All That’s Left

I’v been having a hard time, lately, remembering what it was like on the planet I’m from. We had a moon, I think, similar to this moon, only smaller and further away, leaving the ocean calm at times and smooth. I remember on the clearest moonless days, I could see to the horizon’s arch where the sea appeared to swell as if pregnant with life.

And there were birds. There were things that flew. But I forget their variety. Many of them preferred trees as they do here. I remember their feathers straining to lift them into the air. I think I can still hear that brushing sound, as if they painted their way onto the open canvas over my head.

I don’t remember waiting in secret to see them. I think they came willingly. They may have been our gods.

It’s the people I struggle to remember most. Did we have families there? A father? Mother? Siblings. I want to believe I had a father there, but I have no memory. I remember the smell of salty wood, diffuse blue starlight, a hand under my bottom and head. But there is no face or voice. Only the faint ocean sound, night-birds scattered along the sand.

This is the first time I’ve written this memory – this half-memory. It’s all I have left. By writing it down, I hope to learn what is metaphor and what is real. I hope to preserve my young weight pressing into the gravity of a planet I have no memory of leaving. I hope, if I come back to this moment, if I return to this vague beginning, I may find my existence begin to rebuild. Maybe a home with four windows and a pet of some kind. Maybe I’ll learn to name those birds. Maybe remember the taste of the sea – and the sea in the air. Goosebumps on the skin in a small wind.

I hope, if I come back enough, the hands under my body will begin to shift and turn me to the creature I am from. Maybe hear a word or two. Something about why I’m not there.


Not Human

It is just after ten PM and I’m about to go to bed, because I’m tired. I had good hopes for the day when I got up. I was going to buy a small heater for the fish tank and build a carbon rock filter and maybe buy some fish. I was going to visit Perk’s Coffee like I always do and work on sewing buttons onto a hat and maybe hold a small and meaningful conversation with someone new. I was going to Jazzy Java’s at 4 PM for a group meetup called “Gay Coffee.”

And I did most of those things. Except I didn’t get anything for the fish tank. I didn’t end of having the time or the desire. Instead I went to the sushi bar at Sakura restaurant, and the sushi chef made a vegetable roll specifically for a friend whose pain is everywhere. Botched surgeries. A stomach that can’t seem to handle food at all. A frustrated need to explore their gender and their identity. Who throws the internet bill, which has gone to collections, into the “Fuck it Bucket.” Whose sleep, when it comes, lasts for twenty minutes at a time before the migraine interferes, or the scoliosis in the hips, or the right arm that was broken and casted wrong which means it also healed wrong and always hurts … until the pain wakes them up. Delirious from the continued affect of Valium. Wind out the window makes her hand grip the bed sheet, as it’s violence enters their mind and begins to build it’s lies and false terrors.

I stay with them for a little while. Lightly scratching up and down their arm, massaging between the thumb and fingers, touching where the pain splits from the malformed jaw and shoots up in front of the ear and down the side and back of the neck, under the right eye that is like a famished oyster with its decades of dust gathered inside, pressed and preserved as a silver perl. And when I am certain they have fallen into a good sleep, I slip into my overcoat and shoes and drive home, my thoughts driven into the corner, made silent in the brooding shadow of too much emotion.

But I can’t write any more. I am sick with a nameless ache. I need sleep also, and someone to rub the world’s anguish from my bones, until I manage piece enough of my sleep together, like a jigsaw puzzle from fifty years before I was born, the pieces mixed with other puzzles and many lost to the appetite of children and dogs.

How do humans ever get any sleep? I can barely keep my eyes open, but the nightmares are standing around the bar drinking and laughing and waiting to fool with me for an hour and wake me up again. If this belongs to the human experience, I want to go home now, back to my planet where the star is a little cooler and blue. Where the sky is on the green side of blue. Where the six-foot black herons would stand by the river with me and admire the waves and eddies and gravel bars and the shadows of fish we have no interest in killing. I don’t want to be human if it means those with nothing must suffer. If it means hearing the wind in the night, to feel it enter under the skin and grip that conscious living thing and whipping it away and dropping it into the Pacific or somewhere in the flooded Narrows at Zion’s Canyon.

I want to go home, but I won’t. Death is the only way back, and I won’t die. Not yet. Not when the fish tank isn’t finished and there is one person left who will fall into sleep because of my light fingered touch. As long as there is one soul who knows my sickness for home and would go with me, but won’t, as long as there is one person who is tired of failing to sleep alone. Whose skin is lonely for the careful touch, the cool hands, the warm breath of another homesick dreamer. Another alien trying and failing to pass as human.

Lava Lamp Part I

A few days ago I was chatting online with my friend Joel from England. We chat a lot actually. We’re the kind of friends who’ve been through some shit, are dealing with shit, and sort of get where each other is coming from. But our chats are pretty run of the mill, every day sorts of chats. Got to do laundry but will probably sleep. Missed therapist appointment and rescheduled. Again. And sometimes we really don’t have much to say, but just like to know that the other is awake and breathing and maybe ate something and that life can go on for both of us.

But when we were chatting last time, I asked him to do me a kind of random favor. I asked if he would take a picture of some object is his room and send it to me and I would write about it. I hadn’t been writing much because I had just started a full time job at a distribution warehouse and it was taking all my energy to curb my anxiety and get to work, finish my shift, and come home, without rattling apart. So I’d stopped writing for about a week or more and needed to start up again, and because I’m a firm believer that “writers block” is simply the belief that one must have something to say before one can write anything, I knew that in order to begin writing again I would need an object, and I would need someone else to give me that object so that I could write about it without any preconceived notions as to what it should look like (the basis of good free writing, and the foundation of anything written).

After a brief pause, Joel sent me a picture of his lava lamp.

My first thought was, ‘dammit Joel, you’re in England and you want me to write about your lava lamp?’ But knowing that the purpose was to write about something completely outside of my own thinking, I decided not to say anything and to accept the object with … well mostly silence.

Actually it’s the perfect object. Mundane, abstract but also very much tangible and real, and most important, I have no idea what to say about a lava lamp. This is good because that means I won’t hesitate to write, because when you have nothing to say about something, you can say whatever the hell you want. There are no limits. There is no direction, nothing to explain, no metaphors already waiting for a place to fit. I don’t even have to write “about” his lava lamp. How could I? I don’t know anything about it. It’s clear over in England and my sorry ass is in the deconstructed states of america. I’ve got nothing but a picture and a basic familiarity with what lava lamps look like. I don’t even know what those globs are inside or what makes them move around, or why anyone thought making such a thing was a good idea and why people bought them or why they went out of fashion when they did. I don’t know anything about lava lamps.

And yet look at what I’ve already written. On top of that, it’s midnight on a Saturday. I’m alone again in bed. I could be writing about depression and isolation again, but I’ve got that goddam lava lamp on my brain.

But that’s just the kind of person Joel is. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing, or how he impacts my life. Not any more than I know what I’m doing or how I impact his. But tonight, after reading far too much about taxes and our yet to be impeached tweeting (twitching?) Trumpster-in-office, I find myself thinking about Joel’s lava lamp and it makes me smile.

Thank you Joel. You have made what could have been a sleepless night, much lighter and welcoming. The bed I’m in seems to hug my body more gently now than before. I may actually sleep. And all this because of your stupid lava lamp.

When I save enough to come visit you and you say “one moment, let me go put the kettle on,” I’ll go looking for that lava lamp and touch it. I’ll turn it on and lean in to hear if it makes a sound. And when you come back with the kettle and two cups of English Breakfast, he might find my eye watering because I’m ultra sensitive that way. I might even dare to give him a kiss.

Just Words

I really want to write something, but I can’t
seem to come up with any reason.

I used to think words mattered, that they could
change things, improve things.

I don’t know anymore.

I think that all my years in school,
all the attempts at poetry, have come up against
the brutality of everyday practical, lived reality.

The reality is: people suffer and die.

They die for many reasons. People die
for lack of money to pay for insurance
or the medications insurance won’t pay for.

People suffer horribly.

Try to imagine someone who hasn’t eaten much
in the last week, who pushes
blankets and clothes around
in a shopping cart from who-cares-where.

Imagine a man, fifty years old, once or twice
married, maybe a house at one point, kids
who’ve died or deserted their family.
Imagine someone whose mind has whittled
itself down to a few simple thoughts:
“will I eat today?”
“where will I sleep”
“was I ever anyone?”

Maybe he doesn’t think this at all.
But try to imagine.

Where did he get his shoes?
Has he had them this whole time? How long
has he been on the street?
How did it come to this?

Imagine what it’s like at night. If it were me,
I’d look for a tunnel somewhere
under rarely traveled street.
I’ve seen the remains of garbage fires.

Imagine having no where to go.
Nothing to do.
Nothing to hold on to
except whatever fits in the shopping cart.

How many months does it take
to loose your grip
on what we would call normalcy?

Imagine what you would say to such a person.
What you would write.
Could even look at their face.

The wrinkles like gutters,
eyes filled with smog, the remaining teeth
like the last pillars
of an ancient Greek temple.

I couldn’t say anything. Not to them.
I wouldn’t dare say a word.

I’d probably give them some cash,
a cigarette, maybe a sub sandwich and be on my way.
But I’d hate myself for it. I do
hate myself for it.

Faced with senseless suffering, words are nothing,
a few quarters to last a week, a box
filled with the idea of kindness.

There are no words that will bring someone’s life back.

My poems won’t restore the mind
lost under park benches, street corners
soup kitchens and not a soul
not a single consistent soul who stays.

I can’t write the word steak
and give it to you to eat.

All I do is write down the reality
as I perceive it.
And my perception is flawed,
blemished with good fortune.

They don’t need my words.

These refugees without home or country,
maybe abused since birth, who never felt anything
but fear and rage and pain.

Who can’t trust kindness.
Who can’t identify with love.
Who want to be dead, who have tried to be dead,
who have been dead
and revived and dead again and revived and finally
just dead
and walking around.

I want to know, is there anything
you would say to them?

There is nothing to say.
Nothing that matters.

People will argue. They will try
to say encouraging things,
and we will be like children
going back and forth
saying “yes it does” “no it doesn’t”
“does too” “does not”
and on and on.

I’m aware that I’ll keep writing.
It’s become a habit now, a mindless reflex.

But the suffering won’t change, and I’ll struggle to live
with myself. A lucky one.
I’ll try to believe … I mean I’ll try
to believe again in words
and what they should have done by now.

I Don’t Care What You Call Me. I Want You To Try To Feel What I Feel

It’s not about beauty. It’s not about sex or sexuality. It isn’t the clothes, the shoes, the voice, or the way I walk or what I enjoy doing. That’s all personal expression and it has nothing to do with being a man or woman or anything in between.

But the body… the body, the body…

If you have not thought about gender I beg you to think of it now. Maybe not your own. You may be perfectly happy with the gendered body you have. If you are, then I beg you please, please exercise the immense power of your imagination and pretend to occupy the opposite gender than you currently occupy. Imagine being the same person you are, but in the opposite body. If you’re a woman, imagine having a man’s body: flat hairy chest, a beard, a squarish face and skeletal structure. Imagine dealing with a penis.

I know there are those whose sexual parts don’t mean male or female. I’m happy for you. I’m not asking anyone to change how they feel about themselves. But listen to me now: IT MATTERS TO ME. It matters to a lot of people. 

I’m a woman. Always. All the time. When I sleep I’m a woman. When I’m naked in the shower I’m a woman. When I wear Jeans and a T- shirt I’m a woman. There is never a point when I am not a woman. The ” I” in me, the self, the person who feels and tells the body to sit or walk or speak or cry laugh think wonder doubt hope keep living love yes goddess of need I am talking about the self that needs to love and be loved back.

The person who carries this body from room to room, the great I AM of my self – that is a woman. She always has been and always will be a woman. To hell with the intricacies of gender. To hell with defining or proving or studying what gender means. It makes no difference. I don’t care about evidence. Fuck the evidence. It’s all smoke and distraction.

ALL I WANT IS THE RIGHT BODY. All I want is for people to try and feel the misplacement I experience. To understand how badly I want to get up out of bed, put on some generic clothes and walk outside without even washing my face and still be readily recognized as a woman. I’m tired of trying to “pass” as a woman. I want to be seen as a woman regardless of how I dress or if I wear earings or a necklace. 

I want people to see a woman because I have a woman’s body. I want to be a nude woman.

But today I can’t bring myself to believe that’s possible. And I don’t want to hear how that’s impossible to understand. We can understand each other better than we think. We can’t know, but we can understand. We can. Those who think they can’t understand should try harder. Or make a better distinction between knowing and understanding. I am not beyond anyone’s understanding. I am, after all, just as human as everyone else. 

Dear Men

I never really understood you. I wish I did. But I never did and still don’t. I never understood women that much either. But now that I am aware of my womanhood, now that I’m spending more time with them as a fellow female friend, I’ve learned at least one thing. They openly express how they feel. And they feel a lot. They are conflicted and confident at the same time. Angry and gentle. Afraid and determined. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that men are no different. They only act like they’re different.

I’m not saying men should act like women. If I were looking for a man, I’d just want one who could dig deep into himself, know himself, and be willing to open up and be vulnerable and talk about what he discovers. He could be strong and tough and protective or whatever he is, just talk to us more. Don’t talk to my body. (I like compliments, don’t misunderstand) Talk to ME. Open up. Be vulnerable for a while. These are not traits that are limited to women. These make a complete human. For some reason society has told us that women are vulnerable and cry a lot and do all the emotional talking and it’s all bullshit. Vulnerability, open communication, being aware of one’s emotions and discussing them – these are qualities that make for a better society. A better marriage. A better relationship. A better sense of self.

Maybe this all sounds contradictory to my identity as a transgender woman. To be honest, I can’t answer the question “what makes me a woman” I just know I am. But I do know that it isn’t social conventions that make me a woman. I took that trip way down deep. I stripped myself of everything I knew about gender, about myself, and simply asked “what am I”? For me, the answer was a drastic one. For other’s it’s simply a stronger sense of the self you already are. A stronger grip on what you want and need and a greater understanding of what you are capable of. For most people, it’s not about gender at all.

Think of Spock in “Star Trek: The Voyage Home” where he is taking a test at a computer terminal and the computer finally asks “how do you feel?” Remember how stumped Spock was. Remember how irrelevant he felt the question was. Well, it’s not irrelevant. In my opinion, it’s the most important question a person could ask, and the most difficult but also most valuable question we can try to answer.

For whatever reason, women don’t seem to ever have much of a problem with this question. At least not compared to men. I know I’m generalizing. But just think about how often we’ve heard the phrase “what do women want?” Well we’ve been telling you what we want for ages. I think at this point, one of the things we want if for you to tell us what you want. Tell us what are you feeling. Be the complex creatures we know you must be.

I Don’t Know What to Write To My (My?) Congress-person, But I Have to Start Somewhere

I want to write to whatever is out there in my local government supposedly representing “us.” Trouble is, I’m sick of all of the “issues.” Gun control, homelessness, poverty, healthcare, on and on and on, each individual issue is merely a symptom of a larger … something. Also, I don’t have the time to research any one issue. I don’t have the time to research what my local government is actually doing about anything. And even if I did do some research, I wouldn’t know what to trust.

I think what I may write is a demand for answers. Direct answers, not from a secretary or speechwriter, but from the governor himself or representative in Washington. I want to cut through the bullshit and get a straight answer. Not excuses. Not ambiguities. I want fucking answers. I want to know why Trump is still the president and what will be done about Mike Pence and what is so goddamn difficult about the idea that we are all created (born into existence) as equals. When did military spending become such an open ticket while education, healthcare, relegated to little temporary programs (what the Affordable Healthcare Act seems to have become), that come and go with each president, each new election, hell it might as well be every Thursday of the month it changes that much.

When will we stop focusing on what we should be afraid of (foreign powers, terrorists of all kinds) to what we need to care about. What happened to E Pluribus Unum? Out of one, many. Meaning we’re in this together. We. Americans. But if we’re really adventurous, it also means the entire world. But let’s just stick with America for now. That seems hard enough. We THE PEOPLE are in this together. Not we the corporation, we the oil companies, we the Republican, Democratic, Independent party. WE THE PEOPLE. Have we all forgotten what a person is? Don’t we have our group of friends at work? Don’t we talk about whose having a baby, who just got their first house? Don’t we ask about that friend’s mother who’s in the hospital and won’t make it? Don’t we go to funerals and place flowers at the stones? Do we still understand what death is? Birth? Aren’t we all in the middle of life’s tortures and rewards, divorces, new loves, first loves, losses, failures. Who has not gotten out of bed for the fifteen-thousandth time, and gone to work (if you are fortunate enough to have work) and think, “is this all there is?”

That’s my question to these representatives. “Is this all there is?” “Is this what we are stuck with?” I can’t do their jobs for them. That’s why we have elections. That’s why we have a government. So, governor whoever-you-are, senator-of-the-moment, what are you doing for the people of this country? Because this state is only one of fifty and you should know that this is the UNITED states of America. It’s supposed to. The corporations don’t get a voice. Only the people who work for those corporations. The individual people, same as the individual who has no home and eats at the local soup kitchen, and the single mother who doesn’t speak English well, who is a citizen regardless of what people assume, and she’s working and paying taxes and trying to survive. PEOPLE have the voice. And we’ve elected you because we thought you could lead us. We thought you had the wisdom to improve our lives.

I’m not asking for handouts. Let’s step past that smoke screen right now. And I don’t want to hear about how much you care about this or that group of minorities. There should be no minorities in America. E PLURIBUS GODDAMN UNUM. What happened to that idea senator? What are you doing to unite us again? Anything? Look at your agenda and tell me what place does unity occupy on your hierarchy of things to do? Please tell me it is higher than “filibuster next proposed whatever.” Please tell me it’s higher than “to bomb or not to bomb.”

But enough. I feel sick. I have tissue shoved up my nose to keep the constant running under control. I’m going to listen to music and let the night come and when I breathe in and out I’ll tell myself “I’m breathing in and out.” Because that’s all I can do now. And whatever I can do, Mr. Governor, senator, current man in the white house, whatever I can do I promise you I will do.