Poetic Theatre Festival

This weekend is the Poetic Theatre Festival, and I’ll be taking part in two shows.  The encore presentation of the Spoken Word Almanac Project takes place tonight, Jan 6th at 9pm.  Tomorrow at 5pm is the reading of Off the Record, a new play written by Akua Doku, Caroline Rothstein, Ka’mone Felix and myself.  Check out my interview with Stagebuzz here.  Hope to see you!

The political is personal

I’m honored to be a Semifinalist for the Jerome Foundation’s Stakeholders Choice Award.  I’ll be putting together a sneak peak of a potential one-woman show on breaking down barriers, both those we create ourselves and those imposed by society, that keep us from connecting on a human level. So much of racism, homophobia, and other forms of xenophobia are born from imagined distance. I’ll be posting the date of my show and I hope you can come watch.  Thank you to all of the incredible people in my life who have inspired me, especially my friend Fritz who I wrote this poem with over the summer.

 

New 30/30 poems

This month, I joined friends across the country in writing 30 poems in 30 days.  I was especially excited to get some new material out there.  Here are two:

Bloodbath

The UK Department of Health announced today that the ban on gay men donating blood has been lifted… as long as they haven’t had sex with another man in the past year.

Say there is a clean song
jackknifing the fat from
bone. The bleach runneth
over from your good, fine
hands. Father, I have sinned
because I would not fake the
flush, the fractured breath
like a dusty wafer on
your meaty tongue.

Say I am unholy because
I backed away from your
spray-on purity. I forgot
how dark you keep
your bedroom. That you
gagged the doorbell;
held the phone at gunpoint;
threw darts at her shadow
to keep it from twitching.

Is my blood a dead ocean?
Is there something political
in the man who squeezes
my hip on the subway,
or in the way I thrust a pen
into his palm? Is my body
too choked to serve? Should
I not teach your children to
raise blades from their wrists?

I’m telling you, I have my own
army now. We found our own
holy in the murder of shame.
We have suitcases of blood
to set sail in the ocean.
If you won’t take them,
we are burying them
where they were born-
a baptism by salt.

————————————–

Protection

This ribbon is something
I knew by name, once-
a smooth, greaseless
sling of bone cradling
what seeps unguarded.

To learn protection,
what it means when
applied to myself,
when I am so used to
stitching my own swelter,

calling the fever home
with the mouth of the match,
the spark means lighthouse,
the burn speaks lullaby,
the coo of cracked skin

will not know me now.
This is what therapy and
remedy
forget- that I love
the sound of my own
heart breaking

the delicious crash
stomping the embers
back to frenzy. It’s calm
that terrifies me: silent
snowstorms in the night,

how they blanket,
in a fine, proud skeleton,
the shivering earth,
its novacained twitch,
100 songs with their mouths

taped shut.

IWPS Updates

What up friends.  I am freshly back from the 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam in Cleveland, Ohio.  I’m so honored to be ranked 10th in the world, a rank I share with the talented and amazing Suzi Q Smith.  My best friend Chris August is the CHAMPION and I couldn’t be more proud of him.  Google him and send him some love.

Sestina for Marathon Training

This is how to extend every breath
into soft staircase. You are scaling
a wall of undulating ribcage, tethered
to the shivering rind of spine
splayed open as a carcass of road.
Your pulse is a map in Morse code.

Before you ever learned the code
of escape routes- jamming breath,
as a rusted key, into stubborn road-
all you knew was movement. Scaling
the itchy rash of wait from your spine,
your surgeon feet sliced you untethered.

In high school, you learned to tether
your pace to the other girls, coding
your want to kiss her glazed spine
into the handcuff of your breath
to her face as you passed by, scales
flapping as red flags of open-mouth road.

You never won a trophy, but the road
tasted like ribbons. Every bare tether
an undressing of virgins, a blunt scale
of everything you drenched with code.
It felt like tidal wave to unfold breath,
without apology, down coast of spine.

Even when you finished last, spine
bowing to feet, to throbbing road,
you had a furious army of breath
streaming from your lips. Untethered
from your coach’s frown, her code
for loser, you beamed bright scales.

Through the years, you learned to scale
down heartache into shivers of spine.
They say it’s chemical, how the code
of sad is translated by tongues of road
into exhale, how the sinew can tether
you back to the whitewashed first breath.

Now, you are shoving handfuls of stupid hope into bursting spine. The road
measures your pounding on a scale of one to everything. You are not tethered
to even yourself. Marathon is code for look what you’ve done, with your very own breath.

After

In the morning,
she drove you home
in silence.
Halfway to your house,
the tire blew,
the car rattling to a jagged stop.
Fuck. Fuck.
She punched the horn, over and over,
and then screamed, her voice a thin cloth
straitjacketing you
back to yourself.
You flung open the door
and started walking
before she could tell you
to get out.

The plane

On the airplane, I find Jesus.
My Jewish mother would be horrified
but she isn’t here, on this gerbil-sized plane
thrashing like a baby’s fist through the
question-mark sky.
If she was, she would probably be
screaming, I imagine. Instead,
I am praying. Head skyward, clenching
the armrest as if it were the hand
of the last beautiful moment
I want to stay alive for
if only to remember it longer,
to write a poem about it someday.

If someday is now, here we go.
Jesus, save me. I will believe in you.
I mean, I do. (do I?) I mean,
I believe in life. I’m sorry.
For every stupid, stupid moment
I wanted to fold myself
onto the train tracks
and just listen to the doorbell
of last call booming over me,
a rusted rocket.

The man next to me,
the one with no understanding
of personal space
or inoffensive cologne,
smiles at me.
“It’s just turbulence,” he says,
patting my leg reassuringly.
I’d like to use his arm
as a rip cord.
Jesus, please. No one
on this plane loves me.
There are no beautiful girls
whose necks I could use
as sedatives, no men who
frown like my father.
It is not fair, Jesus.
If I knew for sure
we were crashing,
I probably wouldn’t call anyone,
anyway, because what is there to say
that I haven’t said?
“I believe in Jesus. Just thought
you should know that about me.”

Well, I don’t. I hate to admit
I believe in dumb luck and in
lazy statistics. Chances are,
everything
will be fine.
Most likely,
you can write
any poem you want to
on a day that works better
for your schedule.
Sure, you can love me
whenever’s good for you,
whenever you decide
you believe enough
in the impossible, the invisible,
the name you never thought
you’d call out.

Red.

here’s a poem based on federico garcia lorca’s “romance sonambulo” (http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/romance-sonambulo/)

Red. How I want you red.
Red pulse, red exhale.
The empty envelope on the floor and
the hand on the doorknob.
When the outside air hits her face
She burns dry ice, pockets the smoke.
Red shiver, her mouth red
Sucking in yellow and exhaling green.
Red, how I want you red.
In the Brooklyn night,
the shadows are sewn to her shoes,
hitchhiking.

Red, how I want you red.
The streetlights are blind policemen
Baking her footsteps into quiet
and wrapping the horizon in like a snowglobe.
The trees are sorcerers of movement,
every branch shaking slow,
beckoning naked stars
to rip off the black bathrobe of sky.
But who is waiting for her? And where?
She is standing on the porch, twirling red hair
like an ambulance siren and humming.

-i want to sew parachutes
into her rust-filled hangovers
be the vodka
and the water
my blood drips static
spiraling like a conch
for her to crawl into.
i am spinning. this thump,
this whisper
this anchor
dropping.

Red, how I want you red.
red blink, red grind.
every busy signal stretched to a solid hum
i am whispering white flags
into my veins
and sleepwalking home
if you want me,
unravel this shadow and shake me.
i will not crush
red to red anymore,
i just want
to be happy.