore what we really wanted
It was resistance
Yelled at doctors and drug professionals
It was resistance
Every time we wrote and read poems
It was resistance
Every time some queer kid
stays alive because they saw us
discovered the archive
Every war is fought on our bodies
And one day after the gender racial
sexual orientation wars are over
there will be a new generation
just like in South Africa called
the Born Frees.
Watch Pamela Sneed read a version of this poem at the 2019 Stonewall 50 reading.
Who was warned about these things:
the neverhush, the maddening chafe
sliding down a reddened bridge, print
Who was told how to brook it?
The houndstooth stench of olding.
That time just runs itself out. That
we Sisyphus ourselves to glasses,
hobble wreckage down stair
after bricky stair.
That once we leave home—its gaseous
oven—that once we walk the same slow
steps as our hide-and-seek sun that
once we face our anti-lovers’ anti-gaze:
bright, open, later, now eyes smoldered
coats swept open to flash our own
scarred bellies our own hot hands
ablaze with spent matches with burnt-out
How it loosed its jaw to our kisses?
How it unhinged us? How it tried us
like so many keys like so many rusted
locks? How it missed its target despite its
kicking? How maybe its force could kill us?
Without it what’s left day after day
to trundle our legs? What’s left to push
breath ragged and torn from our lungs?
Who was warned
how these solar winds would leave us
brown and bruised as apples over-
-ripe host and blowsy seed dis-
I know this
into store fronts
taste buds voguing
alight from the way
when I imagine
pressing its opulence
into your hand
I want to buy you
a cobalt velvet couch
all your haters’ teeth
strung up like pearls
a cannabis vineyard
and plane tickets
to every island
but my pockets
are filled with
lint and love alone
touch these inanimate gods
to my eyelids
when you kiss me
gator skin silk
satin lace onyx
marble gold ferns
matte nails and plush
in my 90s baby saliva
pour the glitter
over my bare skin
I want a lavish life
us in the crook
of a hammock
incensed by romance
the bowerbird will
forgo rest and meals
so he may prim
and anticipate amenity
for his singing lover
call me a gaunt bird
a keeper of altars
shrines to the tactile
how they shine for you
fold your wings
around my shoulders
promise me that
should I drown
in want-made waste
the dress I sink in
will be exquisite
I-797-C Notice of Action
REQUEST FOR APPLICANT TO APPEAR FOR INITIAL INTERVIEW
APPLICATION NUMBER MSC XXXXXXX058 A# A XXX XXX 961
Notice Date: July 24, 2014 Priority Date: July 24, 2014
Date of Arrival: February 20, 1984
hereby notified to appear
how often do you have sex
to adjust status
what color is his toothbrush
his birth certificate
what side of the bed does he sleep on
how much does he make
your husband must come with you
what’s his mother’s name
we may videotape you
where did you buy your rings
bring an interpreter
what are his siblings’ spouses’ names
in a sealed envelope bring
what’s his father’s name
failure to appear
what’s his father’s name
please appear, as scheduled below
do you love him
why do you love him
Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:00am USCIS Chicago, IL
don’t mention citizenship
talk about love, how you got married for love
I have waited all my life to find me find you perched around my black neck in repose songing of me in repose your black legs songing of me in repose your black legs a dangle around me I have waited to find you find your black toes to find them sundering at the base your black toes your black toe- nails hale and bright your black feet a straddle around me around my black waist a straddle I finding I was born I was born who operated in the white was born who was born who operated in the white chapel who found your black thighs in repose songing to each other in repose across my chest an extended black for blocks a neighborhood song in repose your crotch an extended black at my neck your black groin a straddle around me in repose what life what there it is there I had been looked at there o lord sucked His black thorax which spanned as a fracture spanned as I who grow up in you there as a fracture find your black breast o lord quiescing atop my head your other black breast o lord hale and bright around me o lord a pendulum o lord to my black ear my black ear that finds you songing of me in repose in your stature toppling to one side of my one side find your black shoulders a gaping around me death your body armless around me death none can skirt it in your mother's way o lord is finding black fingers there your black neck is finding lord is rising past the cumulus-line an extended black o lord is an extended black o lord is thinking of self and thinking of self is finding you there so that when I entered I entered the pulpit I entered.
(for a.g., you & yours)
the night is silver in its silence
moon-pop echoes of the day
raked up rubble of the hours spent
my, the children slumber
a thousand tomorrows bubbling at their lips
the dream projections lighting up
the clouds’ ample cotton relish the silence
as you’ll relish tomorrow
and the honesty of such raucous noise, thick
child feet of our unfeathered breasts, beasts we cherish
hallway run, sprints to smash the mash of food
tumbling, rolling right into these arms
charmed in their amnesia regarding where one
begins or ends
reminding us of the joy
of first step and the storm after the holler:
mama see, mama watch
thunder on a hardwood, heartbeat
this sole and counted rhythm
every generation a temporal fugitive
running from the death grip
every death ship’s watch, yesterdays
we weren’t meant to make it through
relish the memory ingrained in the sound
how these tiny, tiny feet
grip the floor, say
I make you
Hushed whispers in an undisclosed room
Take it out of the girl
a child, boyish in nature their smallness magnified.
Outcasted—the soft bodied animal you are
determined unruly animalia,
what survives inflation & inertia?
The body is a set of complex feedback systems
nothing is as it appears
the coexistence of a beard & breasts
evidence of the body’s willfully defiant nature
The body’s resilience amid the promise of perish:
somehow the child survives their own hand
the day’s weary edge inverted toward grace
A child, boyish in their nature & barrel shaped
survives sedimented against the residue
of dunes, soil, leaf litter, & the bodies of a lesser
What couldn’t be excised
your boyish nature
your untamed phylum, your small heart pulsing loud
notes against the night.
a holy spot
flower and song
at once lost
we all together—
in the night
flor y canto
de la noche
in oc tlanextilli
Yet I was, in peculiar truth, a very lucky boy.
In any case, the story begins
with darkness. A classroom.
A broom closet. A bowl of bruised
light held over a city. Or, the story
begins with a child playing
the role of an ashy plum—
how it rises to meet the man's teeth
or doesn't. How the skin is broken
or breaks because the body just wants
what it wants: to be a hallway
where men hang their photos
on the wall. Does that make sense?
To want to own the image of the man
but not the man? To bask in that memory
of what first nailed you to the dark?
God washes clean the souls and hearts of you,
His favored ones, whose backs bend o’er the soil,
Which grudging gives to them requite for toil
In sober graces and in vision true.
God places in your hands the pow’r to do
A service sweet. Your gift supreme to foil
The bare-fanged wolves of hunger in the moil
Of Life’s activities. Yet all too few
Your glorious band, clean sprung from Nature’s heart;
The hope of hungry thousands, in whose breast
Dwells fear that you should fail. God placed no dart
Of war within your hands, but pow’r to start
Tears, praise, love, joy, enwoven in a crest
To crown you glorious, brave ones of the soil.
It is December and we must be brave.
The ambulance’s rose of light
blooming against the window.
Its single siren-cry: Help me.
A silk-red shadow unbolting like water
through the orchard of her thigh.
Her, come—in the green night, a lion.
I sleep her bees with my mouth of smoke,
dip honey with my hands stung sweet
on the darksome hive.
Out of the eater I eat. Meaning,
She is mine, colony.
The things I know aren’t easy:
I’m the only Native American
on the 8th floor of this hotel or any,
looking out any window
of a turn-of-the-century building
Manhattan is a Lenape word.
Even a watch must be wound.
How can a century or a heart turn
if nobody asks, Where have all
the natives gone?
If you are where you are, then where
are those who are not here? Not here.
Which is why in this city I have
many lovers. All my loves
are reparations loves.
What is loneliness if not unimaginable
light and measured in lumens—
an electric bill which must be paid,
a taxi cab floating across three lanes
with its lamp lit, gold in wanting.
At 2 a.m. everyone in New York City
is empty and asking for someone.
Again, the siren’s same wide note:
Help me. Meaning, I have a gift
and it is my body, made two-handed
of gods and bronze.
She says, You make me feel
like lightning. I say, I don’t ever
want to make you feel that white.
It’s too late—I can’t stop seeing
her bones. I’m counting the carpals,
metacarpals of her hand inside me.
One bone, the lunate bone, is named
for its crescent outline. Lunatus. Luna.
Some nights she rises like that in me,
like trouble—a slow luminous flux.
The streetlamp beckons the lonely
coyote wandering West 29th Street
by offering its long wrist of light.
The coyote answers by lifting its head
and crying stars.
Somewhere far from New York City,
an American drone finds then loves
a body—the radiant nectar it seeks
through great darkness—makes
a candle-hour of it, and burns
gently along it, like American touch,
an unbearable heat.
The siren song returns in me,
I sing it across her throat: Am I
what I love? Is this the glittering world
I’ve been begging for?
In the first place—I wanted him and said so
when I had only meant to say. His eyes
opened beyond open as if such force would unlock me
to the other side where daylight gave reason
for him to redress.
When he put on his shirt,
after I asked him to keep it off, to keep putting off
the night’s usual end, his face changed beneath
the shirt: surprise to grin, to how even the body
of another’s desire can be a cloak behind which
to change one’s power, to find it.
In the first place
he slept, he opened the tight heat of me that had been
the only haven he thought to give a name:
Is-it-mine? Why-you-running? Don’t-run-from-it—as though
through questions doubt would find its way away from me,
as though telling me what to do told me who I was.
First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.
There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.
I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.
And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
you breathe differently down here.
I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.
This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass
We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
our names do not appear.
Up until this sore minute, you could turn the key, pivot away.
But mine is the only medicine now
wherever you go or follow.
The past is so far away, but it flickers,
then cleaves the night. The bones
of the past splinter between our teeth.
This is our life, love. Why did I think
it would be anything less than too much
of everything? I know you remember that cheap motel
on the coast where we drank red wine,
the sea flashing its gold scales as sun
soaked our skin. You said, This must be
what people mean when they say
I could die now. Now
we’re so much closer
to death than we were then. Who isn’t crushed,
stubbed out beneath a clumsy heel?
Who hasn’t stood at the open window,
sleepless, for the solace of the damp air?
I had to get old to carry both buckets
yoked on my shoulders. Sweet
and bitter waters I drink from.
Let me know you, ox you.
I want your scent in my hair.
I want your jokes.
Hang your kisses on all my branches, please.
Sink your fingers into the darkness of my fur.
The war was all over my hands. I held the war and I watched them die in high-definition. I could watch anyone die, but I looked away. Still, I wore the war on my back. I put it on every morning. I walked the dogs and they too wore the war. The sky overhead was clear or it was cloudy or it rained or it snowed, and I was rarely afraid of what would fall from it. I worried about what to do with my car, or how much I could send my great-aunt this month and the next. I ate my hamburger, I ate my pizza, I ate a salad or lentil soup, and this too was the war. At times I was able to forget that I was on the wrong side of the war, my money and my typing and sleeping sound at night. I never learned how to get free. I never learned how not to have anyone’s blood on my own soft hands.
dedicated to my 30/30 crew
praise daily poems in my inbox
how they make me laugh in one stanza,
then break my heart the next
praise how poets hold onto our first loves,
and scent of mama, now gone
praise how we nurture our child self,
gently wrap her around stanzas,
baby girl is resilient
praise our spunk and our sadness,
let our writing heal
at home, at work, in cafés, even in the ICU
praise how we hold our memories up to light,
gentle and cupped in palm of hands
praise our rough and sexy poems,
sometimes that’s all we need
fiyah in the sheets
praise bebop and jazz
how my foot taps when i
speak your poems out loud
praise power of music and mama
who played Nancy Wilson all night long,
crying behind a closed door.
praise how i wrote a new poem this week,
while my sick child laid on my lap,
because everyone needs to heal, especially mamas.
Her blue dress is a silk train is a river
is water seeps into the cobblestone streets of my sleep, is still raining
is monsoon brocade, is winter stars stitched into puddles
is good-bye in a flooded, antique room, is good-bye in a room of crystal bowls
and crystal cups, is the ring-ting-ring of water dripping from the mouths
of crystal bowls and crystal cups, is the Mississippi River is a hallway, is leaks
like tears from windowsills of a drowned house, is windows open to waterfalls
is a bed is a small boat is a ship, is a current come to carry me in its arms
through the streets, is me floating in her dress through the streets
is only the moon sees me floating through the streets, is me in a blue dress
out to sea, is my mother is a moon out to sea.
for Jericho, with thanks to Carl Phillips
I like men who are cruel to me;
men who know how I will end;
men who, when they touch me,
fasten their shadows to my neck
then get out my face when certain
they haven’t much use for being seen.
I like men to be cruel to me.
Any men who build their bodies into
widths of doors I only walk through
once will do. There’s a difference
between entrances and exits I don’t
have much use for now. I’ve seen
what’s left behind after a hawk
has seized a smaller bird midair.
The feathers lay circled in prattle
with rotting crab apples, grasses passing
between the entrances and exits
of clover. The raptor, somewhere
over it, over it. Cruelty where?
The hell would grief go in a goshawk?
It’s enough to risk the open field,
its rotten crab apples, grasses passing
out like lock-kneed mourners in sun.
There I was, scoping, scavenging
the damage to drag mystery out of
a simple read: two animals wanted
life enough to risk the open field
and one of them took what it hunted.
Each one tells me he wants me
vulnerable. I already wrote that book.
The body text cleaved to the spine,
simple to read as two animals wanting
to see inside each other and one
pulling back a wing to offer—See?
Here—the fastest way in or out
and you knew how it would end.
You cleaved the body text to the spine
cause you read closely. You clock damage.
It was a door you walked through once
before pivoting toward a newer image of risk.
The places where Edmonia’s bones were fractured still hold violent reverberations. When it rains I massage the static hum out of each point of impact. There is nothing heavier than flesh that wishes to be on another axis, except perhaps stone she shaped. Tonight she tells me, it’s impossible to bring a lover to the small death she deserves. An orgasm is excavated, never given. She takes my face in her hands without permission. I take her waist with care not to treat her like a healing thing. My fear winnows. She is digging me out of my misery with her fugitive hands. No one has ever led me out of myself the way she does when we move as though the species depends on our pleasure. She makes a pocket of me until I cry. I’ve seen that field, the site of her breaking, in the empty parking lot I cut through to class. There is nothing left for us to forge in Oberlin, and still we remain, Edmonia a sentient rock, swallowing her own feet in want of motion. We fit on this twin sized bed only by entanglement. We survive here by the brine of our brutish blood.
I ask the new migrant if he regrets leaving Russia.
We have dispensed already with my ancestry.
He says no. For a time, he was depressed. He found
with every return he missed what he left behind.
A constant state of this. Better to love by far
where you are. He taps the steering wheel of his car,
the hum of the engine an imperceptible tremble
in us. When he isn’t driving, he works tending
to new trees. I’ve seen these saplings popping
up all over the suburbs, tickling the bellies
of bridges, the new rooted darlings of the State.
The council spent a quarter mil on them &
someone, he—Lilian—must ensure the dirt
holds. Gentrification is climate-friendly now.
I laugh and he laughs, and we eat the distance
between histories. He checks on his buds daily.
Are they okay? They are okay. They do not need
him, but he speaks, and they listen or at least
shake a leaf. What a world where you can live off
land by loving it. If only we cared for each other
this way. The council cares for their investment.
The late greenery, that is, not Lilian, who shares
his ride on the side. I wonder what it would cost
to have men be tender to me regularly,
to be folded into his burly, to be left on the side
of the road as he drove away, exhausted. Even
my dreams of tenderness involve being used
& I’m not sure who to blame: colonialism,
capitalism, patriarchy, queerness or poetry?
Sorry, this is a commercial for the Kia Sportage
now. This is a commercial for Lilian’s thighs.
He didn’t ask for this and neither did I—how
language drapes us together, how stories tongue
each other in the back seat and the sky blurs
out of frame. There are too many agonies
to discuss here, and I am nearly returned.
He has taken me all the way back, around
the future flowering, back to where I am not,
to the homes I keep investing in as harms.
I should fill them with trees. Let the boughs
cover the remembered boy, cowering
under a mother, her raised weapon
not the cane but the shattering within,
let the green tear through the wall
paper, let life replace memory. Lilian, I left
you that day, and in the leaving, a love
followed. Isn’t that a wonder and a wound?
Tell me which it is, I confess I mistake the two.
I walk up the stairs to my old brick apartment
where the peach tree reaches for the railing,
a few blushing fruits poking through the bars,
eager to brush my leg, to say linger, halt.
I want to stop, to hold it for real, just once
but I must wait until I am safe.
with the anemone zero.
Drink 12 oz. of coffee in Longmont.
Are you parched?
Is your name Pinky?
What color is the skin of your inner arm, creamy?
Valentine City rebate: a box of chocolates from Safeway.
Yours, yours, yours.
In its entirety.
Don't collude with your inability to give or receive love.
Collude, instead, with the lining of the universe.
Descent, rotation, silk water, brief periods of intense sunlight
striated with rose pink glitter.
The glitter can only get us.
Here we are at the part with the asphalt, airstream Tupperware,
veins, some nice light stretching.
This is a poem for a beloved.
Who never arrived.
When my partner asks me for a self-
portrait, I tell them:
Just out of high school
I worked as a statue
of liberty. I wore blue velvet
and danced along an off-
shoot of route 6. Mascot
for freedom—I advertised
a tax agency. I had come
out that year.
down their windows,
threw lit cigarettes, trash, pennies.
I have always been one for retaliation.
So I threw the torch.
My partner and I research the back-
yard tree with purple droppings
until we discover
she’s a true princess.
Royal green blood with roots
the size of bodies.
This princess is invasive.
She garden-snakes under
our home and upheaves
what we thought we knew
of ourselves. And god,
isn’t it terrible to gender
even a tree. Isn’t it terrible
that she reminds us of what
we’ve named our bodies’
shortcomings. A flower
concaved as cunt
seems, right now, like a betrayal
we will never forgive.
I dream that my partner leaves me
for eight years in the Coast Guard,
a kraken stings the surface
of this dark blue nightmare.
Split this dream in half and it becomes
four years and I still don’t know
how to swim. None of this is real.
But god, my partner loves the water,
enough even, for me to get in.
When my partner turns their hands
into window blinds, they smooth
my aging forehead with this new
type of shade, they call my skin
into perfect order with their skin.
I tell my partner I will be polite
only when I like what I see
through them. They understand
that this world is hell
bent beyond repair.
there is a peace.
Inside one another
neither of us remembers gender—the meaning
of her or hers. She is lost
to space. He was never
that great to begin with.
We even misplaced the meaning of girl.
If we knew where it had been left,
we still wouldn’t go get it.
Today I am the age
of an arsenal
Between my partner’s legs
I speak the whole
alphabet. They stop me
when I’m close
to what feels right.
At the end of the day
all we have is this ritual
of love, and that, I think,
will be enough
to live forever.
I want to grow old with you.
So old we pad through the supermarket
using the shopping cart as a cane that steadies us.
I’ll wait at register two in my green sweater
with threadbare elbows, smiling
because you’ve forgotten the bag of day-old pastries.
The cashier will tell me a joke about barbers as I wait.
He repeats the first line three times
but the only word I understand is barber.
Over the years we’ve caught inklings
of our shrinking frames and hunched spines.
You’re a little confused
looking for me at the wrong register with a bag
of almost-stale croissants clenched in your hand.
The first time I held your hand it felt enormous in my own.
Sasquatch, I teased you, a million years ago.
Over here, I yell, but not in a mad way.
You have a bright yellow pin on your coat that says, Shalom!
Senior Discount, you say.
But the cashier already knows us.
We’re everyone’s favorite customers.
What was unforeseen is now a bird orbiting this field.
What wasn’t a possibility is present in our arms.
It shall be and it begins with you.
Our often-misunderstood kind of love deems dangerous.
How it frightens and confounds and enrages.
How strange, unfamiliar.
Our love carries all those and the contrary.
It is most incandescent.
So, I vow to be brave.
Clear a path through jungles of shame and doubt and fear.
I’m done with silence. I proclaim.
It shall be and it sings from within.
Truly we are enraptured
With Whitmanesque urge and urgency.
I vow to love in all seasons.
When you’re summer, I’m watermelon balled up in a sky-blue bowl.
When I’m autumn, you’re foliage ablaze in New England.
When in winter, I am the tender scarf of warm mercies.
When in spring, you are the bourgeoning buds.
I vow to love you in all places.
High plains, prairies, hills and lowlands.
In our dream-laden bed,
Cradled in the nest
Of your neck.
Deep in the plum.
It shall be and it flows with you.
We’ll leap over the waters and barbaric rooftops.
You embrace my resilient metropolis.
I adore your nourishing wilderness.
I vow to love you in primal ways.
I vow to love you in infinite forms.
In our separateness and composites.
To dust and stars and the ever after.
Intrepid travelers, lovers, and family
We have arrived.
Look. The bird has come home to roost.
the clock is on time
because the stars fall
because all form forms time
falls on the body
freezes a book
beneath the water
because the water is an organ
because all arguments are similar
because we can never discover the subject
because is always an object
which is an object among objects
which is neither and or
because we expect to find a similar
before a different set of circumstances
being repeated for convenience
causing a similar
to seem familiar
which we think
has an experimental conclusion
similar to a set of circumstances
based on an object
that falls in the water
which is a simile
because nothing is like an egg
or a concept of an egg
because there is no apparent singular
couched in a connection between
sensible and secret powers
because the question occurs in a medium
which is a thing
among other things
multiplied times a hundred times
a thought is an object within a thought
an oncoming proposition
of a possible position
a reference to clocks on the body
as an object without a memory
a memory without thoughts
because the future will resemble the past
because we want our colors to match
because on a supposition
resembling something that could happen
because the hand that shook the hand
of another mislaid thought
is based on an object
that relates to the clock
what matters is a seat
in a new convertible
because what matters is good theme music
an antidote to putting the horse before the cart
or a thought with an anecdote
because the object could swim before it could walk
like interchangeable silence is a demand
for milk in your pudding
because we are doing the doing
which is based on the bones of direction
because matter is everywhere
and like a hammer
we feel the touch before meaning
remember touch through memory
as an object with destiny
that wrote an essay
something that astonished someone
that's now a thought in time
that has a past
that's now newer than before
before it could ever be a question
for memorial at Zinc Bar, 23 June 2007, NYC I am your sugarplum fairy commodore in chief. —kari edwards conturbabimus illa. (Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus [let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love]) —Catullus V.II damesirs of fishairs princes reginae I don't need this botheration guilded toe in a gendered pension embedded narcissism skirts can or could not be worn w/ intentional disgrace getting oh-aff I sleep where I sit gog and magog ope myopia sweetness and delight do it for sidney, as starlover did rue on star, thir mistress cloying the lack, with thir poesis toying twill never hurt regina prince alack, areft locks beset candle agrove a buck in a corridor as like with likeness grace the tongue and sweets with sweets cloy them among conturbabimus illa let us confound them beasts implored and character impaled agathas breast in a 14th century pincer anon 7 heads w/ 7 comings on horns on their horns wings at their feet and at their wings well you have three seconds to live bespeckled apprentice freckled daylily a penny uneasily pleaded myrtle iron bootblackening at the speed we levatate con there is no missus I am among limbed elms colluding with doves nor tide nor tail angels w/ svelte angles the rub and tug goils languid as jersey too early for supper etc was their pimp and whatever their sucker shitslinger master cleanser w/ corporate coffee and torture pâté my present page in l-l-livery old glut of a beast's spleen the glory over lordling socked ajaw nassau ablog by fairly a sweepmate a swoopster bedevilled in gullet swashbuckld by proxy homosexuality eh? red river andaloos funny albeit friday all the dork-rock gender suggests we levitate avec held captive patrón, bothermonger ah myrtle why sie is taken my mind impertinent parasol glossy wit promise of salt caint leave thir cellphone alone ipode eterna satellite viscera muscadetted papillon (that one) strident 17 stallions with horns on their heads and horns coming out of the horns a papillon that one a buck in a corridor conturbabimus illa let us confound them all ridded of giggling anthropomorphia aghast DL in the bowries the tee hee ambigenuity of amputee-wannabees googling tee hee silly faggot dicks are for chicks dicks are for chicks wicked hee to bury my heart at my heart was in my knee
Admitted to the hospital again.
The second bout of pneumocystis back
In January almost killed him; then,
He'd sworn to us he'd die at home. He baked
Us cookies, which the student wouldn't eat,
Before he left--the kitchen on 5A
Is small, but serviceable and neat.
He told me stories: Richard Gere was gay
And sleeping with a friend if his, and AIDS
Was an elaborate conspiracy
Effected by the government. He stayed
Four months. He lost his sight to CMV.
One day, I drew his blood, and while I did
He laughed, and said I was his girlfriend now,
His blood-brother. "Vampire-slut," he cried,
"You'll make me live forever!" Wrinkled brows
Were all I managed in reply. I know
I'm drowning in his blood, his purple blood.
I filled my seven tubes; the warmth was slow
To leave them, pressed inside my palm. I'm sad
Because he doesn't see my face. Because
I can't identify with him. I hate
The fact that he's my age, and that across
My skin he's there, my blood-brother, my mate.
He said I was too nice, and after all
If Jodie Foster was a lesbian,
Then doctors could be queer. Residual
Guilts tingled down my spine. "OK, I'm done,"
I said as I withdrew the needle from
His back, and pressed. The CSF was clear;
I never answered him. That spot was framed
In sterile, paper drapes. He was so near
Death, telling him seemed pointless. Then, he died.
Unrecognizable to anyone
But me, he left my needles deep inside
His joking heart. An autopsy was done.
I'd read to him at night. His horoscope,
The New York Times, The Advocate;
Some lines by Richard Howard gave us hope.
A quiet hospital is infinite,
The polished, ice-white floors, the darkened halls
That lead to almost anywhere, to death
Or ghostly, lighted Coke machines. I call
To him one night, at home, asleep. His breath,
I dreamed, had filled my lungs--his lips, my lips
Had touched. I felt as though I'd touched a shrine.
Not disrespectfully, but in some lapse
Of concentration. In a mirror shines
The distant moon.
Huge dashes in the sand, two or three
times a year they swim like words
in a sentence toward the period
of the beach, lured into sunning
themselves like humans do—
smothered in the absence
of waves and high tides.
[Pilot whales beach themselves] when their sonar
becomes scrambled in shallow water
or when a sick member of the pod
heads for shore and others follow
61 of them on top of the South Island
wade into Farewell Spit.
18 needed help with their demises
this time, the sharp mercy
of knives still the slow motion heft
of each ocean heart.
Yes—even those born pilots,
those who have grown large and graceful
lose their way, found on their sides
season after season.
Is it more natural to care
or not to care?
Terrifying to be reminded a fluke
can fling anything or anyone
out of this world.
Oh, the endings we swim toward
Mysteries of mass wrong turns, sick leaders
and sirens forever sexy
land or sea.
The unequaled rush
and horror of forgetting
my girl positioned for a twerk session-
knees bent, hands below the thigh, tongue out, head
turned to look at her body’s precession.
she in tune. breath in. breasts hang. hips freshen.
she slow-wine. pulse waistline to a beat bled
for her, un-guilt the knees for the session.
fair saint of vertebrae- backbone blessing,
her pop- in innate. her pop- out self- bred,
head locked into her holied procession.
dance is proof she loves herself, no questions-
no music required, no crowd needed.
she arched into a gateway, protecting-
this dance is proof she loves me, no guessing.
a bronx bedroom, we hip-to-hip threaded.
she turn to me, tranced by her possessin’.
she coils herself to, calls forth a legend-
round bodied booty, bounce a praise ballad.
she break hold, turn whole in a twerk session.
body charmed, spell-bent, toward progressing.
You are someone with a penchant for dark
beers and pasts, walk-in closets and porch-step
smokes, who liked to ride it out to the depths
of the middle of Lake Hopatcong, spark
the flint of your lighter, take longing drags
and talk about hipster coffee and sex
with whipped cream designs—and sometimes, your next
lover—and dive in to put out the fag,
swim to the deck to peel off your cotton
boxers and wring them in your fighter’s fist.
It’s too cold in the fall on the water
we fall in, too naked for falling in
naked and docking unanchored like this.
I remember. You’d kiss me and shiver.
my lover is a woman
& when i hold her
feel her warmth
i feel good
then—i never think of
my family’s voices
never hear my sisters say
bulldaggers, queers, funny
come see us, but don’t
bring your friends
it’s ok with us,
but don’t tell mama
it’d break her heart
never feel my father
turn in his grave
never hear my mother cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?
my lover’s hair is blonde
& when it rubs across my face
it feels soft
feels like a thousand fingers
touch my skin & hold me
and i feel good
then—i never think of the little boy
who spat & called me nigger
never think of the policemen
who kicked my body & said crawl
never think of Black bodies
hanging in trees or filled
with bullet holes
never hear my sisters say
white folks hair stinks
don’t trust any of them
never feel my father
turn in his grave
never hear my mother talk
of her backache after scrubbing floors
never hear her cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?
my lover's eyes are blue
& when she looks at me
i float in a warm lake
feel my muscles go weak with want
then—i never think of the blue
eyes that have glared at me
moved three stools away from me
in a bar
never hear my sisters rage
of syphilitic Black men as
rage of sterilized children
watch them just stop in an
intersection to scare the old
never feel my father turn
in his grave
never remember my mother
teaching me the yes sirs & ma'ams
to keep me alive
never hear my mother cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?
& when we go to a gay bar
& my people shun me because i crossed
& her people look to see what's
wrong with her
drove her to me
& when we walk the streets
of this city
forget and touch
or hold hands
& the people
stare, glare, frown, & taunt
at those queers
every word taught me
every word said to me
every deed done to me
& then i hate
i look at my lover
& for an instant
then—i hold her hand tighter
& i can hear my mother cry.
Lord, what kind of child is this?