west wash

never have i had a schedule like this: one that feels
do-this-every-day-til-you-die. the same 1.1 miles
to work, sometimes puddles sometimes ice.
i pass a section 8 apartment building and try
to say good morning to everyone who will look
me in the eye. maybe it is polite habit maybe
i am just trying to help. i pass the buildings between
nine and nine fifteen. the cast is often the same:
woman with daughter holding her backpack strap
in her hand, dragging the tired old bag behind her.
middle aged man walking ridiculous puff of a dog,
its screeches audible through headphones.
i smile at him too but hate that thing, a sorry excuse
for a pet. the man who looks barely older than me
with a face full of potholes. his lips look indented
where the cigarette sits. he paces while he smokes,
as if walking the same six sections of sidewalk
might counteract the tar and carcinogens. i take
an extra long step to avoid an uncapped needle.
i am wearing boots with soles as thick as a steak
but you can never be too careful. i say good morning
as i pass and he breathes out heavy, lungfuls of
smoke catch in my hair and i know the lady
who sits next to me at work will notice the smell.
i wonder if he will do this every day now. if i will say
good morning and he will douse me in cigarette stink.
another addition to the list of rituals that come
with this sort of living. lady-who-sits-beside-me will think
i’ve taken up smoking. perhaps i will take up smoking.
the only reason not to smoke is so people won’t think
you smoke—it can look unbearably cool. cigarettes
are unfair this way. if you already look like the bassist
for some up and coming, cigs can only make
you cooler. but if you are standing outside
section 8 housing with skin like a bad backroad,
the smoke smells terrible and nicotine nails
peel like old wall paper. it is not a life
i would choose. luckily it is not a choosing game.
maybe some morning i will step on the needle instead.

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StorageSpace

a new place to be stored when you sleep:
space that makes skin taught,
air-broken flesh shade of stop sign,

you do not stop.
I am kept inside bathtub drain
when you eat, chin familiarizes with knee caps,
toes with glutes fingers to shoulder blades
chest thighs introduce yourselves –
like a paper crane creased to stiffness.

once you left me sitting stove-top
pink-soft skin needing days of licking.

There are six drawers beneath counters,
insulation spills into your closet shelf,
leaves me glittered with glass.
Your thumb smears shards above my eyes.

A number can always be cut in half.
you say, one body should be no
different, feeding me
down the neck of your beer.

 

Ways to See

there are ways to see him that do not involve his hands.
the soft bones in his wrists, the invitation of his veins.
The sharp points of his grin, the way continual
expansion feels inevitable, but the vaults in his cheeks
pick up the slack.
The cusps of the toes he rises to, catching
the note he’s aiming for between his teeth,
falling back on the haunches of the breeze.
There are ways to hear him without imagining him naked,
but not many.
The tension of skin over bone or a flesh painted skeleton
with dried heaps of acrylics in eye sockets.
The space that connects his thighs and pelvis
where I imagine my nose would fit well.
I am again imagining him naked.
There are ways to feel his body without the use of my hands.
when i kick him beneath the conference room table
i can feel his bareness.
when i lick his condensed sweat off the walls
of the hallway, i am reminded of
unsweetened coffee and melting plastic.

Home Again

After a month of traveling, I am back in Knoxville, Tennessee. I got home the day before yesterday – I meant to write sooner, but it has been challenging to think of what to say, and I still don’t really have anything concrete yet. That, and the last couple days have been kind of busy. Yesterday was my birthday (I’m not a teenager anymore!) which was celebrated with an afternoon in the pool, dinner downtown, finished off with carrot cake. It was a nice way to ring in the next year of life.

Getting home after a month of traveling has really allowed me to appreciate all of the things that are available to me most of the time: daily showers, good refrigeration, hugs whenever I need them. It was a long time to be mostly alone. It was a long time to be out of any sort of routine. It was a lot of granola bars, a lot of meeting new people, and a lot of days spent with a sore back from nights in the car. There were a significant number of downsides related to living like that, but I think overall it was positive. I feel different. More self confident. More aware. Readier for whatever is next.

Which, immediately, means heading out with my brother tomorrow morning to Rothbury, Michigan for Electric Forest. I’ll hopefully have a more comprehensive write-up about my trip at some point. But for now, it’s on to the next adventure!

 

Bill and Melinda

My grandma calls bill gates and his wife by their first names, arranging their successes around her neck in place of her own. Bill and Melinda have a property down that way. Bill and Melinda do so much for those less fortunate. 

She lives alone in a condo overlooking well kept green, the inside of her home sterilized by inherited money, 6 grown children and one dead husband.

Her body fills up too little of her home and still she says it is too small for her. Memories and new information slide off her skin like soap, and she packs the space- beneath the stairs, inside the pot of her wilted fir – full of the bits she does remember.

she tries to find the place she put the name of her 3rd boy, and it takes two minutes to find it penned on a post it note, stuck to the cheek of her kitchen cabinet. She locates her order at in-n-out burger beneath a pile of blouses, the tags still attached.

She never finds the breed of her brothers dog, hidden inside an empty pharmacy bottle, but she remembers Bill and Melinda, you know, they have the same kind. 

Nude beach conversations

He was a black boy from Cleveland Ohio. But I met him in New Orleans. And I couldn’t decide whether not start this by calling him a black boy or a black man. the way he asked me questions about my sexuality made me want to call him a man, but the size of the shoulders and how we had to coax him into eating anything made me want to call him boy.

I asked what was special about him. He told me, “the only way i know my father is dead.” He said I wrote A poem about how my momma broke and the way my stepfather’s knuckles were dimpled with use. And I said no, I’ve heard that story before. He said I’m gay, and my momma asks me how many boys have you been with, and I reply, I pick a new one to accompany each meal Like a wine pairing. He says I’ve never worn A condom. And I say, yes, I have heard that one before, too.

he tells me about the first time he felt proud. He wrote a poem about learning his father’s cheekbones from the pile of brimmed hats left in the attic, his hands from the box of dish towels.