solid things

once I lived underwater. my only form was fluid, grains and grains of sand in no particular order. I looked all the same. I migrated under and over myself, and the water migrated under and over me. it was dark and I was the only solid thing.

the next solid thing was the sun. in the beginning, I was amazed. how real a massless thing could feel, how photons moved the water from my body and left me breathing. my peaks peeked out of the ocean, my knuckles and knees islands and my throat a trough.

the next solid thing was the forest which rooted in me so my newfound air would not blow me away. the woods took the sun and the water and me and made creaking songs of us. I never forget that it is the water that keeps me one thing, and not the sand from which I came.

the next solid thing was the bird who crawled for thousands of years from algae to bones. she carried pollen from my knuckle islands to yours, a fist-bump by way of outside wings. our trees grew like each other as she flew back and forth, leaf by leaf we began to match our forests by way of her wings and those of her children.

the next solid thing I am still waiting for, but it could be your peaks by my peaks, our original sand settling into stone under the water.

the ASPCA neutering clinic

when i drop my cat off:

the clinic is in a truck. it is set to arrive at 7a.m. but will only take the first 21 animals, so we get there early. i arrive at 5:37 a.m. after letting many teenage boys take pictures of my cat between 125th street and Petland Discounts 162 St. i am number 11 on the list. it is dark outside and we sit on various surfaces with our various pets to wait for the truck. there is a handsome man with a creamy voice and a chubby pug.

an old stubbly man across the sidewalk tells me he is known as doggy dennis in his neighborhood. doggy dennis is here with his neighbor’s dog. doggy dennis tells me i should have been a model and buys me coffee. says i must be smart if i’m going to columbia university. says his daughter-in-law went there and she’s soooo smart, uses words he doesn’t even know, he has to look them up in a dictionary. i tell him that doesn’t make her any smarter than anybody else and he says she’s so smart. i tell doggy dennis that i am majoring in neuroscience and he says he wanted to be a brain surgeon but never got the chance. i wonder if i had been a model would doggy dennis have gotten the chance to study brains?

there is a man who seems italian in his resemblance to my own bellowing uncles. his son has slicked back dark hair and his new dog loves him a lot. the son’s mother died recently. the man brags to me, i have five kids… all by the same wife. he asks me how i like the bronx because he knows from the shaved sides of my white head and my black boots with the elastic panels on the sides that i am not from around here. i say i like it very well and he says really? and i nod. he tells me how it needs restructuring. he tells me that the city has started developing affordable housing across the street from his parents’ apartment and gestures to the man sitting in front of the corner store rubbing his knee like he is trying to start a fire with the friction. now we have trash like that sitting in front of stores says the italian man with the five kids by the same dead wife.

a woman asks me in spanish if there is a sign-up list and i can’t get it together fast enough to say no habla espanol before someone jumps in to answer. the italian man says white! to the woman and you’re in the bronx now!! to me and laughs a deep laugh. there are only three languages you need, he says. spanish, haitian, and hood.

everyone admires my cat carrier. it looks like a spaceship, with a plastic bubble that my cat can see out of. they all want to know how much it cost and where i got it and when i say $35 they all nod approvingly, like it was cheap enough that it turns out i do belong standing on the sidewalk with them.

when i pick my cat up:

i am excited to see doggy dennis. he notes my changed shirt and says i look pretty. i discover the lobsters and crabs in the tanks in the store behind him, and i wonder how i missed them this morning.

italian man yells vermont! to me out of his car because he does not remember my name but he does remember my homeland. he introduces me to another of his sons. i remember now that the one with slicked black hair has the same name as his father, but i do not remember what it was.

the handsome man with the creamy voice and the chubby pug appears next to me. backstreet’s back oh yeah, he says in reference to the clique of pet parents we formed over the course of the dark morning. he slips away a moment later and i don’t see him again before i leave. i think my cat might have liked his dog if they had ever really met.

the ASPCA hands back the male cats first, a half hour late, typical bronx according to italian man. everyone congratulates me when i emerge from the truck. they have been listening to me say i want my baby every two minutes for the past hour.

i tell a person with short curly hair where i got my cat carrier. they nod in approval when i say it was $35.

doggie dennis high fives me, probably just to touch me,
but it doesn’t scare me.

i say it was nice to meet you all! and walk away.

chopped cheese

i’m eating pizza on the subway and the guy across from me comments on a fleck of paint on my jeans. i wanna just, like, scratch it off. you know? he says to me. i laugh and tell him i’ve tried, washed them four times since that paint’s been there, it’s not going anywhere. so you an artist or something? he asks. i say no, i say i lived in a bus and i was painting it. he says he’s never heard of that. we talk about different types of latex house paint and he says my jeans are nice. they are nice, levi’s, probably the nicest i’ve ever owned.

he is quiet and i read god forgives off of his right hand. his right cheekbone says $. his forehead has something to say too but it’s tucked under a black headwrap.

he comments on how i’m enjoying my pizza and i say yeah i am. he asks if i’ve ever had a chopped cheese and i say no, and he looks at me like i’m a private school white kid on the D train to the bronx, which i am. he says i need to go in the next bodega i see and ask them for a chopped cheese, plain, don’t toast the bread BUT butter on both sides! both sides of the bread. and green peppers. and you gotta get one with at least five mozzerella sticks. he tells me i have to remember (which is the real point of this poem)

he’s high off his mind, he says. it’s his day off

time itself

when i wake up in the middle of the night it asks me why (now again) i am calling out and who (now again) would comfort me.

my bed feels empty and drownable at the same time. in new york, the street lights my feet always. outside people are always walking. some have dogs. many are alone.

any of them would not comfort me. but i watch them walk anyways, and there is something about the incessant passing of them that feels like a ticking, feels like a clock of my own mortality, pendulum swinging between my two lungs, which fill a little less with each moment.

and why (now again) do i sit seven floors above my own finite realm, watching the ticks tick by and waiting (now again) for one of them to stop time for me? 

when i wake up in the middle of the night it feels like you on top of me, and there is something about being broken that feels immortal. there is something about being taken that feels deathless, something about this separation of my person and my body that feels so good. to know that i can stop breathing and still be alive, that i can let you break pieces off of me like i am a rock, to know that if you tick inside of me i am no longer the clock but time itself

(thank you to sappho for inspiration – if you haven’t read her fragments you should do that!)

kids at the fort greene farmers market are learning all kinds of things

milk tastes different because different kinds of milk have different amounts of fat. yes, they’re all from cows. humans can take the fat out of the milk though. no, we don’t take the fat out of the cow. no, chocolate milk doesn’t taste different because it has a different kind of fat. chocolate milk has chocolate in it. yes, the milk still comes from cows. no, you shouldn’t touch the cactuses. no, you can’t say hi to that dog because it is learning not to bite. not all dogs are friendly, some have been hurt and it makes them scared. maple candy is sweet like lollipops but it tastes like maple. maple just tastes like maple. yes, you could make maple milk.

doing some math

black hole = big mass small space = gravity moving fast, fast as light = gravity is about as tangible as light = what does tangible mean = feelable = what does feelable mean = is feelable a theory or a practice = am i feelable = what state of feelable would make me a black hole = if i were warped further would it make me a black hole = how small would my skull’s radius have to be to make it a black hole = remember that anything can be a black hole if you squish it enough = i have so much potential for gravity it’s just that i am not dense enough = the gravity of the thing is that i hold too much air to pull things into me = i think what hurt does to a person is make them wish they were a black hole = a black hole is the ultimate container = i wish i were the ultimate container = my professor says a black hole is a cosmic waterfall = a cosmic waterfall is the end of time = i wish i were the end of time

me out

i am haunting your lips because i do not remember them,
and if not memory, then what?

if not feeling, then what?

i am haunting all of the empty spaces in you,
your nostrils try to sneeze me out, and when i fill
your belly, your mouth eats

years later when there is a woman dreaming beside you
in another reality
and you cannot sleep and you cannot join her,
it will be me. in the emptiness
between perceptual organs and rational thoughts,
that gap that we cannot verbalize, which is only filled
with sensuality, only feeling fully to the very limits
of those organs which so often are used only

you do not feel empty. that is not the source of discomfort.
you feel full, because you have taken me, and now there are
two of us trying to fill space that is better empty. i wish you felt
empty because then my body might not.