poems (transcript of “Art As Healing” @ JANM set) 

I am posting these poems (many in first draft stage) for a set I will be performing this evening without live interpretation. The live zoom event will be recorded and uploaded with closed captioning within a week, and I will add a link once the event is live. I apologize that the final part of my set, an improv story, will not have a live transcript.

content notes: dysphoria, grief, loss, ideation (implied)

4.28.20 (excerpt)
the things we cherish
tell us who we are
our love tethers us
to one another

4.2.20
in times like these, return to what you know
the memory of breath, clean air flowing through you
every time you have expanded, unfurled, and grown

the certainty of your own body, how it has loved and
carried all of you, how it is all of you, home for your spirit
and all the wisdom you have gathered

return to yourself, to the comfort of knowing you are held
by love, in love, by the many who have needed you
and the ones who came before but had to go

you are never alone, even now
our bodies longing for touch
to be carried through

whatever comes next
let hope be your vessel
may your breath fill your sails

4.4.20
the beauty of this life is
you are writing yourself into existence.
you envision yourself (in a dream,
in a breath) and become

keep creating, uncovering, honing in,
making a body of yourself, creature finding
home in skin. you are this wondrous imagining,
the unafraid seeking of truth made flesh.

you are alive.
what could be more beautiful?

5.20.20 (excerpt)
how much grief can a body hold, a collective?
before saturation–before too much of too much
that temptation to let go, tempered only by
not wanting to add another name to the litany
of whispered words, the tender things we called
one another become our quiet prayers,
a chant, a praisebook, a memorial of all of us
who dared to live

how much is too much, a desert of our hearts,
parched from the shedding of so many tears,
the salt water wrung from us even as we gaze upon
past joys, see our own smiles captured forever,
the flimsy celluloid, pixels arranged in pleasing shapes
can they truly tell our stories?

too much, too much, too much of too much–
like what they have always said about us, our brilliant
eccentric, extraneous bodies, twisting under florescent lights,
the audacity. how dare we love one another,
let alone our own broken, sinful bodies?

it is not them, or us, but the grief that will kill us.
swept away, at last, after fighting so hard and for so long,
our bodies remembering what it feels like to get lost
in the tide, that sweet surrender to anything
more powerful than the tiny, beautiful dramas
of our tired, exhausting lives. the ocean of it, the beyond:
total and dark and deep, how we can pull it over our bodies
like a blanket–a blanket, comfortable, heavy, enveloping
us into rest–peace at last

how much grief_20.05.20

image description: a sheet of paper lays against a light brown hardwood floor. the page contains a typewritten poem with marginalia and notes added in blue handwriting. (the text of the poem is the piece titled 5.20.20 above, with some edits and shifts in line breaks)

I think I mentioned this in my last blog post, but composing poetry on a typewriter has been a really fun approach/challenge — I find myself paying more attention to structure and form (in a loose way, often this is about the shape of words or a piece as opposed to formal structural choices or experimenting with established poetic forms). I also like the feeling of permanence that typing a draft creates, and then being able to make edits directly on the text, seeing my own thinking/revising as part of the process. (A caveat: the vast, vast majority of the Xing out in these pieces is from typos, not me revising as I’m typing.)

poem: when we watch mulan

When We Watch Mulan
for Cayden

how we are and are not our fathers
these Chinese men we do and do not know
we will talk about

the stories we may never know
cherish the ones we know how to tell
about how we so often talk about our feelings,

our manhood, how we dress as who we see
— looking in the mirror, we
know these reflections as our true selves

forged and shaped, like her father’s sword
nurtured and watered, like the flowered comb
she leaves behind

we strive to fill these footsteps
trace ourselves in the curves of their jaws
the shape of our hair

out of what do we make
our manhood, dark-moon mystery
they left behind

we will talk about
all of the times we cried
looking in the mirror

all of the times we might cry,
looking in the mirror —
that man, staring back at me

—————————————————-

I typed this piece on a friend’s typewriter that has been doing a home stay with me. It’s been interesting to explore form in different ways by typing poetry: I notice myself paying more attention to visual layout, and there is also a different tempo, pace, soundtrack, and physical interaction with writing — it takes a lot more finger and wrist muscle than writing by hand or typing on a laptop, and it creates a significant amount of very vigorous typing noise. I also find applying this permanence to first drafts really satisfying.

This poem was one of those that happened very quickly and also feels like maybe it has been years in the drafting. Cayden and I had planned at the beginning of 2020 to watch the live action Mulan together in April and cry a lot and feel all of our trans feelings — I still hope we’ll be able to do that together in the nearish future.

I feel a piece brewing called “Being Trans at the Funeral,” but I haven’t been able to start putting it into words yet. Right now it’s a lot of feelings, including being grateful to be so held in trans community, but also wishing that we all had a little less practice navigating grief.

This poem is also featured in the fourth edition of the Loves Me | Loves Me Not zine, curated by jenevieve ting + nikita lamba.