yes, i think that that is so important. loving to write. loving how words are formed and come out and appear, right out of your brain. it’s art. it’s… jesus, it’s everything. i think, as writers, we’re never really satisfied. i think we’re all perfectionists and even the work we decide to finally publish and let the world see isn’t ever as good as we think it can be. i think we are always criticizing ourselves and pushing ourselves to be better, to produce more writing, to edit it down, to fatten it up, to just keep going over our poems and prose and to constantly write everything we see and say down so that we can look back however many pages and go “yes yes let me write about this, let me write about the exact color of the sidewalk after it rains”—it’s exhausting. because we document everything. or try to. as accurately and as detailed as possible. but as for knowing if our words are ever worth anything… yes, i think it’s possible to know. our writing is definitely worth something. i mean, personally, i get plenty of asks from the sweetest people telling me how this poem helped them or how that poem opened their eyes to an issue they didn’t realize they were dealing with, etc. i think that once you can get past yourself, when your words are so tangible that other people can just reach right out and grab hold of them and try them out and let them sit or run or catch, then we’re doing our job. but i think that there is always going to be a level of self-doubt, no matter how many books we publish or how well known our work becomes. i mean, some of us are clearly destined to be #1 on the new york times bestseller list and i can guarantee you that while they may be confident that their work is good, they probably don’t see it as good enough. and may never see it as good enough. but yeah, i think that your writing is worth something. because you’re proactive about it. you care. you want it to be worth something. i think writing is always worth it. it’s a brave thing, to sit down at a desk or on the floor or a coffee shop or library or wherever and want to write about how you feel. to describe a moment, or a series of moments. to put your heart into it. to want others to feel what you’re saying. to want others to understand. yes, your writing is worth something. it’s everything. it’s everything you put into it. at the end of the day, if at least one person comes to me and tells me that x poem helped them, my writing is worth something. and sometimes, sometimes that person that i helped, sometimes it’s me. so yes. it’s worth it. if not for anyone else, then for yourself.
When my body had forgotten its purpose,
when it just hung off my brainstem like whipped mule.
When my hands only wrote. When my mouth only ate.
When my ass sat, my eyes read, when my reflexes
were answers to questions we all already knew.
Remember how it was then that you slid your hand
into me, a fork in the electric toaster of my body. Jesus,
where did all these sparks come from? Where was all
this heat? Remember what this mouth did last night?
And still, this morning I answer the phone like normal,
still I drink an hour’s worth of strong coffee. And now
I file. And now I send an email. And remember how
my lungs filled with all that everything? Remember
how my heart was an animal you released from its cage?
Remember how we unhinged? Remember all the names
our bodies called each other? Remember how afterwards,
the steam rose from us, like a pair of smiling ghosts?
Having strange, lucid dreams in which
you are the solution and I am the problem.
On both of my hands I can count all of
the things I have done wrong. The people
I have left. The phone calls that went
unanswered. Maybe I have a problem
owning up to things. Being an adult,
no one tells you how complicated it can
be. How people expect you to stock your
bathrooms full of fancy almond hand soap.
That your refrigerator must be full and
smell like clementines. That you will
want to stay in bed more times than you
will want to leave it. That the sun is not
here for us but that we can’t escape it.
That no one owes us anything. I lose
periods of time—days, weeks, sometimes
full months—the way my dad loses his
glasses, peppermints, this week’s grocery
list. I have this habit of going into Barnes
and Noble and pressing my nose flush up
against the blank pages of notebooks.
I think I just want a stranger to smell me
on their hands all day and not know why.
You would not have a child,
raise that child, teach it how to talk,
only to allow someone to ridicule it
because they do not understand
its way of speaking.
If you would not do that to a child,
why would you do it to a poem?
Both come from the body
covered in blood
i love lipstick. i want to write an essay about the politics of lipstick. i like lipstick that’s deep, deep red. i like lipstick that’s purple, lipstick that’s black and dark for when i want to dress up my melancholy. i like sharing lipstick with sisters. and i laugh at boys that think i wear lipstick for them to notice, i laugh, lipstick is an art you can’t ever understand. from picking out a color, testing it on the inside of my wrist, pursing my lips during the application of it. i like when i kiss a baby and leave lipstick on their cheek, when you hug someone and leave lipstick on their shirt, when it gets on your teeth and you use your tongue to get it off, when you sleep in lipstick and wake up with it on your pillow case. in 1997 mama left for ethiopia to see her mama for the first time in 12 years. i was six and i cried the entire way home from the airport. and when we came home there on the kitchen table was the teacup mama had been drinking out of. at the bottom a sip of tea and black cardamom seeds. and there on the rim of the cup the lipstick imprint of my mama’s kiss.
you have had love, and that means
your sternum is a divining rod
for both passion and grief. because the tongue is the body’s
strongest muscle, make it say
joy. make it say I am a factory of splendid things. make it say
the octopus is the smartest animal
in the animal kingdom, and I am an octopus. I am an octopus.
I am happy. my survival
was not an accident, or purposeless.
[It’s no use / Mother dear …]
It’s no use
Mother dear, I
can’t finish my
soft as she is
she has almost
killed me with
love for that boy
it’s been like three years but i finally caved and made a goodreads yay
Here is the ending before the beginning:
I pick you out of my teeth like spinach.
I take a bath and I don’t think about drowning myself.
My sister spends the weekend at the apartment and
doesn’t ask me about it, even though she can see
that my teeth have gotten sharper since last time.
Your name is just a name.
I am still in one piece when I close the door.
I say “thank you for everything” and wipe my mouth.
You watch the Discovery Channel and see a lioness
lick her bloody paws after a kill.
You think of me and wonder if the grass was really so tall
that you couldn’t see me coming.
I am growing into something fierce and hungry.
When I kiss your skin, I am only trying to taste your bones.
Whatever is left of you, I hope it forgets me.
Everyone. Everything. Anything. Some of my love poems are based on boys whom I’ve loved or liked or had some sort of feelings for but a lot of the time it’s just me sitting at the bus station and taking in my surroundings and scribbling things down into my notebook or the back of my hand or old receipts. I don’t fall in love with everyone but I think, you know, what if I did? What if I loved that complete stranger sitting all the way across the transit center, headphones on, completely oblivious to his surroundings? Is it so impossible? He must be loved by someone. So I think about that. I think about loving people and losing people and letting them go and finding them again. And yeah, okay, maybe I romanticize the fuck out of people sometimes but I think that given the circumstances, we have to.