what we did not cover in the street medic training

[content note: health care, abuse, surgery, cancer, death]

the little things like:
there is only so much
the human body can take
(which i know)

the degree a wrist
— or a mind —
can bend before breaking
(which i do not know)

and whether the bruises
on the inside of that wrist
means the white coats will send her away

or, if not them,
when she is treated, released
men in other uniforms will send her further away

after college a friend posted a photo of her medical bills
“without insurance, i would be dead”
two years later, she was, anyway

“cancer is possible, come back in six months”
I swallowed the fear, stopped going instead
for more that two years, i stayed away

cells may have been dividing
secretly growing, plotting, slow burn
(but i did not want to know)

if you hold on to something too long
the release loses its joy,
which I learned, when i finally did go

we call ourselves survivors
— it’s what we (most of us) do, survive —
struggling to breathe, to last
to just … stay alive

in three months four friends
went under the blade
cut into, not cut short

women carrying cysts, fibroids
their pre-existing trauma made
cut away, then cut more

there is always more coming
so much more and still,
still more i do not know

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fears and aspirations

Happy Year of the Snake! Had dinner with family and friends at my aunt’s house last night, and we ended up going in a circle around the table introducing ourselves, then each sharing one fear and one aspiration. (Yes, this happened.)

Found out that my cousin sees herself as pretty conservative; she has a fear of taking risks, because she’s a perfectionist and she wants to be able to control things. Her brother has a fear of not living life to the fullest, so he actively tries to make the most of every day. And it all comes from the same place — wanting to succeed and fearing failure, and wanting to embrace possibility. The fear I shared was being held back by fear (a meta-fear, as it were) — I’m afraid of letting fear win and not experiencing new things.

Over the past few years, I have pushed myself to embrace failure, to see that not being good at something isn’t really that scary. Sometimes, you just have to do things that are terrifying. Important life skill. Every time I go on stage, I’m scared. And every time I finish a set, I get to have that moment right after when I realize that I’m still alive. And everything is going to be OK.

I did a few shows this week. Performed “native tongue” for my co-workers at our all-staff meeting, and I started by saying, “Wow, I didn’t realize I was going to be this nervous.” After, our CFO’s wife, who was facilitating a training on self-care for that meeting, thanked us (other co-worker covered a Taylor Swift song) for sharing something and being vulnerable. And then later that day, I got to hear from co-workers who connected with the piece and have gone through similar experiences.

Thursday night was [common ground], and I performed “23.” I knew it was going to be difficult; it has taken me weeks to get it to a point where it felt done. But a few other queer artists went before me, and then we had the Partnership of LGBT Organizations speaking about being excluded from Santa Ana’s Tet parade. I ended up revising my set right before I went on to include more love poems. It felt right, and it was what I wanted to share with the audience.

23 excerpt

Saturday, we held a mini-TNC for students from the Claremont Colleges who were taking a day-long tour of Little Tokyo to talk about art and activism in our communities. The staff shared about our relationships to the space, and also our views on art. I said something along the lines of seeing poetry as a way to move beyond academic writing and to find a way to be more honest with myself. And I write love poems because I want to share a celebratory view of the queer experience. I want to celebrate love and being able to live fully, more honestly.

This feels like it’s going to be a good year. Thank you to all of the organizers and audiences who are providing spaces for people to share and heal. Here’s to a year of being honest, embracing love, and striving to take risks and push past fear. Gong xi fa cai, friends.