This is the drink of a cardboard uncle gummed up with ambrosia. This is the drink of myself, a condemned mansion with hedge-maze arteries & I am flocculent with cabbage roses. Do you remember shooting my old blood between the eyes like a rabid dog? It is wrong to believe the bread is Christ & eat it anyways, so I shrike it to the bottom of the pew & tip the table once a week. There I come blooming from your nostrils in clumps of atom-less peonies & yet you’ll still cluck your tongue at the snap of my toe.
Back barn, wooded over & zapper-lit. A piece of top-skull, curved. A tiny moon or enlarged fingernail. Hands placed around it, finger bones feeling the hollow of their ancestor. Hair still mossed to the head, stubborn against plucking. A prayer. And then another prayer. And then a question. To what lock does she belong? In the aftermath, the death-mess keeps its chosen pronouns. She-bones, their-bones. Re-forms a whole identity. Something to feed. Tea sloshes around the bowl & the aftertaste of calcium & dust delivers us to the old bride.
"My visual work is based primarily on improvisation - on following the pen rather than preconceiving - and on loose associations. My many mistakes are guideposts which determine where a drawing goes next. I create as a way to process darkness into something tangible, something able to be crumpled, something funny and/or laughable."
PART I: MAKING UP
We carried our poverty on our rib cages,
nicotine stained fingertips,
and in our veins--
with the abandon of what was,
and the romantics that could be.
Our connections to each other
were ultimately built upon our
lack of connections
to the people
that culture told us would
care the most.
So we shoveled our histories
into compartmentalized valves;
t i m e and pressure
might condense them into
with our only tools,
to withstand the blows
of those who told us
we were not enough.
What we failed to realize
is that you cannot build a barricade
| To keep out
an enemy that is settled in your
PART II: MAKING DO
Sometimes I remember
he carried that ankle bracelet with more care
than his child,
wrapping it tenderly,
bathing it with a soft, wet, sponge.
And in the early morning,
on our family outing to the alley,
behind the grey building,
where he peed in a cup,
to prove his worth--
we would cross our fingers for him.
For his son.
And in the afternoon
we would park-hop with the baby,
playing P-I-G or H-O-R-S-E,
on creaky play-sets,
until the sun rested its brow
on the mountain’s ragged edge.
We would part
when the messy family car
pulled out of the parking lot,
leaving me behind to
prove my worth--
It still amazes me
different varieties of grease
can coat your soles
after a night of work.
How slick it makes each step
as you walk home along the highway.
Here, we laid to rest the bones
Of my grandmother’s house
In the country dirt
Velvety with worms.
As we light the wooden foundation,
In the blink of an adult eye,
A year disappears.
That’s why as children,
We can’t understand the value
Of staring contests.
Fighting the humidity
The fire climbs eagerly
Pulling itself along the peeling roof with blue-tipped fingers
Hungry for asbestos
Watching below, I remember:
Coffee, splashed with milk
Armed to the teeth with sugar
Marching across my mouth at the breakfast table
While she fanned a grease fire
Toward the open screen door.
Later, while searching for soda pop
In the back of the dusty pantry,
My cousins and I shrieked
Over the gams of a passing daddy long-leg.
Her nearby barn had a steeple
On top, a cloudy glass ball
She said it wards off lightning,
But I know the truth.
There is magic in this place.
As the flames engulf the porch,
I can hear screams inside
The living room several Christmases ago
Tearing of wrapping paper, siren-bright.
Flopped across pillows, swollen with ham and potatoes.
Now the house dissolves like a sandcastle,
On the beach of this bucolic landscape
As the moonless tide of prairie grasses
Sweeps it out to sea.
Here, we laid to rest the bones
Of my grandmother’s house
But in restless peace I find longing,
An ache for a home where magic from the sky
Finds new passage underground.
Hello, says the young woman with a taxi. She stares at the person standing at the sidewalk, the brown kid with a baggy pale blue t-shirt and a bright teal support cane and two duffel bags.
Hello, mixter, she says again, and Kas blinks and gets into the car.
At the station ey scans eir ticket from eir phone at the turnstile — a security guard squints at em but lets em pass — and takes a seat at Station No. 6, leaning eir cane against the bench. Ey rotates eir shoulder and winces; eir bags are too heavy and it feels funny. Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is very fun.
Next to em is some kid slumped over their backpack, asleep, earbuds in. Ey fingers the edge of eir wrist brace. Eir entire body is buzzing. Ey took eir meds before ey left but ey’s still anxious.
Kas waits for the ship.
When Jenna was fourteen and Kas was fifteen they were in that coffee shop in the middle of the desert, stirring her drink, a few months after the astronauts landed on Mars. “The scientists say they’re going to build an outpost.” She sighed. “Can you imagine? Not in our lifetime, I don’t think, but what I would give to go up there.”
Astronomy wasn’t something they could sustain themselves on. She moved to the Bay Area and got into computer software. Kas moved to Seattle and works part time as a barista in an indie café that pays decently well, and every time else as a freelance writer.
But it doesn’t keep them from dreaming of the stars.
Tech advanced faster than they thought it would. Now there are spaceships that take two hours to get to the Moon and soon, they’re going to start populating Mars, only a day trip away. All this time they’ve somehow managed to keep in touch.
Jenna’s moved to Luna with her girlfriend already, a few months after the one Habitat on its surface opened. She runs checks on the tech that keeps the city online.
Two weeks later, she texts.
She says things are stable. She’s got a week that she’s managed to clear out, wouldn’t ey like to come by for a few days?
Kas looks at eir life — thirty years old and ey’s accomplished approximately nothing except a farily impressive amount of slam poetry events and medical trauma.
Ey takes a few vacation days. It turns out indie cafés, the ones run by two trans women (who are married and adorable), are pretty good about that, even if they’re white. Ey packs a few changes of clothes in a duffel bag and fills the other with meds and braces and a spare cane. Jenna uses her engineer privilege and a few favors to get em a free round trip.
So here ey is.
The ship stops and the doors slide open with a hiss. Kas finds eir seat. Hefts a duffel bag on the overhead compartment. Pain shoots through eir wrists and back and shoulders but that’s how it is for most things. Connective tissue disorder means eir joints suck and about ten billion other symptoms besides.
Ey sticks the other one below the seat in front of em and sits down with a sigh. Window seat. Ey takes a breath. Can feel eir heart rate going up. Eir skin is hot and itchy and sweaty under the wrist braces so ey takes them off.
The engine hums to life.
Jenna smiles in this café like she did so many years ago, fifteen years older, dream come true. She stirs her coffee and talks about her job, the code she’s running, the stuff she’s seen up here.
They’ve both grown up, and changed, but some things stay the same.
Kas laughs with her. Tells her about eir writing, the customers ey has to deal with. Ey gets some weird looks — ey doesn’t look disabled, and ey and Jenna are brown, and there are only rich white folk living here right now — but ignores them.
This isn’t a long vacation. They might not see each other for a long time. She’s needed up here. And Kas isn’t rich enough to live here, and ey needs a place to pick up meds and a hospital nearby. It’s one thing to build a city and quite another to get people to stay.
But for now they’re together, and ey can forget the things ey has to do. And their faces glow with all the smugness of kids to whom grown-ups once said that’s impossible, and who proved them wrong.
They both got here in the end.
let me soak
in the uncertainty
of corrupted data
let me exist
within the gap between
reality and projection
i had so much to say but my lungs were empty
my lacrimal sac drained into the walls of my heart in a dream.
tears leaked and bloated the muscle to the point of near explosion.
the next morning I woke up with a faint sensation
of having survived drowning,
a twisted tongue,
and the trace of a sour half smile still warm on my face.
All the men I want are fallen
fruit, not so much forbidden,
as inadvisable to the salubrious
a tad fermented
a worm burrowing through
dark spots and dull skin
Not looking to play savior
I am so fabulously saved,
like red wine on a white shirt,
like seeds weeping into black dirt,
like a number in my phone
I never called
Do I want to be
beneath the tree
soft and tired
like holed-up holy fruit
I'm not addicted,
but it's my favorite kind
The stuff that's started to live
why does live mean leave
Why do I always compare
the hairs on your chest
to winter vines
Why do I crave to make kiddush
over your body
Sinking deeper into the earth
hope a distant, circling bird
my mouth comes upon you
hungry, tasteless animal
But in reality, I turn the pages
of the prayer book
and wonder if I'm rotten
june bugs cracking open. basil weep and wilt. late night illuminated by fake suns, sticky air, water hanging over us like thick film, glow & smoke. the sun set and set and set and never left.
under the moon, saw a fish drained. covered in butterflies. so sweet in death. so full of cold water. mouth leaking. finally after life the body tries to save itself.
three fireflies & soft flesh falling off the pit. all tender things i couldn’t catch. the air is supersaturated, threatening rain and birdsong. the wavelength of a cicadas scream is now palpable. see that redshift wail in between the trees?
over the phantom trees by the back wood,
girls find shelter in laps and butcher
hands, which slip like river water. i remember
that cold, that gray mistaken as exit wound,
that girl who told me to keep walking through
the billow, unsmoken bodied and hairstill.
we bury the shrapnel like pearls as the thaw
spits on the war exhibit with hail chips.
the scythe squeezes a blue syrup in the sky
and we assume this is the process of forgetting.
we learned what parts of ourselves
to kill and un-hue and how to nestle in other
people’s mouths -- to lose the mass of your own
ghost and the glints of family portraits
that ricochets like a white asterisk. our bellies
are filled with half-sharpened knives and apples
throat-rottened and beautiful.
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, 2012
We take your blue Cadillac,
paid for with a summer’s worth of minimum wage paychecks.
Sometimes, the driver’s side window falls off its track
and you lay on the hot blacktop with a screwdriver
trying to poke it back up from underneath the door.
I burn the backs of my thighs on the navy leather,
turn up the dial on your cassette player,
roll down the window and stick out my hand.
For the whole weekend, we dine on sliced oranges
and vodka for every meal.
When we hold hands, our fingers stick.
I walk around wearing almost nothing,
red toenails bright against bare feet,
and pay for my bravery with burnt skin.
On the Seaside Boardwalk, you buy me
an impossibly tiny cup of Dippin Dots,
freezer burnt and deliciously pink.
Astronaut ice cream, you call it,
and in the 3 pm sunshine, we snap our eyes shut
and imagine ourselves in the darkness of outer space, floating.
When I peek, your eyes are so crinkled
they have swallowed your long black eyelashes.
Every last one, whole.
On the amusement park swings, you are a blur of color:
hand-me-down green t-shirt, worn blue jeans,
white white teeth, red red popsicle lips.
You are not mine but yesterday,
my favorite song came on the radio, all sunshine twang,
and you knew all the words.
I turned around and in the backseat
I saw that you had packed two pillows.
You, brighter than white sunshine
bouncing off cold May waves.
ON LOVING A BOY
When you love a boy who did not always know that he was a boy,
loving him will be the most interesting thing about you.
You will have endless answers but their questions are always the same.
They want to know how long you knew,
how his body is changing,
how expensive it is,
if you’re, like, straight now,
and most of all, they want to know how you fuck.
Even the ones who don’t ask are asking how you fuck.
The sex does not really change but your hands do.
They learn where they are welcome
(the flat space in the middle of his chest, his ribcage,
shoulders) and recoil from the places they are not
(his breasts, the curve of his hips,
the slope of his thighs).
No one asks how you are but many people will call you brave.
This is confusing because you are not brave,
you are impatient.
When it all began, he shut down
so you gently corrected his mother when she talked about
the side effects of taking “steroids.”
You think maybe you never want to be a mother at all.
They rarely thank you for the information
and never ask what else you know.
(On average, there are 613 seeds in a pomegranate.
Virginia Woolf published Orlando in 1928.
Girls love boys all the time, and he still
takes his tea with three heaping spoonfuls of sugar.)