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I have read too many shitty poems.  Perhaps it is not solely my overwhelming desire to write in order to justify my own existence that causes me to write, but rather, my resentment for poetry that has to do with floral language and boring broken heartedness.  I would love to be different as a poet--but so would all the poets who have preceded me, and perhaps most- if not all, of my contemporaries.  This is where many of them either have failed, or will fail.  Writing poetry with the intention of creating something different is an act of betrayal to the potential of a poem.  Rather, writing with the intent of being real- of being honest, of minimizing the amount of fucks you can give, is, in my opinion, poetry in its truest form.  This is something I have been toying with all semester.  I have written poems previously- my chapbook Scents of War is still a work that I am proud of, but because I was 16 when I was presented with the offer to publish my work, and 17 when it finally was published, I had certain reservations about the work.  Suddenly. I noticed myself censoring my work- making sure that anything which was explicitly sexual was taken out. Nobody who had read my work or advised me suggested I remove sexual content, but the idea of being a young woman writing about sex in an explicit way made me feel uncomfortable- or rather, my perception in the eyes of the public made me uncomfortable.  I did not want to be hypersexualized, nor did I want those who read my work to hypersexualize me.  Though I am only a couple of years older now, I feel like through this work, I have been more honest.  Throughout Scents of War, I was searching for this inner honesty and rawness that I felt could only be communicated through the written word.  Though I pushed myself with this chapbook, I feel I have pushed myself farther with the work I have done this semester.  Using influences of rawness such as Clarice Lispector in addition to the explicit way Marie Howe and Ariana Reines talk about female and sexual relations, I was able to craft more honest work.  There are not enough women writers, and an even smaller amount of women writers who are comfortable writing about sex, its implications, and the nakedness of bodies and how they work together- or how they do not.  The goal of my work is not to be different or new or exciting, but rather, to be real- to not be the girl that holds the backspace button down after writing a poem about a vivid sexual experience.  Of course, not all of my poems are about sex or romantic relationships- and in the ones that aren’t, I have tried to reach a new level of honesty there, as well.  I did this by not worrying too much about what people will say or think if I word something a certain way, or if I write about a topic that is so controversial it makes people uncomfortable.  The work of Marina Abramovic interests me in that she uses art as a tool to imitate human nature, and heavily tests the human limits.  She does this through performance art, and although my form of art is different, my goal is to transgress the limits that have been imposed on me for the past 18 years and write without doubt. 

 

Private Affairs in Public Spaces

 

I walk from the retirement community to Union Station,

And I remember the words "concrete jungle"

that two tourists from Salem, Oregon

 used to describe Denver.

We were waiting for the light rail

When they asked me for directions-

Criticizing my home after only a few hours of existing in it.

I look around at the tall glass buildings,

The endless feet of cement,

I inhale the smell of urine as I walk.

I notice the Taco Bell wrappers on the ground,

The people sitting on the side of the street,

not knowing where they belong or who they are.

I notice the massive beige cylinders- wondering how I had never noticed them

Everytime of every day I have walked this route.

I get on the light rail,

Taking time to choose my seat,

Finally choosing the one where the window is clear

Instead of the ones with the dizzying black dots on them.

 

A group of drunk kids get on the train

With a bottle.

They laugh, play, drink straight from the bottle,

And the Chicano boy across from me says "crazy niggas",

While continuing to talk to himself.

The way he mumbles words to himself,

Slurring them,

Rocking his head from side to side-

Brown eyes glistening.

 

I sit there in my 18 year old body,

Looking at these children who are younger than me by too many years

Drinking publicly.

The way they take the swigs makes it seem like apple juice-

How smoothly it goes down the throat.

The Chicano boy,

After speaking to himself for quite some time,

Goes over to the group of fucked up kids and starts guzzling from the bottle.

The white girls in the group who held the bottle

 as if it were giving them breath

 cheer and roar for the Chicano boy.

They get to Decatur-Federal Station, and a young black boy

 with an eyepatch across his left eye says,

"You getting off here, too, my nigga?"

They throw their hands together,

Force their bodies on each other

And pat each other's backs.

The whole group gets off,

Hollering and shouting,

And I look to the bald man with piercings and tattoos in front of me.

We shake our heads at each other,

He says, "Nothing but trouble"

I say- what were they drinking?

He says, "Tequila, probably stole it."

We continue to make casual conversation

 about how it would be more trouble to stop them

 than to leave them be,

We comment on their age,

How no one should be drinking that young

- let alone in a public place,

“Where are their parents?”, he asks.

I don’t answer.

I am not part of his demographic-

The conversation comes to a halt.

The group of people on the train tonight is especially odd-

Most disturbances on the train are caused by adults,

But I don’t blame the kids.

They have so much to be bitter about already.

But all I can think about

Is how one of the nurses at work told me that Bruce is violent.

 

I asked, "Bruce Worthington?"

And she said,

 "Yes, he's been known to choke his carepartners."

I am surprised because Bruce doesn't talk much

 besides "hi" and "yes".

He always smiles when he sees me,

Rubbing his bald head

and walking his laps around the memory care unit .

Bruce is probably the friendliest man in memory care,

And it threw me off guard when the nurse said he was the most violent, by far.

Bruce wasn't my client so I didn't know him beyond seeing him out on the floor,

Hugging him,

And him coming to rub my back occasionally.

I felt betrayed-

That someone who seemed so sweet,

So loving, could be so dangerous behind closed doors.

I didn't blame Bruce- or any of the other residents, in fact.

They don't know where they are or who is taking care of them-

All they know is that in one moment,

They are half naked on a toilet

with a stranger stripping them of their remaining clothes,

And all they remember is defense.

I think about how terrifying that would be,

How every time I change my client or get her into her pajamas,

In her mind,

I am sexually assaulting her.

I think about how it must feel after she has shit herself,

And not a normal shit-

The kind that leaked all through her Depend and up her shirt,

And I strip her down and shower her,

Making sure her ass is clean and there's no shit stuck in her pubic hair.

I wonder how it feels

 when a stranger reaches her hands in her ass with a cold wipe,

And I understand her when she punches me in the stomach

Screaming “I hate you”

 

I think that's how some of these kids feel.

They don't know where they belong,

Or who is taking care of them,

Or why people are always taking away the things that belong to them.

But just like every dementia patient can experience moments of lucidity,

I think that these kids can, too.

Not all of their paths were set in stone for them,

They're not all going to be naked in a cold, metal bathroom,

having a stranger stick one of their body parts up their ass.

Some of them will be teachers, or artists, or engineers.

But others

Others

Will be the red stain used to paint the streets.

Others will be

Public blood

And mourning mothers

And black and Latino parents

 having to defend their children’s deaths

because they were on the honor roll,

Because “he was just a kid” isn’t enough for non-white children.

Because Kenneka Jenkins shouldn’t have been in that hotel room anyway,

The moral of her death frozen.

Others will be lost in gentrification

And whispers of white women talking about subsidized housing,

Of white sorority sisters using “black” and “dangerous” synonymously,

Of presidents and supreme courts preventing migration from those seeking refuge,

Of being sold for $400-

I’m sorry.

I don’t mean for this poem to be violent. 

I’m sorry,

I don’t know who should apologize.

 

 

To All The Men Who Loved Me:

 

1) we played yoville together on facebook                                       

 we went to church together                          

 you spoke in my native tongue

you wanted me to be yours

but the thought of being someone’s,

even at age eleven

was too committal for me

2)   i didn’t know i liked you

until you showed up at my house

for a ride to our middle school dance.

you held my hips-

i told you i liked you via

facebook chat.

you asked me to be your girlfriend

and immediately after i said yes,

you typed i love you <3

sorry i dated your cousin

lol

 3)   you were three and a half years my senior

can 13 and 17 create a sentence?

i’m finally old enough to know that i really did

love you.

you quit smoking for me,

started again after i left.

i’m so happy that when i saw you this summer

you had finally quit for yourself.

i remember being in your uncle’s house,

teasing you with my bra on.

the little purple hearts

were much more temporary than

our lingering-

unfulfilled love.

i know our story is probably over-

but even still,

i miss the way you touch my hair sometimes.

sorry i dated your cousin. 

4) i was so broken when i met you

you thought i was a slut because

my cleavage was showing.

you put me on such a high pedestal-

i wasn’t aphrodite in any sense.

you wanted me

but i still wore his cross every day,

still imagined i was lying next to him every day.

you told me i was so hung up on him,

i was ruining everything we had.

funny how your girlfriend became my bff

because she felt threatened by me

and then stopped talking to me

a year later because i took you out for coffee on your birthday.

you had an unauthorized outing with a

female is what she said-

i said but does she know about the time

you broke your finger

and your first thought was if you could still

finger me or not?

lol

5) i was 15 and you were 22

yikes

but when we met at that party

something spookier than our age difference

was how i felt like i already knew you.

how you told me about your dad beating you,

how i told you about my mom’s recent homelessness-

how you texted me right after.

i didn’t think you were cute- but something weird was happening.

you texted me the next day:

“i know you’re supposed to wait

three days-

but fuck it.

wanna go out with me?”

i told my mom about you

said you were probably a creep,

didn’t let me go out with you.

thank you, mama.

you still send me texts sometimes,

you still tell me that we were soul mates in our past life-

you still freak me out.

i’m convinced you’re a medium-

but you should know

the girl with long hair

and laced boots

never dates

the volunteer firefighter

who tells her she was

his last thought

when he thought he was dying.

yikes

6) i took his cross off after 395 days.

it’s not a coincidence

i became yours

On day 396.

you are the only man

that has never

given me a reason

to be afraid.

you show me

that gentility

and masculinity

can be synonymous.

i’m a triple d-

guys tell me i’m their soulmate

all the time.

you’re the only one

who might be right.

sorry i used you

for my limbo games-

you deserve so much more.

7) i was newly 18,

you 22.

i figured i could use a man

who was on his way out of

engineering school

and on his way into

law school.

you said you wanted to be

in the business of dreams.

i picked you up with

alcohol on your breath too many times

-is that why you never kissed me?

crazy how intimate we were

without ever touching.

you kissed my neck,

but not my lips.

it was so sexy

how you rented Moonrise Kingdom

from the public library,

and invited me to your

unfurnished apartment

to eat porridge.

your utilization of an

upside down trash can

as a nightstand

was such an engine starter-

but nothing beats

how you said you needed

to check which floorboards

were squeaky

and went into the kitchen

and ripped ass.

can’t believe i still

let you touch my butt.

your voice

and mediocre guitar

playing were a turn on,

your usage of ketamine

cheap vodka

and telephone tears

were not.

you said you couldn’t cry

at funerals-

how come you cried

when you wanted to talk

about our future

and i said we didn’t

have one?

 

6) remember when that guy

tried to commit suicide

by jumping in front of my car?

i braked hard,

but he just ran into the

other lane when he realized.

i never looked back to see

what happened.

i remember making pancakes

for you two days later.

promised i’d go to school-

you held me as i sobbed

and my dog ate your shoe.

no one has seen me as broken

as you.

i know sometimes i intimidate you-

but i don’t mean to come off so harsh.

you teach me to be soft-

you let me feel small.

all the others boys

used aggression to combat

their embarrassment for

being intimidated by a girl.

you just see it as grace-

i don’t have to clench

my skin

when i’m around

you.

i thought

losing our virginities

in a public park

in my mother’s mini van

for six minutes

was intimate.

i would  have never guessed

i would be holding

a bedside pee bottle

to your flaccid penis

and washing your

wounded, weak body.

with you

i’ve learned how naked

intimacy is.