NaPoWriMo Day 26: Sit Down, Shut Up

Sit Down, Shut Up


These voices are too loud, less in volume

than their incessant surety. They speak

with the perverse authority sanctioned

by a life I cannot comprehend. See,

their pain, no less valid, is much louder

than the less-told stories could hope to be.


Were they born to the pulpit? Do they know

through privilege-glasses what we cannot?

No one ever told them to sit down, shut up

and take notes. People listen when they speak, or shit,


but now’s not their turn.

This is an attempt at a curtal sonnet, but I was very lazy about the meter, so it is what it is. I don’t know how well this subject matter is going to come across, if at all, but I feel pretty strongly about people attempting to speak for minorities and had to say a thing today.



NaPoWriMo Day 25: Don’t Write Poems for Me

Don’t Write Poems for Me


I could love a boy with scars.

I could kiss the foreheads of ash-skinned demons,

caress the raised tissue of too many deaths,

and yes, I could

love a boy with scars.


I could love a boy for his poems.

I could make love to a boy with words

alone, or allow my hand to find his

sure as ink to paper, and yes—

oh how could I not love a boy for his poems?


I could love a boy who isn’t mine,

and I could love a boy as only friends

and I could find new definitions for us

but I cannot straddle this chasm

alone, not now that I know.


I could love a boy with scars. I could

love a boy for his poems. I could love a boy

who isn’t mine. (I could keep my hands

to myself). I cannot put my love,

this birth-blind puppy, back in the box


now that I know he wants to kiss me.

NaPoWriMo Day 24: Intersection of Beauty and Power

He has beautiful hands, this mason.

Dirt and clay cake around his nails.

A white sickle scar, and a handful

of freckles adorn his fingers.


The mason lays one brick at a time,

from the first row at my feet:

each individual constellation

in shades of red and earth.


The mortar he spreads on

even, and careful. His hands

are thick, and strong, their rivers

highlighted the pallor of mortar.


I catch one last glimpse of him,

serene face and careful posture

as he evens a stroke with flourish

and places the final brick to seal me in.

NaPoWriMo Day 23: A Prophesy of Relations

A Prophesy of Relations

Up at the sermon tucked into birth of day,
light silhouettes you as the crow against vows.
Mine-own, the crow’s name is your name.
Yoke me voiceless as the ravishment of saints.
charles + jasmine
Mine-own, hang me with my cords

lavished under the linden, held in pity.
You cut into the summer’s set,
rhubarb, boxed in a hotel.
Mine-own, the hurt of a marble ton
pressing down called us
into tilted vats’ reflections unvigilant.

(Oh you, you more than
the scent of summer’s death)

So for our lemon talks we stroll among
distorted reflections.
You can take this error into the forest,
in bed of sorrel,
put to rest in cuts to my hide.
You can take this error,
a pillaged canvas,
to hang the sun.



NaPoWriMo Day 23, 23 April 2014

Prompt: “translate” a poem by reinterpreting the sounds of the words. I highly recommend the poem I abused for this, Sink Your Fingers Into the Darkness of My Fur, a beautiful Finish poem read by a man with a beautiful voice, which, when I allowed myself to read the true translation afterwards, really moved me.

NaPoWriMo Day 22: Where the Wild Things Grow + If a Poet Were a Spider

Where the Wild Things Grow

Into the woods where the wild things grow

trees and vines form mystical patterns.

The feet can carry you far from home

and the mind is always free to roam.


The sunlight plays on spider webs,

their precise organization exposed.

Through bramble and blackberry tramp alone

so the mind is free to wander.


Where the fences rise and the signs say turn back,

No Trespassing, sit your rump on a stump

and watch the lark flit through tricks.

The mind is always free to roam.

spider threads


If a Poet Were a Spider

I live in my artform
catch food with this verse
and need nothing more. 



NaPoWriMo Day 21: Let’s Whisper Sweet&Sour Everythings


Life is a nearly-new sofa with cat scratches

left on the curb. Well, some days.

I hardly know what I mean but

if it sounds good, must be true.

Do you remember when we found

that beautiful dresser a block form your house?

Of course you do. You carried the too-big body

and I drove the drawers and your boyfriend

talked to me from the back seat in tones I find

forgettable. No, I remember: He was afraid

of the mirror. You love mirrors.

I love mirrors and am afraid of them.

Is it just this town that throws away everything

for a few of us to retrieve treasures

from curbs and dumpsters, or

is it everyone?



Yaz, this is my third love poem to you,

and if none of them seem like love poems

that’s because the two of us prefer impossible

crushes, treat our hearts like printing presses

(me more than you) and you’re a wandering landmark.

Maybe my fourth, actually. The darkness

challenges the sunlight for shade

and makes us a breathing space.


Do you know, I’ve had maybe three

significant relationships with men. Or boys.

Whichever. Romantic, that is. I fuck or befriend

the rest, or turn them into poems. Well, it’s curious to me

because we’re both a little boy-crazy these days,

some days, and I wonder if that’s my why.


In the plaza we’ll hold hands. Did we both use to sing

oftener? We sometimes look normative, more

than I ever expected, me opening the door,

taking your hand, but everyone sees past it.

We’re the queerest fish of all the courts,

strolling past the statue of the Confederate Dead.

I’m leaning over the counter, beside the baked goods,

for a peck on the lips.



I cried over my fear of leaving you

when I though I was engaged. Long story.

You know it all, but I don’t know

jack from bull. Did the sun set on my siesta?

Have we been sleeping through potential meetings?

Sometimes I see the pictures of pastimes before

I hear your stories, and I imagine the sound of the wood falling

to your blade.



Did you hear me missing you

while nighttime rolled cigarettes out of fossils?

Can we find a phrase to use oftener

than “I miss you”? Does missing

taste like raspberries, ghosts,

or limes, better made into

margaritas? My mom and my best friend

like you, imagine that, so we’re feathered burglars but

I haven’t seen you in a week

and before that I saw my partner in poetic crime,

my friend and best critic, all

rolled into you but I’d like to

fall into you like bubble bath

and it’s been some streaks of

finger-painted oil masterworks of dusk

and midnight since last

I’ve seen my lover.

NaPoWriMo Day 20: Herbs Talk Back

Prompt: family member perspective. I had no ideas for my actual family, but since the basil is extended family, I wrote from their point of view.

Herbs Talk Back


I don’t feel like a child

when my roots are scrambling for purchase;

when I am watered infrequently and too much;

the oaks tower above me, ancient, into

the thoughtless blue, but they are a different species.

Today the water-eyed boy transplanted

basil, rosemary, oregano, mint and parsley.

That’s me, the basil. He thinks I’m delicate

(if delicious) and if I can survive

then he can too. The rosemary is his favorite,

because they thrive in spite of him,

and sit just right on potatoes.

He coaxes my roots into the new earth,

fine fingers in dark soil. A frog

claims one of the pots as his own.

The boy washes his hands and eats beside us,

dirt still under his nails.

NaPoWriMo Day 19: Incised Moon

Prompt: the name of a sea shell.


Incised Moon


The rats have been nibbling

at the moon again. Their bites

seem to be expanding. Their little

distended bellies, under a layer

of fine pale fur, feel nothing but hunger.


The rats have been biting through

the moon’s bones. They blend in,

white as asteroid face, only pink tails

and red gleams of eyes. Bone dust

coats their lungs.


The rats have gnawed through the moon, for

the first time, and the will have a long way to fall.

The rats teethed on the moon, fine-dined

on the moon, and the moon will drink

their broken bones and patch wounds with rat pelts.

NaPoWriMo Day 17: Wake-Time Blues

Morning presses close, tucked

tighter than the blankets but not so soft.

I echo the birdsong and call back

in the film conducted in the grand recesses

of near dreaming. I want to know which

birds sing to me, but when I am more awake.

Traces of incense still smudge air and sheets.

Shiny kale smelling green, their crumbling scales

in my hand as I press them into the blender:

I imagine breakfast for when I am more awake.

The space between my shoulder blades

pulls tight and sore. The shower echoes rain.

When voices tug me–up and at ’em!–

morning fog stays heavy on me.

The plans I imagine disintegrate:

first, write a poem. Shower. Eat.

Everything else can wait.

No day do I live up to the burden

of my sleepy imaginings.

The body is slow beside the mind.

How Much of Myself Should I Share?

I have these conversations periodically about how much of myself and my poetry might better be kept in journals or on hard drives, unshared. Thus far, all of these conversations have been with my mother. When I was a teenager she encouraged me to not come out, partly for the entirely reasonable fear she had that my best friend’s parents would react poorly. As it turns out, they did react poorly, but they also got over it. I wrote a poem about that conversation with her that won my first ever poetry award, a Scholastic Regional Gold Key. Another such conversation resulted in Gentle. (My mother did see both poems eventually.)

My mother has gotten better at broaching these conversations over the years, so that the last one resulted in neither one of us crying. She pointed out that she was actually less concerned about my identities as trans and queer than my “sensuality” (I talk about sex and I swear, guilty as charged). She also broached the topic as a question, acknowledging that I know more about the world of poetry and spoken word than she does, but I confess I don’t know the answer either. I tend to dismiss a certain amount of her concern because she is a children’s book author, and the kind of spoken word poetry I’m aware of thrives on identity politics and controversy. My current goal is to one day be picked up by Write Bloody, which carries my beloved Sierra Demulder and recently picked up Andrea Gibson. A poet friend of mine advised that if I want to be able to speak to the bar scene, I had better embrace the racy portion of my poetry.

Mary Lambert plays at the Wooly

Last night, April 15, I saw Mary Lambert perform in a Pride Awareness Month sponsored event downtown at the Wooly, an intimate venue well-lit with red and blue lights. She wore a floral-on-black dress with bright red lipstick, played her keyboard, and sang and talked and recited until most of us laughed and cried. A friend described her voice as “rolling around in silk.” Mary got a girl singing a love song about another girl on the radio. In rural Kentucky. Yes, she’s quite proud. Mary also made a point of performing a poem/song about domestic violence, and another deeply moving and incredible piece about rape. She not only has a piece about body acceptance in her act, but is making a Twitter (#BodyLove) campaign out of it. All of this from a woman who sang with Madonna at the Grammy’s. Does this mean the world is changing?

Mar Lambert plays at the Wooly

charles and mary lambert

I waited at the end of the line so I could heap my excitement and love on her after the show, and my time was well worth the conversation and the hug I received. She had said during the act, as part of her trigger warning for the rape poem, that people expected her to be a pop star now, but she insists on talking about what matters to her. When I spoke to her one on one, she said it was difficult sometimes, but (except for not swearing in front of minors) it was worth it to stick to your guns and talk about what matters. Keep writing, she said. Her face and signature are going to hang on my wall to ward off worries.

Last week, NaPoWriMo gave a lovely prompt to rewrite a classic poem, suggesting Black Stone on White Stone and providing Nickel On Top of a Penny as an example, both of which inspired me. That incredible reinterpretation, by Stephen Burt, perked my interest. The author self-references as “Stephanie” at the end of the poem. I kept reading through that blog for the next couple of days, finding good poems but inevitably landing on an essay-style piece entitled, “My Life as a Girl.” Stephen explores the various feminine personas they have taken on over the years, levels of gender dysphoria, and says something I relate to particularly: “I’m not sure how much of that feeling comes from having the body of a man, and how much of it comes from having a body at all.” (I am using “they” not because I think that’s what Stephen normally uses, but because I don’t have the luxury of asking what pronouns would be best in this particular context.)

Mostly, though, I was struck that Stephen says their earliest publications referenced these alternate feminine identities. Today, Stephen works as a professor of English at Harvard. And yet, poems and essays about their gender exploration are available on the internet. Perhaps it helps that Stephen is still living, more or less, as a cisgender man. I prefer to think, however, that the levels of talent, hard work, dedication, and unique ways of seeing evident in Stephen Burt’s poetry are more important to Harvard and Stephen’s numerous readers than issues of identity.

Myself and Yocheved Zenaida-Cohen held a poetry and performance art event on April 4th to celebrate the release of my cd, Riverbed (which was not actually out at the time). We got a considerable audience and a very positive reception, considering the venue and the number of competing events. Our set focused on issues of identity, relationships, social justice, and trans* lives and bodies. A friend of mine spoke with me after about getting a copy of my CD to a friend of hers, specifically because she thought my poems could help him in his transition.

And that, right there, that is why I write! That is why I share my poetry. I do love the sound of words, the feel of language, the intoxication of writing. However, my true, compelling purpose is to change lives. I want my poems to be hugs when no one else is there. I want my poems to say stay with me. To say it’s okay to be you. To say stand up and fight for what you believe in. It’s not an accident that I get asked to perform at events for Pride, ISO, and a workers’ celebration on May Day (upcoming).

First of all, writing poetry instead of novels or nonfiction about science puts me in a niche market. I think it’s worthwhile to be bold about my identity, and that my identity and my beliefs will do me more good than harm. I may never have the kind of caché that more privileged writers have, and I do not expect to be invited to speak in elementary school classrooms in Texas like my mother has (with a book about vegetarianism, a minor miracle!), but I’m doing the work that is meaningful to me. If I make it, I will make it on the platforms that matter to me as the person I am.

withlaverneAnyway, I’ve gotten hugs from Mary Lambert and Laverne Cox in the last month, so clearly I’m doing just fine.

What about you? Is this a question that you consider in your poetry, or other art forms?