what my name is

September 8

is not a question I can answer or

sentence I can finish.

It’s a tightrope from you to me,

you could say. Or a rope to follow

in the haze of a blizzard. Heck,

I’d say. It’s the blizzard.

So we dance—

you want to know, and I don’t want to say.

Away and up, we sashay

around the outskirts of my name.

Away from vowels and letters,

I lead.

from a distance

December 4

Les,

Somehow it’s been months since I wrote with regularity, and

I can’t give you a solid reason why. Perhaps

because coming o u t         [to my parents]

was a big focus of mine, and now that I started

I don’t know how to proceed. The stress

of the initial conversation has lifted, and I am left

with the regular, daily work, and the need

for further conversations. But sometimes,

it’s just nice to breathe, and hunker

I’m not done. The work is not

done. But I’m alive, and perhaps

that (continuing) is as how it should be.

Did I tell you a year ago I learned a favorite author has Lyme?

I know I did not tell you

a friend was diagnosed with Lyme.

They keep shining, Les,

and every day, I think we all try

to do the best

we can at the time.

jack o’lantern tinder

October 30

Dear Les,

What’s a queer

up in the ether

in the basement sweeping cobwebs

or admiring clouds past a steeple

what’s self love and honesty

what’s advertising and marketing

on a smartphone for hand

holding and/or

finding midnight

snacks with somebody

What’s looking through ads when you never even

used to know about Black Friday

I couldn’t tell you a penny from

a sigh, couldn’t tell you

a nickle from a dime, and nope

I’m not placing a value

on anybody

I’m wondering about lots of things

including tinder, and

why it feels like

I’ve stacked kindling

to burn artery and vain

with a lick, with a spit of flame

it’s difficult to swipe right or left

when you are shy

about swiping right on yourself

I’ve built this ship to do things other than sail

and swipe right

or swipe at all

Back to the beginning—

spiders weave clouds that catch

instead of give

They glow

once you see them

Fish flit below the hull of this ship

and I’m a queer up in here

what of it

the marveling

IMG_0511

One day somebody will catch me

below a brick tower

with my right palm and forehead pressed

against cobweb to rectangles of

flaking red, churned purple caught

mid-roil, crisped sienna

turned mirage of tree above water,

melted chocolate,

char from abandoned fire—

 

Somebody will glance at the wildflower weeds

bunched in a tiny bouquet in my left palm,

a blade of grass tying them together,

and say to me,

It’s time you got serious about your life.

Love, I’ll reply mid-marvel,

What ever made you think I wasn’t?

 

 

Because Bukowski Asked

April 19

 

I get the roar sometimes, I’m telling Bukowski.

Fingers holding pen, pressing against the wart which

maybe is from writing—

pens, did you give me HPV?

(warts come from viruses, yeah, that’s nasty)

I’m nasty, I’m fire, I’m fine

and Bukowski, he doesn’t give a fuck, I know.

22 years with a body in a grave or ashes cast

He doesn’t care, He wouldn’t if he were alive

 

This was his message:

If you care about approval, you’re not getting it—

if you’re writing for others, you won’t get them.

 

He won’t give a shit but I’m still sayin

a fire is roaring

arm hair would scorch if I stayed and didn’t write. this is

for no one

 

There was that time a lover told me she masturbated

after reading my poem published on the Academy

and she came so hard

. Was that foreplay?

I kept my underwear on

 

That she was surprised by my fire

when I loosed words, held their vowel and consonant hands

marched them along, rolled and narrowed my eyes

and purred

 

—As if i couldn’t be a ringmaster

of my own.       No one who expected me

to be timid with my words ever knew me.

 

She didn’t. Bukowski, keep ignoring me

 

 

If you have to say the basics to someone, maybe it doesn’t matter

what you’d ever want to tell them

so I’ll keep it to myself.

There is a roar in me.

 

Do not expect complacency. I’m woken

 

Hey Les. For National Poetry Month, Powell’s Books is running a Poetry Madness 15 percent sale on poetry titles and a fun class superlatives contest on its website. Every few days, folks can vote on a poet for a different superlative. There are a lot of poets I don’t know so I end up researching everyone. Today’s vote was for “Most Likely to Be Caught Smoking in the Bathroom.” I’m ridiculously thoughtful with my answers. Besides thinking about who was likely to smoke in the bathroom or some similarly frowned upon activity, I thought about who would have been caught. Bukowski wasn’t my answer but I stumbled across his poem so you want to be a writer? in the process. I love it. Feeling both fierce and whimsical, I penned a quick response while at my desk. I wish words always poured from me the way Bukowski writes about, but I’m grateful for the times they do.

moments that cry out to be fulfilled

April 16

Dear Les,

There’s a studio in this city that has a pair of my pajamas on top of its dresser and a toothbrush and thing of floss for me in the bathroom. How this happened in a matter of weeks, I’m uncertain. If I told you when the studio apartment’s occupant and I met, I’d spend a few minutes gasping about our timeline. So here’s this for now: things have been going fast, but it’s somehow felt comfortable and natural, and I’ve tried to refrain from second-guessing a good thing.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have some little walls up or brakes installed for protection—who am I without brakes or bricks and mortar? But I’ve felt mostly free of those things since first meeting D. Perhaps time with FKS and our unceremonious parting (ghosting, Les) and my dad’s health stuff shook up me enough that I was in a complete “live and let live” frame of mind when D and I met. I felt relaxed, comfortable in my skin and mind, and (as a result) playful. D was attractive, a great conversation partner, and I laughed and teased a lot from the onset.

Dating is really weird when a person stops to consider. (Two or more people engaging with each other in ways they don’t engage with others, including, in some cases, physical intimacy? How and why?) It’s tricky, too. As comfortable as D and I seem to be with one another, I’m not without my reservations about dating right now. What we’re doing feels like a relationship but that’s not what either of us were looking for.

But it’s sweet to hold someone’s hand and be myself with them, and sense, despite having recently met, that they are at ease with me too. I’ve been leaning in to this clover-filled patch of my life and thinking about how Mary Oliver would finally smile and approve of my abandon. My life isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a lovely, beautiful mess that’s being lived. Perhaps that makes it a masterpiece.

 

“Moments” by Mary Oliver

There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled.

Like, telling someone you love them.

Or giving your money away, all of it.

 

Your heart is beating, isn’t it?

You’re not in chains, are you?

 

There is nothing more pathetic than caution

when headlong might save a life,

even, possibly, your own.

 

-From Oliver’s book of poems, Felicity

Andrea Gibson, Hawthorne Theater, Anxiety, Menstrual Storm, Living

March 9

Dear Les,

I wrote the following poem last night while waiting for Andrea Gibson to come on stage at a local theater. My buddy and I have passed by the landmark brick building all of our lives but hadn’t entered since it became a theater in high school. I’ll admit I’ve long associated it with bands I don’t recognize and shivering goth/emo/queer teenagers waiting outside.

In trying to show up on-time early, my buddy and I unwittingly showed up two hours early and were some of the queers waiting outside in the rain. My buddy was excited to see Gibson and nervous about the possibility of seeing their ex with her new girlfriend. I was tired, unsure about an evening where I might run into FKS, and bleeding from my vagina. We were soon joined by their girlfriend whom I met for the first time and her two friends. I was humbled that they were all kind, warmhearted, and easy to talk to. Upon obtaining entry to the theater and collecting wrist ink, we still had an hour to kill before the opener. There was a bar accessible to everyone but me; in walking to the theater, I’d forgotten everything but my journal, pen, and PANSY at home. I waved off the others, leaned against the sound box, gazed around the dark theater, unsuccessfully squinted at a couple of pages of PANSY, then opened my journal and let my pen race. It had been a long day, and week, and month.

 

The new version of anxiety is lucid dreaming

of wooden deck chairs tattooed onto the big toes

of an old friend and the first girl I ever fell for

at a dinner in a formal sun porch dining room

of my house which was not my own—

she and her friend at the table, and a man

my dad’s age having a heart attack and me jumping,

running to the landline, not thinking

of my cracked but still croaking iPhone on the table

in front of me or the other smart phones in the room.

I guess I just needed some tether to the land to hold

one week after surgeons cut open my dad’s chest

for open heart surgery.

Last night, I woke up with pressure in my chest

several times, a dark curtain descending.

At work this morning, a coworker said it could be gas—

I wondered how the air knotted itself so high

in my chest cavity.

 

And I write this from the blue light periphery

of the sound box in the teenagers’ Hawthorne Theater,

waiting alone in the nonbar section, which is the main section,

which is not, of course, the main section,

with my journal for my friend and their girlfriend and friends,

and headliner Andrea Gibson,

and perhaps the girl who ghosted me and took a minute

to apologize and admit she was ghosting me

and perhaps her ex-girlfriend who could have retired the

e and x, and perhaps the departure of these gas molecules,

this anxiety.

I look around. I wish I had a wooden deck chair beside me.

 


After writing this poem, I gave my buddy my stuff then ran the .7 miles home in the rain, where I switched rain jackets, grabbed my wallet and keys, went to the bathroom, lay on my floor for thirty seconds and yelled/laughed to my brother (“my gas is so bad”), took two aspirin, went to the bathroom again, then ran back to the theater—outpacing a far more sensibly-dressed man running with his dog. I made it in time for the opener, SOAK, with minor menstrual storminess. Both SOAK and Andrea Gibson were wonderful. I didn’t run into FKS, but my buddy and I did happily share hugs with P, who ended up being there with a friend. In that fishbowl of queers, I think my buddy and I were both relieved we avoided any interactions with exes/folks with whom things might not have been as comfortable.

Also, maybe you already read this from wherever you are, but Gibson dedicated PANSY to you. The dedication:

“With gratitude for the art and activism of Leslie Feinberg who died of Lyme Disease on November 15, 2014.”

And your quotes:

“Gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught.”

“I do not believe that our sexuality, gender expression and bodies can be liberated without making a ferocious mobilization against imperialist war and racism an integral part of our struggle.”

A fitting tribute, Les. I hope you are well, wherever you are.

 

what i am not (last week’s scribbles)

February 23

Les,

Sometimes I doodle between phone calls. Last week before Yosemite, this was one of my page’s tangles of words. Inspired, no doubt, by my discomfort dating someone with a partner—then that someone going through a break-up, and my sensing that for multiple reasons, now’s not a great time for us to date. Any angst in the tangle is not intended to be directed at that person. I think she’s quite lovely. In general, these are things I never hope to be to anyone I’m involved with. Was anyone else ever irritated by All American Reject’s song Dirty Little Secret when it was popular?

 

What I am not:

an emergency exit or escape

a break from your girlfriend/SO/partner

a secret

your cigarette

cutlery

 

I could be scribbles,

could be condensation turned trickle

could be a surprise candy from

the colorful piñata, skidded beneath picnic table.

Could be a conversation

about superheroes, or ethics, or plans.

I could be a hand.

 

I am not your distraction.

 

Until, perhaps, someday I am:

mouth on mouth, laughing, teasing

joking about where we could be,

not particularly caring

because our distracting one another

is not really

a distraction.

 

Address to Self, 2/8

February 8

Les, I talk to myself

and from the doctor comes

the prescription:

      No texts, no flirts,

no cocks crowing on the roofs

of coops at four in the morning;

No hunting for wilds

in the middle

of November foggy down.

In short, keep the turkey cold.

Consider a cessation

on jokes and winky faces.

The point on the pencil,

graphite

since well before the lead rumors,

is that you (meaning I)

may not fall

for someone with a girlfriend,

no matter

how cool they may be (with it).

Stone,

this is no time to soften.

(an)other human

January 29

I am playing with fire, Les

even with flame smoking

                         out of sight.

                    *

I woke up from a dream

to a dream of texts

composed, never sent,

but received:

I told her “sentiment is waiting”

and she replied about her girlfriend

as if I was referring to us

and how she was glad we had a boardgame to sit

and play because she was waiting

for their anniversary

                     *

What “sentiment,” what “boardgame,”

and         why?

                       *

Why these words after repeatedly

telling me about her crushing—

                       *

When did I become an other human,

not just another human? I break

my rules, Les,

I said never to this happening.

                       *

I am stone and sticks broken

by words

or words broken by stone

and sticks.

                        *

She may be poly, but I am monogamous

with a history

of running. I am not good

with commitment

because I am afraid

of settling

                                      now    or     then

                          *

And I had told her sentiment is waiting

because I am soft

but far (too) stone

for her to receive warmth and flame

from me.

                      *

My limbs are only kindling

cluttered by ice.