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,
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
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,
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.
Will be the red stain used to paint the streets.
Others will be
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 don’t mean for this poem to be violent.
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
you asked me to be your girlfriend
and immediately after i said yes,
you typed i love you <3
sorry i dated your cousin
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
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
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?
5) i was 15 and you were 22
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
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
the volunteer firefighter
who tells her she was
his last thought
when he thought he was dying.
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
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,
i figured i could use a man
who was on his way out of
and on his way into
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
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
and went into the kitchen
and ripped ass.
can’t believe i still
let you touch my butt.
and mediocre guitar
playing were a turn on,
your usage of ketamine
and telephone tears
you said you couldn’t cry
how come you cried
when you wanted to talk
about our future
and i said we didn’t
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
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
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
when i’m around
losing our virginities
in a public park
in my mother’s mini van
for six minutes
i would have never guessed
i would be holding
a bedside pee bottle
to your flaccid penis
and washing your
wounded, weak body.
i’ve learned how naked