“The nutritionist said I should eat root vegetables.
Said if I could get down thirteen turnips a day
I would be grounded, rooted.
Said my head would not keep flying away
to where the darkness lives.
The psychic told me my heart carries too much weight.
Said for twenty dollars she’d tell me what to do.
I handed her the twenty. She said, “Stop worrying, darling.
You will find a good man soon.”
The first psycho therapist told me to spend
three hours each day sitting in a dark closet
with my eyes closed and ears plugged.
I tried it once but couldn’t stop thinking
about how gay it was to be sitting in the closet.
The yogi told me to stretch everything but the truth.
Said to focus on the out breath. Said everyone finds happiness
when they care more about what they give
than what they get.
The pharmacist said, “Lexapro, Lamicatl, Lithium, Xanax.”
The doctor said an anti-psychotic might help me
forget what the trauma said.
The trauma said, “Don’t write these poems.
Nobody wants to hear you cry
about the grief inside your bones.”
But my bones said, “Tyler Clementi jumped
from the George Washington Bridge
into the Hudson River convinced
he was entirely alone.”
My bones said, “Write the poems.”
“When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… Grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.”
“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”
This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me
The simple News that Nature told,
With tender Majesty
Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see
For love of Her — Sweet — countrymen
Judge tenderly — of Me
May I write words more naked than flesh,
stronger than bone, more resilient than
sinew, sensitive than nerve.
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along a beach one night —
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky ––the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.
And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,
and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.Poetry fills me with joyand I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.But mostly poetry fills me with the urge to write poetry,
to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame
to appear at the tip of my pencil.And along with that, the longing to steal,
to break into the poems of others
with a flashlight and a ski mask.And what an unmerry band of thieves we are,
cut-purses, common shoplifters,
I thought to myself
as a cold wave swirled around my feet
and the lighthouse moved its megaphone over the sea,
which is an image I stole directly
from Lawrence Ferlinghetti —
to be perfectly honest for a moment –the bicycling poet of San Francisco
whose little amusement park of a book
I carried in a side pocket of my uniform
up and down the treacherous halls of high school.
People always ask me, “How do you memorize all that?” And the truth is, the first girl I ever kissed tasted like tomatoes. I know this because the second girl I ever kissed tasted like pepper. It wasn’t unpleasant, it was just, I was expecting tomatoes. When I was a kid, I learned that time slows near a black hole. Inside a black hole time stops all together. Whether or not this theory will ever be proved, I am moved to believe, this would be the perfect place to love someone.
In grade four my gym teacher gave me the nickname half ton. It was a name that stuck. I remember it because it was the first time I ever told someone, “Go fuck yourself,” and meant it. He quit calling me the name after he called my house trying to get me in trouble for what I’d said, to which my grandmother replied, “Mr Shithead, I told him to say it!”
I remember my grandfather’s blue toolkit, where he hid a secret stash of raisins. I recall thinking, “My granddad has the worst taste in candy.” But he did teach me how to tie a tie.
My first opportunity to apply this knowledge was my first date. A seventh grade classmate who showed up wearing acid washed jeans and a death leopard t-shirt; I wore a suit and tie. When she asked why I was all dressed I had to think quickly and told her, “I thought it’d be funny.” I don’t wanna say it ended badly but she wound up leaving me for a boy who could make farting noises with his armpit. I’m forced to admit, it was pretty cool.
In fourth grade my teacher had a rule about speaking out of turn. Failure to learn and practice this lesson would result in having to sit outside. I know this because I tried it once. When she finally came out to check on me she asked, “What was so important that it couldn’t wait?” Knowing that it’s rude to point but needing to illustrate my position, I gestured to her chest and said, “Your boob is hanging out.” She quickly covered up and corrected me, “Breast.” She was a good teacher.
When I was twelve I was given an academic diagnostics test. The instructor later informed me I had an aptitude for history. He looked puzzled when I replied, “Yeah, but that was yesterday and today I’m more interested in tomorrow.”
I remember it because the next day I asked a girl if I could borrow a pen. When I offered it back she said, “You should write me a letter with it first.” So I did, I wrote her a note which the teacher then intercepted and read to the class. It was something we’d learned in science that day. About how the way gravity affects mass and weight in relation to how quickly something will fall.
Example: A crumpled ball of paper will fall at the same speed as a chunk of granite. It doesn’t matter how much something weighs, it stays the same until you consider surface area and resistance, at which point the persistence of gravity loses force.
Example: Crumple a piece of paper into a ball, it’ll fall more quickly than a loose sheet. They’re both composed of the same mass and weight so you’d think that the rate of velocity measured by the force of gravity would fall each to fall at the same speed. But that’s when you need to consider the greater surface area of the loose sheet adds resistance, so the crumpled ball will fall quickly and the loose sheet will slowly float.
I wrote a note, saying that “When two people fall in love, they do so at the same speed.” There’s no need to factor in the physics. Explanations are something we can make no use of. Einstein once wrote, “Gravity will not be held responsible for people falling in love.” I wrote a note saying, “If I fall in love with you, no one will ever be able to explain it,” and I think that’s beautiful.
Despite the class laughing, and she did as well. Which is how I can tell you that I then knew and now still know, she tasted like tomatoes.
I don’t remember the way every song goes, I can’t recall every person I’ve ever met, I get names mixed up all the time, I’m terrible with birthdays. But I remember all the ways people have affected me; how our stories became memories; and if you’re brazen enough to make one with me, you’re in there somewhere. Maybe it was a truth or dare kiss, or a simple act of kindness, one that reminded me to remember the moment and mark it as a memory so I could have it to look back on.
From this life, I’ve drawn conclusions so big that you can’t fit into the tiny comic book boxes. Because I don’t wanna risk losing the details just so I can make the story fit.
It’s not a trick. I remember how things felt, which in turn makes me remember how things happened.Like my first attempt at skateboarding, when I received a down to the bone skinned knee.
I remember a tree that looked like a man with huge arms trying to hold up the sky. I used to try and climb to the top until one day I did and couldn’t get down.
I remember the man with the brown car who tried to convince me he was sent to pick me up by my mom. Number one: I lived with my grandparents. Number two: You didn’t know the safety word. I recall when it finally occurred to me, I’m pretty fantastic.
It’s not magic. I remember because I make comparisons, and not in terms of better or worse, just different. And not all of these memories are great, but they’re mine. Which lends weight to the belief that none are our lives are put together on an assembly line. We’re not prepackaged with emotions or programmed with stories, we have to make our own. And they all come batteries not included. Amid the endless opportunities we have daily, seldom do we take the time necessary to pause; to stop; to record, rewind, and press play. In our own way we are all ghetto blasters at top volume. We consume silence with noise. Speakers pounding at our heartbeats as we write refund receipts for the broken eardrums of people that could hear us live. We give of ourselves time, precious because it’s quality is limited only by your ability to live within it. Put yourself into every second of every minute and you will have a life worth remembering. Just because we don’t have forever, doesn’t mean we have to move towards the end as if we’re on a conveyor belt. I feel nothing short of astonished when people ask me, “How do you memorize all that?”
The fact is, it’s not a trick. There’s no fake curtain you need to pull away. No little old man making it all work from behind a locked door. You yourself probably remember when I told you before that near a black hole, time slows. Inside a black hole, is where I wanted to grow tomatoes.
12 months ago today, we stood in silence fading further and further away and refused to say “goodbye” for fear that the farewell might solidify our fate. I’ve knocked on every inch of this wooden vessel to keep that fear from coming true.
“Goodbye” is such a definite word.
An infinite word.
An intimate word.
Well in case you hadn’t heard, there are no waterfalls at the edge of the world that fall off into eternity.
I’m bringing home scrimshaw to hang from the walls, or the branches, or the balcony. Father gave me two teeth from the beast they harpooned last week, and they’ve been flensing the creatures at dock, while I’ve been trying to get my feet steady underneath these sea legs.
I had a week or more to explore those foreign shores while the crew and the captain knocked at every brothel door, and I imagine I’ve got scores of siblings on this island, considering the captain is an island unto himself.
Give it time. There are a thousand orphans forgiving their fathers seventy times seven times, and I met one of them that week who became a friend of mine. He reminded me of you. Don’t be jealous, he wasn’t quite as cute, and he didn’t have a feathered headdress or the tomahawk that you’ve been using to build my shelter. God knows I’m going to need it:
But we followed a road out to the country that he said he’d known about for years, and claimed it was haunted. Boys always tell those tales when they want to put their arms around you.
Monster films were made for men on first dates.
Well, I went along. The landscape stood frigid, frost painted and I contemplated the warm blanket that you would have been in all that cold. I saw ghosts every time I opened my mouth to breathe in and out and pretended it was smoke, like the bubble-gum cigarettes that we used to get from the corner store before it died with your dad, and acted like they were opiates before the buffalo dance.
The fog was like poetry: difficult to define but I am completely indifferent to what it means so long as we are able to get lost in it.
The boy and I met a mystic at the top of the mountain. The mist cut her straight in two, layers over her legs to keep the cold from coming through, but belly up, half a sundress, and she looked at us and said, “Get your head out of the clouds.” So with the sun shining down, I’ve been thinking about what she meant.
She gave a speech about separating herself and related it to the whales. Said, “when the seamen dig their talons in to empty them and burn their substance for oil, remember they had to separate to find their true worth.” And with the white dividing her skeleton frame, like a personified worldview, it was the cloudiest case for dualism that I have ever heard of. She told us her feet were evil because they’d touched the ground, ears guilty by association because they’d heard the sound, with a mind, wicked, that wandered and wondered about music, sex, love and the men in the town below.
“I don’t know.
I don’t know.”
She sounds like my grandparents trying to distinguish between antique Negro Spirituals, done damned to hell for a pagan drumbeat and unholy…
I just hope that if we’re a true reflection of some magnanimous Other, I won’t have to assume that every inherent longing will find me buried alive. You’d think that if God created everything good, she wouldn’t stand up on a mountain proclaiming inanimate objects bad and demonizing the rest of creation like it’s the tempo’s fault that she’s stuck alone on a pedestal, cutting herself in half.
I want to dance to the music, drink wine to the melody, make love in our treehouse and rejoice over our son with laughter, someday. That’s got to come from somewhere. It makes me feel alive.
She was kind but I declined to follow in her footsteps, and kissed the boy on the cheek to, you know, stick it to the man – so to speak.
We left for the great unknown first thing this morning, and if I am going to die at sea, then I am going to be as holistically human as I possibly can be, and believe that I am that way for a reason.