August 11, 2016
california was great. the best parts: backyard figs, backyard eggplant, backyard molding apricots. chlorine dips, sea breezes, dusty cracking mountaintops with shaggy wigs of sage. fry-an-egg hot sidewalks, my parents in the shade, grandma whispering her love.
birthday was great. the best parts: a nudist beach on the jersey shore, micropenises galore. cold hummus, seedy crackers, cold mango, sharp carrots. icey heinekens on a boat, salt in my hair, on my lips, on my head, views of our big, dirty, beautiful city.
i’ve been writing about gardens and lights and the things i remember about being a kid. do you have a lamp in your life you particularly remember? i remember warm light flickering from an old lamp my mother had brought from spain. it was the sort of object that was so heavy and smooth and ornate it could only be expensive, i reasoned. the base consisted of a bronze tree with a bronze woman, naked, round, with an arm extended upwards, leaning against the trunk. her nipples were like little marbles. her hair made me think gold could be brushed. above her, hanging from the tree limbs that held the bulb was the snake of eden.
i thought of her story this way: eva wanted what she wanted and she went for it, that’s why we’re all here today. eva’s fingers were terrifyingly close to the snake’s fangs.
July 12, 2016
but spain was my savior with potato chips on every table and savory sweet beers and bitter cortaditos at every plaza and viejitas saying buenas tardes and viejitos saying anda, que guapa! i did feel good there, sea in the sky and gulls on the ground, bread crumbs and sunflower seeds clotting the cobblestones. freckles abounding. during the sardine festival the fishermen made a huge fire at the beach, the size of a cottage. chairs, the tails of fish, the wooden pegs of pirates, it all went aflame. in the plaza, a dominican samba band played tunes for the people to dance to and a merry-go-round with mickey mouse look-alikes moved slowly, as slowly as a crooked wheel or a frail pigeon.
in spain you see colorful boats reflected while you feel the saline crust form on your forehead after a swim.
not so different than new york, in a way. and that’s why i’ve made my peace.
this is a poem by a poet who i had tea with. his name is jamie mckendrick. he ate all the tiny sandwiches with cream cheese and ham and cucumber and chives inside and i ate the scone in the shape of a big fatty breast, withered and joyful, bosomy, boxomy, with cream and jelly on top. “why aren’t you eating the semifreddo cheesecake?” he asked.
May 16, 2016
At my father’s I slept in Chinese silk pajamas and at my mother’s I alternated between two of her old baggy shirts. One was a loose brown shirt, nearly knee-length, with a doodle of a happy woman on it and the words above her reading “Man cannot live on chocolate alone,” and below, “but woman can.” The chocolate shirt was easily my favorite because it justified eating chocolate. Not that I needed much of an excuse; my mother encouraged splitting half a bar of dark chocolate with almonds after dinner and on more than one occasion she would look away as I made myself a chocolate milkshake with breakfast. “It has milk and calcium in it,” I’d say, scooping more ice cream into the blender. The second shirt had an illustration of a duck wearing green tweed and smoking a cigarette with the phrase “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” spelled in smoke. The shirt itself and the image of the smoking duck is what returns to me like a sober guardian angel when I am restless or unable to sleep. Get your bloody act together, the duck says to me in a highfalutin British accent, blowing a cloud of smoke in my face as I stuff a third bonbon in my mouth. You don’t need chocolate or a man. So what do I need? Then the duck, in my under or overslept mind, transforms into my mother, smoking her fifteenth cigarette of the day, placing before me a breaded piece of poultry, asking “Do you want me to cut into little pieces?” And as she does I try to spell my name in ketchup on the side of my plate but at the end it just looks like a stick figure of a fat man, blubby, bloody, both happy and alone.
(leon de smet) (edward burra)
May 3, 2016
When I was a child.
In the pool I thought of a story I heard about babies born in water, about babies swimming right after birth, about mothers with inflatable pools in their living rooms pushing and heaving and out comes a child. And that’s how life happened.
In the pool I slithered and slimed and kissed and felt all the verbs that are wet.
In the pool I thought of what old people looked like when they were young, when there weren’t veins protruding on legs and arms and tummies and feet.
In the sea I saw testicles for the first time. An old man’s: like plums wrapped in old ham. A young boy’s: puckered plums.
In the sea I made meatballs out of mud, I made chicken cutlets and breaded them with sand.
In the sea I stuffed my fingers in anemones.
In the sea I thought I could talk to dolphins and when I’d spot one in the distance I knew she was coming for me. I could never swim that far out.
In the sea I sang to myself. I never scraped my palms on rocks.
In the river, ankle deep, I thought I saw ice-cubes floating.
In the river I’d try to catch fish, and talk to them, too. Come, salmon, salmon, come, salmon, salmon. Why, salmon salmon, would you want me to catch you only to then salmon salmon you up in the air, wave you around in the oxygen, toss you up as high as I could only to watch you fall smack down, belly flop, back into your river home? So that you could see the trees and hear the woodpecker and see what a human’s brown eyes look like.
In the river I peed behind a big smooth rock.
In the lake I knew there were sea monsters.
In the lake my foot tangled with seaweed and I yelped for help, for mercy, for angels.
In the lake I realized there were a few things I was wrong about, but there were a couple things I knew that made me wise.
That’s when the rain came.
April 30, 2016
Today I looked out on the hilly cemetery surrounded by gold-tipped gate. Before it a man paused with his black terrier, the kind you see on charm bracelets. He lifted it, held it from under its front legs, and pressed the dog into a gap –just like you’d do with a tot to point out something flying or scurrying beyond the gate. The way he held it made it look like the dog had armpits. It didn’t bark or sniff, it just hung there, complacent, looking with the man. I tried to see what they saw but the only thing that stood out to me among the graves and crosses and patches of dead grass was an Easter basket full of plastic eggs. Then I realized that the black terrier was peeing, and that his owner merely wanted to watch the stream arc beyond the gate.
Today I watched a baseball field and young people with Frisbees. There was a little boy named Skylar chasing a ball, and a little girl named Summer chasing him. This time of year, the puffs blossoming on trees turn mustard yellow at sunset, right as the birds make their horniest racket. I dug my toe into dirt and I party-planned. I spend many minutes each day party-planning my evenings. I plan how I’ll roast sprouts and I plan how I’ll buy beer and I plan when to water my basil plant and whether to use my green sock for dusting or my blue one. They both have polka dots. I plan whether or not I’ll ever use the can of pumpkin puree in the pantry. We bought it in October and now it’s too late for pie. I plan what to do with the yellow guitar picks that Sam scatters in the house like he had a handful and began spinning and let them go and there they landed and there they stay, by the tissue box, snug in the couch, on the rug, by the candle, beside the toilet, where we keep old magazines. I planned to arrange them like leafs so they would look like the glowing tree the color of warmth and field dust. When I got home, though, it was already dark and the leaf clusters had turned navy, like berries.
April 28, 2016
(willem van aelst)
Today I saw a single Hasidic family occupy a whole row of a subway car bench. The children: two boys with curly Qs, a daughter with glasses and a Torah on kindle, baby twins, a teen popping a pimple, and a toddler in a mini navy uniform, her legs splayed apart. I saw her panties. Pink, orange, white stripes. Seeing those panties I thought: when she looks at a rhinestone on the subway platform floor does she think it’s a pink diamond? When it’s Seder and she can’t have leavened bread does she most crave the donut, the kind with chocolate frosting that sticks on front teeth like grubby piano keys, the kind that lady’s biting, getting sprinkles on my coat sleeve? Does she have a special plate at home that’s always hers –the one with the deer or duck on it, or a primrose wreath on it, a halo? Is the plate made of a squeaky plastic that never breaks whens she throws it on the ground to explode the fried egg? And the yolk on a good day is orange on a bad day is mustard clot green? I thought about the-diamond-the-donut-the-deer-plate after one quick glance at her, but the other children didn’t make me feel anything except the smell of curling irons. I’m wearing those panties.
(george hendrik brietner)
April 21, 2016
darling nikki by prince was the song that helped me sort out my sexuality.
Today a bird nest fell on my fire escape. It was not brown or twiggy or shaped like a wreath or cup or abalone shell. It was a fluffy tuft of blue and red strings, hair, street detritus, crumbling magnolia leaves. A sparrow hopped around it thinking of what to do. The bird was too small and the nest too heavy to retrieve it and return it to its post in the tree above. Soon, a bigger bird came and pecked it through the metal grating, to the sidewalk below. There, the neighor’s pitbull sniffed it and barked and then his owner dragged him away, calling him a bitch, a dumbass, a trash-smelling dipshit.
I remember deep blue skies. They’re always that shade around my father’s birthday.
I remember after he’d tuck me in bed at night I’d demand he stay. I’d clutch his arm, sure that if he left I’d wake. He would face the ceiling and mumble under his breath. The words sounded like curses, like whisper spits, like he was calling me confounding names in his sleep. Years after I found out he had been reciting lesson plans in Chinese, going over lines of Ming-Qing poems and ancient phrases written in characters that looked to me like brick buildings falling apart, broken insects, and people.
(john bratsby, jew chew honeydew”
April 16, 2016
(Vincent van Gogh, View from Theo’s Apartment, 1887)
Father liked to sit on the stool Bob Dylan farted on.
Mother liked to sit on the hammock on the porch, the yellow ropes leaving red tartan squares on her ass.
Daughter lay down on the carpet. She lived in those patterns, dreaming of Scotland.
Son drank a Moscow Mule. He disliked their summer rental.
Mother and father went to the tall grass garden and right there, right there, they did it. In front of the forest, in front of the wind.
Daughter could sense it, down on that rug, the paisleys making bug shapes.
Son could sense it, the mule in his drink humped another.
Mother and Father pretended they were old, complaining about the lamb chops and sauv, but they were as young as billie goats, burrowing their horns in hills in search of red ants to snort. Mother got grass burn on her back and father got a tick bite, soon just a mole on his shoulder.
Serves you right, daughter said on the drive back home, and Yes the son added.
“Forever young,” Father sang. (Ohara Shoson)
April 2, 2016
(Old woman poaching eggs, Velazquez)
Ciudad de Mexico, Distrito Federal:
sweat drizzled on my tacos,
chili on the street mangos.
jicama, charimoya, avocado.
jacaranda and pollen and christ.
one night, we saw the cotton candy man finish his load, pouring the rest of the sugar in his hot vat and soon it all swept into the air in nets and streams and webs and cottons of blue and pink. the boys and girls and men and a woman in a wheelchair tried to catch them, jumping, bouncing, running (the wheelchair woman just moved her arms up and down). the uncaught streams of candy snagged on telephone wires, tree branches, and the church spire.
it’s frenetic and slovenly there, all at the same time.
March 6, 2016
At five, we went outside and under the tree put dirt clumps and pebbles in the coffee grinder. She stood over my head, took the handle, and twisted and twisted. I writhed in the sun like an animal plucked out of sea as she coated me with a constellation of dust. “Like Parmesan at the restaurant,” she said. Or pepper, or salt.
At six, she saved me from a tree.
At eight, she moved away.
At ten, we went up to the basement with brown light and yellow furniture. “Let’s try it,” she said, “you first.” And I sucked at her neck; first it was nice, then it hurt. “You’re supposed to do the ear, too.” “Isn’t that a wet willy?” I said. I had heard about those. “And what if I suck wax out of your ear?” A hummingbird levitated outside the single window, incandescent green, watching. It had raspberry stains on its neck, too. Like tribal tats, I suppose; but ours faded.
At twelve, we tried on her mother’s bras and tangas and photographed ourselves like pinups. On the same roll of film we photographed our shit bobbing in the toilet, took a picture with the rat-tailed mailman, and one of the sticky lollypop that moved in and out of her dog.
At fifteen, she watched a boy hold me, push his purple mentos into my mouth. We drank daiquiris afterwards. She saluted me, gravely, for conquering a man. She put ointment on my pink summer itches.
I don’t know where she is now or what kinds of insects flutter around her garden. Perhaps they crawl or burrow.