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.

“my gender feels like”

This piece was created for the last show of Season 19 of Tuesday Night Cafe, as part of a set called “they/them femmes & friends,” featuring Kyla, Mya, Navor, Opulence, and me!

Our show bio: “they/them femmes & friends is a collaboration of trans+intersex artists of color who use they/them pronouns. Though we share pronouns, our genders are as diverse as our spirits, and we’re excited to share a glimpse with you tonight. This set also features a slideshow* of gender affirming photos, art, and selfies by people who use they/them pronouns.”

* I didn’t get permission to share the photo slideshow beyond the Tuesday Night Cafe space, but will ask for it at some undetermined point in the future. Seeing the beautiful joy of comrades projected into a community space that feels like home to me felt like the spiritual healing that comes with truly being seen.

Thank you to Navor for allowing me to share this (cropped) image below. Please contact Navor for the full-size image and do not use or share without permission.

Navor_Lotus flows above

“Lotus Flows Above, Let Us Float Above” [Image description: Three lotuses sit on lily pads as they float on reflections of worlds that carry them with leaves surrounding their existence and two brown hands stretching towards the direction of prayers and calls for peace. Gradient colors of pink, purple, orange, green, black and white are present in this healing formed by hands.]

Mya
My gender feels like an uncomfortable silence.

Audrey
my gender feels like
something too visible and unseen all at once

Opulence
my gender feels like a cloud before the storm

Navor
my gender feels like
a brown nonbinary babe wearing a velvet dress and their mothers top

Kyla
my gender feels like queer futurity

Mya
My gender feels like an uncomfortable silence.

In Japanese animation there are frequently pauses,
without dialogue or music,
that make American audiences…uncomfortable.

Studio Ghibli movies,
when dubbed,
have their silences erased, replaced by sound effects
or conversation
or explanation

They say,
silence makes us uncomfortable …

Audrey
my gender feels like
something too visible and unseen all at once

wading through an ocean of she
sir, sir, this is the women’s room

what can I get for you ladies
brothers and sisters
ladies and gentlemen
i am in the liminal nowhere in between

feels like target in the bathroom
feels like holding it in
deciding not to drink water
— even though I love drinking water

Opulence
my gender feels like a cloud before the storm;
an acorn collected, carried, buried, and forgotten.

An emerald held in the earth; a bird in a storm.

My gender feels like a clump of hair,
a satisfying sneeze.

My gender is a grain of mucus covered sand on its way to becoming a pearl
my gender is a ruby, a yellow hued sapphire, a mistake in a chemical composition

Navor
my gender feels like
a brown nonbinary babe wearing a velvet dress and their mothers top
reminiscent of baro’t saya

they, them, theirs sit so gracefully on a wooden stool asking themselves if their moms looked like this, if their fathers approved of this, if past lovers who hovered wanted this, if strangers were ever asked to change their name to sound more like them [1] – to be read more like them [1] – if i’ve become more like them [1] // because they want to survive like their indigenous-native and ilokano-pangasinan ancestors but not adopt the ways that have erased a type of healing nor assimilate into a settler-colonial practice. // as they end their gaze, they blink with promise to always ever resist because….. i have always wanted this.  Footnotes: [1] them (T͟Hem,T͟Həm/) – Spaniards & Amerikkkans, cis-white-hetero-ablebodied-men

Kyla
my gender feels like queer futurity,
a term coined by José Esteban Muñoz.
in his words and theory,
“we may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality”
in my own words that means
my gender feels like holding a future within me
that doesn’t yet exist
my gender feels like a work in progress
hands with chipped pink nail polish
shaping earth,
planting seeds
for a future
where my gender
can flourish.

Audrey
like I have only ever been trying on things that don’t fit
no, I don’t want to be a boy
and I have never been your daughter
though I have always been your daughter

and it still moves me to call myself,
in a secret, quiet voice,
a queer woman of color

it still moves me to think of
the women ancestors
who could hardly imagine me, girlchild, living with so much freedom

Mya
When they ask me, what is your gender?
I say that I’m
transgender,
nonbinary,
& agender (that means without gender)

that we each make our own definition of the word,
that I never understood that internal sense of gender so many of us are supposed to have
that I grew up…
uncomfortable

Opulence
my gender feels like hot lava regurgitated by the earth; held down and pressed into something beautiful

Audrey
feels like getting to a comrade’s home after a long day
and taking off my chest binder
nipples out, still they

Kyla
feels like a childhood spent yearning for the gentle flame of a candle
my gender feels like a chrysalis ready to burst free

Opulence
my gender is uncontainable, hot and fluid. my gender is a whisper and a scream
the tattoo I don’t remember getting.

Kyla
my gender feels like warmth–warm hugs, warm sweaters, warm faces

my gender feels like floating in a tide of clear water, not knowing where it will take me next

Navor
my gender feels like abolition not reform
feels like more than one LGBTQIA+ themed night during the year

Audrey
feels like fuck an “LGBTQ” org
that can’t bother to use my pronouns correctly

Opulence
my gender is a gift to my ancestors, a silent thank you I see from the other side of the closet door
my gender holds space, opens hearts makes room.

Audrey
feels like no more questions about
whether being trans is a choice
which bathroom
which danger

Navor
feels like recognition that mental health deserves more than one day
how suicide prevention is not out of the darkness
but out of the whiteness
because lightness has done nothing for brown and black femmes

Opulence
my gender feels expansive, a field of wheat; an endless flame
my gender feels abundant; clearing; like  dr. bronner’s peppermint soap; eucalyptus chapstick

Audrey
my gender feels like affirmations given freely
like a rib cage around my tenderness
just enough holes for love to pour through

Opulence
my gender feels like femme fire, like Durga’s hungry smile, weapons raised
my gender is unrelenting; like the birds feasting on prometheus’ liver.
my gender feels like me 🙂

Mya
What I wish I could say is
“my gender is absent”
And let silence speak for the rest.