After Whitman on his 200th birthday.
It is swoops and loops and bumps and roots and rocks
It is crawling and climbing and scrambling and teetering.
There is a fallen tree trunk crossing a bit of creek
and either you balance on it arms akimbo
or you splash along beside it, holding onto it for balance.
It is bordered by sharp barbed-wire fences you cannot lean on to guide you
because you'll cut your hand
if you have hands.
Have I been writing poems all these thirty years that assume everyone has hands?
Do we instinctively lower the volume on the portions of each other's stories
that assume we're part of the club? Do we understand that
and I mean nothing --
the only thing organic in this park is the people
who ricochet off
a single dreadlock
a mop of curls
a lightning bolt shaved into the hedges that surround an ear
a t-shirt with someone else's name on it
a pitbull with no leash
fling themselves from metal poles
graze the ground
propel off a bike rack
hit the wall
climb it like stairs
and for a moment
with the magnolia taste of the air in your nose
you think you could too
you forget and remember all at once
how it felt letting your heart be the first to clear that first big drop on the roller coaster
how you straightened up your cramped neck as you rolled to a stop
how your feet once knew how to ride the down escalator
how it was to be in love with movement and unafraid
I sat shiva for
you, asshole. Don't ever scare
me like that again.
The first blossoms are doomed to die when the frost comes back like it just walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge, forgot what it came looking for, and walked back out.
The air smells like:
the feeling of tripping over discarded bits of green plastic on the sidewalk,
the kind of allegiance to a foreign government that we're okay with because it is at least still white,
and I guess also promise unfulfilled.
It is louder than winter or maybe winter is loud but we don't hear it with our windows closed.
On the back of an old bodega receipt
I keep a running list of all the books I would buy you as gifts
if you were still my friend.
You'd definitely read them --
I'm not good at many things but giving is one of them --
and you'd tell me if they were worth borrowing,
but you'd of course know that I didn't just buy them
for the chance to borrow them from you.
I don't need to do that (I'm a librarian for fuck's sake)
and besides that's not what gifts are about.
It wouldn't work the same if I read them anyway.
Your eyes and the words react like vinegar and baking soda;
I'm just a kid with a chemistry set.
So I never read the books,
but I keep the list
in the zippered coin compartment in my wallet
with other useless things like nickels.
And just like ridiculous nickels,
too big for their worth,
I hang onto the titles
because they might come in handy someday.
We live our entire lives in the punchline of a joke --
one we hear only faintly, from the opposite end of the room,
uttered in tenor and baritone and bass and sometimes even alto barbershop quartets,
accompanied by hand gestures creative and lewd,
and when we scream from inside the joke because we at least want to hear it,
(although it would sound the way your own chewing sounds inside your head)
well then we must be
and certainly on the rag.
When crossing the street, do a little jog and wave at the cars to thank them for not murdering you.
Sit in the aisle seat so if you have to go to the bathroom you won't have to step over anyone.
Never use the wheelchair stall. What if someone comes along who really needs it?
Never answer honestly when asked "How are you?"
Cross your legs and keep your bag on your lap.
When you go numb cross the other leg.
Aspire to invisibility.
Don't eat meat.
I knew before I opened my eyes this morning that it was raining outside. It's my most impressive and useless skill: I am a human barometer.
Cerebrospinal fluid is a natural saline solution that cushions and protects the brain. If you didn't have it, your brain would just be rattling around inside your skull in a perpetual concussion. When you stand up quickly or strain on the toilet or your train enters an underwater tunnel, the fluid cushioning your brain softens the impact, absorbs the shock. New fluid is produced each day and flows freely in the central nervous system in rhythm with your heartbeats before being absorbed into the bloodstream. Like the sea, it is pure salt water. Like the sea, like the changing of the tides, it is locked in a continuous cycle.
But for those of us whose bodies make too much fluid or for whom the normal flow of said fluid is obstructed, a manmade tool called a shunt drains the fluid directly from our skulls to our hearts or abdomens, where it can be safely reabsorbed. But it doesn't do as good a job as a normal brain naturally would, so our brains are more sensitive to changes in position, pressure, and yes, weather.
Paraphrased from a brain surgeon:
There's a constant pulsation with each beat of our heart.
There's a lot of fluid in the cranium.
The shunt is draining that fluid away,
but not in the same balance, the same rhythm,
as a normal person.
That change in fluid dynamics is enough in some people
to be really sensitive to small changes
Today was the Youth Climate March on Washington. Children, some of them climate refugees, brought their anger to the epicenter of world power. They held signs that said, "The seas are rising and so are we," and walked arm in arm through torrential downpours in the midatlantic heat. The goal is to hold political figures accountable for the catastrophic environmental effects of policies which support the continued use of dirty energy. Lawsuits aim to speak to them in the only language they understand, one of profit and indemnification.
It is admirable, but flawed. Even when we are owed cosmic justice, we rarely get it. And if we did, what then? Still, their courage is commendable, and I wanted to join them in solidarity. But I missed it because the rain flooded my senses with pressure and pain.
Recently there has been widespread public debate about banning single-use plastic materials.
Plastic disposable bendy straws were invented for use in hospitals,
for patients who may not otherwise be able to consume liquids,
and their impermanence made them ideal for a hospital,
where anything left to sit and reuse will quickly fester with the kinds of bacteria only found around bodies in various states of decay.
The convenience was seductive, and before long plastic straws were everywhere
so the language of need was drowned out
by the clamor of convenience.
We use five hundred million in the United States every day.
Imagine if you were hard of hearing
and you had to use a new hearing aid every time you wanted to hear something
and then people who aren't hard of hearing discover that it makes eavesdropping easier
so everyone is using single-use plastic hearing aids as the ship sinks.
I owe my life to a little straw that keeps my brain from drowning itself.
My body is made of water, carbon, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, rubber, flexible silicone tubing, some magnets, and an ever-increasing amount of scar tissue.
The very technology that is destroying the planet is keeping me alive.
Convalescence gives you a lot of time to think.
After each medical trauma I have thought about
how much I could be doing if I wasn't lying here in pain
how much waste I create when I don't have the energy to reduce, reuse, recycle
how easy it is to learn bad habits when you don't live their consequences in realtime
how easy it is to justify bad habits when you don't live their consequences in realtime
how lucky I am to have been born
somewhere with an effective doctor-to-patient ratio.
somewhere with widespread indoor climate control.
somewhere where access to a hospital is guaranteed.
somewhere where basic equipment does not have to be improvised.
somewhere that guarantees my survival in the face of internal climate chaos.
somewhere where we don't burn plastic on the beaches.
somewhere with strong food-safety regulations that address the plastic in my fish.
somewhere with a never-ending store of single-use medical supplies.
somewhere where we all have blood on our hands.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
bits of microplastic accumulate like so many grains of sand,
so many of them that from the air they look like islands.
They end up in the stomachs of marine creatures
and the creatures who eat the marine creatures
and the creatures who eat the creatures who eat the marine creatures.
If we could find a way to colonize the islands I bet we would.
The earth has a chronic illness called humanity.
She suffers pain, the pain causes fatigue.
She starts to forget things,
like which season goes when
and which kind of precipitation goes in which biome.
Her fluid dynamics are off.
Destruction in one part of her body causes systemic shock throughout.
Remedies prescribed for one problem cause side effects that require additional prescriptions which cause side effects which require additional prescriptions which cause side effects which require additional prescriptions.
The experts don't believe her when she complains of discomfort.
After all, she is a woman.
There is a good chance none of the message in this bottle makes sense; I wrote it while tidal conditions inside my skull were unpredictable.
I wonder if there will come a time when we don't remember what it was like to feel dry.
Bathing standing up
out of a standing bucket
with a measuring cup
by the light of a veladora
creates the conditions
the stillness and blankness of mind
to meditate on the distribution of
The ocean depths rolling in
in surges unprotected.
The cover of night under which
pirates and profiteers
chomping at the bit
sneak in and snap up
the land vacated by those running for their lives.
The cover of night under which
a new colony is built over the old
a technopolis where a single transaction of
consumes enough power to supply
dozens of households currently draped in
Off the coast
the water glows
from microscopic creatures
who generate their own light
as we must generate ours.
give or take a thousand
in Puerto Rico
You read my blog.