Shifting Gear

I remember Camp David. Not actually being there, of course. But I remember hearing about it on the news. And I remember Jerusalem, awaking to a new millennium, the feeling that the whole city was rubbed raw, like a skinned knee. Tension was building everywhere, and with it, the blood pressure of the entire population […]

Sex Matters

“Are you a slut, or are you just plain thoughtless?” I heard Mother shout from the top of the stairs. I was in bed. On the landing, just on the other side of my bedroom door, Mother was not visible to me, but I could see her clearly in my mind’s eye, clad in a […]

Counting the Beats

I slide a pinky beneath the leather band of my love’s watch and feel his humid skin. I love this virgin bracelet around his wrist, the manacle of tan line where he unbuckles the hours and becomes master of our time together. We divide one moment from another with embraces, laughter, kisses, breath. My body […]

Never

Yoga I have bad memories of ballet class, and isn’t yoga like dancing in a way, teaching the muscles how to lengthen, how to lean, how to turn elastic as rubber bands? All my springs are coiled tight for bouncing. My love even calls me Tigger sometimes. I watch her step out of the studio […]

Reflections

“First I use the curry comb.” Rachel’s in the passenger seat. Outside the window, the sky’s clear while the Tetons hover. The day’s so bright it hurts. “It’s important to comb against the grain,” she says. “That removes the dirt and grit. Then I use the brush. They love the brush. That’s more like a […]

Hear and Release

(All frags reported herein are genuine, heard in Oak Bluffs, a town on an island off the coast of Massachusetts, USA, captured here for this publication only) Nothing like a good long walk, exercise and meditation in one. Two birds with one stone, though I hate that image. Who throws stones at birds? Cavemen and […]

Crabbing

Equipped with our net, bucket, raw chicken and roll of string, we trekked from the ragged graveled patch where we had parked the van. Glassy-skinned frogs hidden in the thick marsh grass croaked in a languid manner; they paused when we were near and resumed their song after we passed. All was still dark when […]

Area of Concern

As Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’m hugging a mammogram machine. “Okay, we’ll take four pictures on the right, and two on the left,” says the bubbly tech with the blond bangs. “Oops! I mean, four on the left, two on the right. Sorry! Haven’t had my coffee yet.” It’s […]

The Right of Way

At the intersection of the six-lane highway I live on in Washington, DC, I waited for the light to turn green and for the little white man to appear above the numbers—starting at twenty-six—counting down how long I had to cross the street. I looked carefully to make sure no cars were going to make […]

Dope

The first time that I ever saw a crack pipe, I must have been five or six years old. My mother was still raw from my father’s suffering and eventual death. He had been only forty-four years old when he passed away. Still young and beautiful by human standards. My mother had dubbed him the […]

LIGO

Every year when my breast is squeezed into the machine and the woman behind the Plexiglas tells me not to move, when the radiologist reads the film and says, “You’re high risk,” I’m forced to think of Barbara, my maternal aunt, who found a lump at fifty-six, the age I am now. My mammogram happens […]

Leaving Cleveland

It was June 24, 1994. A Friday. And it was my last day in Cleveland. I was surrounded by stacks of boxes piled high in makeshift towers. I’d spent the last week shredding papers, dusting, and mopping. Toiling and cleaning was in my blood, gifted to me by my Caribbean ancestors. I was holding a […]

Encounters with Snakes

1981 When I am born in Taos, New Mexico, following my parents’ raucous 1970s commune living, my mom and dad agree they will not raise me with any religion. This means I will not learn the story of the Garden of Eden and the snake that goads Eve to eat the apple until much, much […]

Losing Faith

My daughter’s hand was gone. It took me only moments to slide coins across a counter on Santa Cruz’s boardwalk. When I dropped my hand back, hers was missing. In my left hand, I found the familiar grip of her five-year-old brother, Austin. As I used my chin to snap my wallet, I groped around […]

You Memorize The Way Your Hand Lets Go

Aesculus glabra: My father, a tall, fat-fingered guy with a stomach that fell over his belt buckle who used to hold my entire hand in his palm, rubbed his thumb against the smooth side of his index finger. He had been sitting in the beige recliner with his eyes glued to the television set. In […]

Notes to Self

“The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering. I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. The last scud of day holds back for me, It flings my likeness after the rest and […]

A Life in a Body (With Breasts)

The Blackening (Or That Time It Wasn’t Cancer)   My nipples started turning black a month or so before I hit forty. Well, not exactly black. Not then. Not at first. Just—dark? Deepest brown? Existential crisis grey? Forty? Is forty a color? I ignored it. That sounds crazier than it actually is—of course I didn’t […]

Waiting Room

It’s been said that you are only as happy as your most unhappy child, and I believe there is some truth to that. Lately, I am all about my twenty-six-year-old daughter, Phoebe, who keeps veering into crisis like a motorist drifting into oncoming traffic on a highway. For instance, Phoebe and I recently visited the […]

Abiding in the Realm of Calmness

“I have a special affection for Kajar… It is a wonderful and mysterious place.” ~S. Ann Dunham, Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia On our way from Yogyakarta, my friend Satriyo braced himself at the handlebars like a speed demon, overtaking slowpokes and narrowly sideswiping oncoming trucks in the maelstrom of traffic. As […]

My Father, the Trickster

I’ve been looking for myths about gulls, and found only ravens. Raven, the trickster, who eats Raccoon’s young. Raven, with his head stuck in a bison skull and bumbling tree to tree to river. Raven led by stomach. I want a story to frame my own. But I did not grow up with ravens. They […]

Paper Shackles

Centuries of history consolidated in a single lecture, a fiery star. Our teacher did not make eye contact as she spoke. I do not think she could have if she tried. All the kids were staring down at the carpet, drawing imaginary lines with the tips of their fingers. She stared straight ahead, through the walls. Her words carried the weight of each body lost to the atrocity. That incalculable multitude, not even given the courtesy of a statistic. When those words fell upon us, our bodies became vessels of historical trauma and sunk below the surface of the earth.

Lagrimitas

Mami used to tell people that I was a very delicate boy. My parents instilled in me to do right and to avoid hurting others. I took it to heart. I always assumed that if I treated people the way I wanted to be treated, people around me would do likewise. It was the golden […]

We Race American

0.1 We race distinctly American. .2 The run in itself is familiarized as 26.2 miles—a half 13.1. Here, we change to meters as the distances shrink: a 10K is more impressive than 6.2 miles in the same way that a 5K sounds further than 3.1. And yet with the marathon, there is something less glamorous […]

How to Disappear

Here is how they disappear: Slowly, and then completely. The phone calls go from once a week to once a month, then a text message here or there; a string of emails at two in the morning full of drunk poems and questions like: How am I supposed to stop shooting dope when the asshole […]

Testimony

I wear my purple suit to testify against my father. Deep-hued and simply tailored, it masks my insecurities, costumes me in a longed-for confidence that I hope will belie my fear. I resist smoothing the brushed-gold buttons on the jacket, avoid fingering the garment’s knotted rayon slubs. Instead I worry the flat gold pendant around […]

Out of Houston

When I think back to that bar in Houston, the one that offered us mahogany and beveled glass and a brief reprieve from our hot, damp lives, I can still see Lynda and me: my blue-jean jacket, her skeleton earrings. We’ve swiveled onto our stools, and she’s paid for our drinks. She is laughing, leaning […]

Mapping Coordinates of Poor, Queer, and Feminine in the High Desert Air

Every bit of pride her life doesn’t allow for her own sturdy beauty is poured into that chestnut coat, that black horsehair. One afternoon just three days before show-time, her father saunters into the house, swinging a large, rusty pair of shears. “Spring haircut…” he drawls, and she’s already out the door, running for the stable. …

The Day We Buried My Father

On the day of my father’s funeral, I wake up in a twin bed at his house. Liz is still asleep in the identical twin bed across the room. Dad and Penny bought these beds for Caroline and Cate, my nieces, but as usual, we make accommodations that negate the previous accommodations we’ve made for […]

Big Ball of String Theory

Yoo-hoo! I’m back here, in the bedroom, in the bed. I’m seventeen, I’m twenty-two, I’m thirty-seven, fifty. I dress in white and lie here. Let’s just say it’s mono, or Some Disease, the lazies, or the dreads. Let’s just say I never learned to spell élan vitale right. Let’s just say I should be dead. […]

Matches

Green signs loom over I-80, beckoning us towards Omaha; it’s difficult not to exit downtown to the Courtyard Marriott, tell them we want our old room so we could pretend we’re still new at this. I could still get butterflies when he emerges from the bathroom in a shirt and tie, flash-forwarding to the man […]