nine

Do you remember breaking up in

high school

college

and those 20 minutes in 2010?

Me neither.

 

Do you remember crying over

new cities

empty back accounts

and eating beans for a whole week?

Me neither.

 

Do you remember fighting about

dirty dishes

tree roaches

and those seven years of no sleep?

Me neither.

 

Do you remember

that girl?

that guy?

that time we realized there were other people in the world?

Me neither.

 

Do you remember saying, “I do”?

Me too.

 

our wedding

 

 

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daughters

Father blog

 

If I had enough memories to remember

I’d string them together with falsehoods of you.

Each moment, a thread, woven snippets of truth

with transient hems for your light to shine through.

A new image, a father, a friend.

If only by imagination –

I’d create to mend.

 

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Erased

Artwork by Jennis Li Cheng Tien

Do you believe in corporeal love?

I ask as you rhyme and feign

appreciation for those you’ve crossed

in love or pain.

 

Whether built from rebellion or rushed affection

You swear to me blindly

There’s a spark, a connection.

 

But you’ve never found your place

in the barriers, restraints

That torment and harrow

until you’re soon erased.

 

A societal spirit that falls

for false elation in a worn out play

where desire is shunted, loyalty praised.

 

What freedom to float with you

amidst that modern plain

where names are not marred

in a celestial vein.

 

Where love is captured,

breathed in and soared.

Rushed between every crevice

unleashed, enjoyed.

 

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Brim

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How does this heart bend and mould

from a confined chest

into a hand to hold.

 

Does it move by one accord

or with a riotous play that

leaves you scorned?

 

Will it travel back and stray again?

I’ve heard trough time all pain will mend.

 

But can I stop the rampant rush?

The heat, the lush, the mush and guts.

 

I pushed it back, I clinched it tight.

I begged that demon not to fight.

 

But it’s still —

hovering.

Slowing seeping into my skin

rushing out at every brim.

 

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Bonne Année

Three years ago I finally cut the crap and set a real New Year’s resolution:

Do what you’re too afraid to say out loud.

In 2015, I realized I kept tacking on trite goals of weight loss and clean eating habits instead of focusing on what I needed to improve. I get it, a new year gives motivation to restart or erase bad habits, but why did I keep seeing the earth’s move around the sun as a clean slate for my body mass? A new year is a continuation of life’s progress, a building block, a stepping stone to the rest of your life. Why would I tether each step forward with a bitchy list of restrictions?

Here’s a look at my resolutions through the years:

2009: Cut out soda

2010: No more processed foods

2011: Eat red meat once a month

2012: No more white carbs

2013: Throw away the scale, but also cut out carbs, sugar and food in general

2014: SQUATS

2015: Food is not the enemy

I’m not saying weight loss isn’t a valid goal for a new year, but I am questioning why it matters. For me, the years of body-centered resolutions became my own way of putting off what I was too afraid to go after:

I can’t be a writer right now, but I can refuse this ham sandwich and eat kale.

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I read an article years ago that said, “If you want to be a runner, start telling people you are a runner.” Sure, that seems like a simple enough concept now, but at the time – the line came packaged with its own group of white doves and a dramatic omniscient melody. That shit registered in my head. Was this guy saying I could just say what I wanted to do?

Voicing my dream aloud provided some weird power (aka peer pressure, motivation, public humiliation) to actually fight for it, but more than anything – it let me see that the dream was real. That somewhere, behind all the list of things I thought might make me

skinny

pretty

powerful

wanted

There was a real ambition waiting.

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You Get to Stop

I’m nearing the end of my graduate program. Life is hectic, my mind is fuzzy, and my brain seems to work in reverse. I mix up numbers and letters, I put milk in the cabinet instead of the refrigerator, and every three to four months I catch myself crying in public from a song on the radio or a bird in the sky.  Bright lights make my head pound, I can’t handle people walking behind me, and I’ve convinced myself there is a recorder in my apartment transmitting information into instagram ads.

My mom is starting to worry, “Do you have schizophrenia?” She asks earnestly.

“I just need to sleep.”

“Are you on drugs?”

“I just need to sleep.”

I believe I’ve grown immensely as a student; but for some reason, transcribing what is in my head onto paper (or onto a keypad) remains the most difficult task for me. This is bold to say, but my trouble with writing isn’t geared around fear. What people think of my work, or the weird sense of pride I must have to feel it is important enough prose to share, no longer haunts me. Instead, I’ve replaced that fear with a bigger one.

An indefatigable thought that asks: What are you saying?

Continue reading “You Get to Stop”

Eight Years

Year One

Rules:

(1) Don’t touch my face or

(2) Watch me shower or

(3) Slap my ass in public or

(4) Open pickle jars for me or

(5) Wake me up before I’m ready or

(6) Let me oversleep or

(7) Say anything about working out or

(8) Buy me flowers when you know I like plants or

(9) Open doors for me or

(10) Tell me not to cry.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? 

I don’t like tree bark or pomegranate seeds or when roots cling to plants that are already dead.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? 

I can’t think about space. DON’T MAKE ME. There are too many little parts in one picture; too many small things swirling together. Dark Matter. Gas. How did you even find me?

I DON’T UNDERSTAND.

I like birds because they are bovine. You are the only one who knows that. They are not feeble or angelic! Eight hollowed bones in each wing and they spend all day nesting. MORONS.

NO ONE ELSE UNDERSTANDS. 

Year Eight (365 days times 8 plus 2 leap years and 3 hours)

Rules:

(1) Never leave me.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? 

You are my star; my nested bird in chaos.

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Take Up Space

When I feel nervous or scared or intimidated by the brawny world around me, I close off. I leave whatever goals or tasks were on my to-do list and about-face back to my comfort zone, shrinking several inches from my already small 5’2″ frame as I watch the busy world continue on around me. My text inbox racks up to 300+ messages, my emails pile as high as the caffeine I’d need to read them, and I fall down a dark hole of self-questioning and doubt (think Alice and Wonderland, but less drugs).

This is too big for me and everyone knows.

The pressure of my own expectations pile on me one pebble at a time until there’s suddenly a boulder resting on my chest. I feel small. I feel trapped. And I start wrapping everything I write, do or say with these two main fears:

Why does this matter to anyone

This doesn’t matter to anyone

This self-mutilating thought process is rough, and though I don’t find myself in that position everyday – I often struggle with letting doubt and insecurities control my ability to produce thoughtful, creative work.

Continue reading “Take Up Space”

New York Beauty

NY Beauty

In the center of me is happy

colored and layered and taut.

Like the first stitch in a scrim quilt

pulled through layers of scrap.

“A blithe event!” said one.

It is indecorous.

“We’ll need tulips for proof!”

Tack them loose.

“Stitch here with yellow!” said the little bee.

Whiplash is best.

“I have blue. Should I put that in, too?”

On the Gambesons.

“No! Layer on layer of happy!” the little bees circled.

“Until we craft who you are!”

And who I am Not.

 

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Be Good if You Can

My grandmother, Corrine Cotten, is shockingly aware and vocal about her human finitude. When I visit, she writes my name on little sticky notes and attaches the yellow squares to items of hers I may want one day. If you open a closet at her house, chances are you’ll see a pile of old quilts, pillows, hand-made vases from her sister Norma, or jewelry from her “wild days” labeled with the names of my cousins, aunts and uncles on the same little yellow squares. You can even see the various family names etched in sharpie marker on the back of larger items that are still in daily use throughout the house. Like packing up for a big move, her house is always on the cusp of that final transition. It is a weird mix of death and life, past and present, memory and moment, and I am uncomfortably aware that nothing she passes on will ever feel the same without her around. The kitchen table, for instance, is only special if we are playing SkipBo together with a cup of coffee in hand, and the jewelry from her “wild days” is only fun when she wraps it around her body and shows me the best way to move my belly so that each metal string shakes and chimes. Heirlooms won’t have that same Corrine spirit when she’s gone, but I love her gifts that give insight into her past – even if they are tinged with acceptance and muddled with final farewells.

At age 16, she sent me off with a rad, 1970’s gold belt and the most beautiful blue and crystal screw back earrings because, as she said, “you never know what will happen”. Last year at Thanksgiving, Corrine was wearing an old shirt from a church revival that said “Riot ’88”. 1988 is my birth year and I’m obviously a riot, so I LOST MY SHIT. I raved about how cool it was for a solid ten minutes until Corrine snuck off into the back room, changed into a pretty blue sweater with blue heart appliqués, and handed me the “Riot ’88” shirt that was just on her back two minutes earlier. This is who Corrine is. She is selfless, but strong with a firm voice and a soft heart. She is the cliché perfect grandmother that every child reads about in YA novels.

Riot 88

Continue reading “Be Good if You Can”