Expectations

No more blind dates and no more forced chit chat;

No more rushed sentences hoping that I’ll bite back;

No more London blokes and no more blonde women;

No more action before meaningful reflection;

No more overstepping and no more indecision;

No more pedestals and slow walking pedestrians;

No more deep sighs across a deeper blue ocean;

No more leaving my fate to other’s expectations.

 

October 13th, 2019

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Choose

What choice did I have?

I’m sitting in a torn, bright red, faux leather booth

with photographs of the same old, white man painting a wall splattered on the table.

I do not want to flirt with this long haired, slightly high-pitched voiced Brazilian in front of me.

But what choice do I have?

When it’s an early fall, newly crisp night and your roommate (your sister) invites a “friend” over and you share a bedroom wall with her

I spread my choices out in front of me: ways to meet new people when your sister is banging a guy on the other side of your wall and your friends are all moving to California and leaving you gone with the wind

I download Tinder

What other choice did I have?

I swipe like a good millennial woman, earn my 100 likes in 10 minutes with an assortment of 9 semi-curated self portraits of ease, and no consequence, and pretty-without-trying, and white skin

My brain eats the matches up, aware of the dopamine yet succumbing happily to the little moments of pleasure and validation and rush

What other choice do I have when algorithms have already pierced by face in my last 100 profiles; what good does deleting a profile do?

I walk with the Brazilian man down Bedford Ave and he doesn’t know I live four blocks away (thank goodness he does not know I live four blocks away) and how grateful I am that he took a 30 minute bus to get here instead of me

First impressions, big breaths at the end of his sentences, maybe he is nervous? Maybe I look different than my photos, too? Then he lands, “But enough about me, this is a date. We should get to flirting.”

I thought we had agreed to start with friends and go from there; I thought that was “your philosophy”; I thought I knew you after our 5 min text-app conversation.

My therapist told me dating would be good for me.

And what other choice did I have? As I am walking down this dark street the shadows get darker and I become more aware of my heartbeat and my keys in my left pocket and his substantially larger frame, I tell him, “That’s not my philosophy.”

Sitting on the subway counting the number of people sitting semi-miserably, half conscious staring at a smart phone, most likely an iPhone, playing games and reading texts and scrolling and liking and scrolling and liking, I know the advertisements are still there, both above their heads and in the palm of their hands. I thought I chose another path when I bought this darn Verizon flip phone

I swipe on my old 5C with WiFi and one of my matches chats me up, “anti-capitalist immigrant…let’s talk shit and play with each other’s hair,” recognizes my cis-women luxury to not have to message first even though I used to (before I remembered this was a game and why am I trying so hard?) a cat meme, waving hello

He does not understand my philosophy.

He eases in towards me, brushing my shoulder and my hand – and I back away, tell him I’m a Capricorn, I like the land, I am grounded, and yes I am serious.

I smile as I say it, feel the imprint of the key zig-zag on my finger and finally agree to turn around back to where the bars are, away from north Bedford shadows and whispers of old Tinder date conversations

I gave my sister some privacy (check) this is worth it this is worth it this is worth it

How did I chose this? I don’t even like bars. Or strangers. Or small talk. When we settle in the beer stained, still somehow red booth, I tell him my philosophy is to use the first date to decide if I want to flirt with this profile come to life, an actual, flawed human being.

I tell him that if he gets anything out of meeting me he should check out “Stealing Your Feelings” and that gets me thinking about data and capital and democracy

and choices

that some Silicon Valley giant made for me when they curated my choices for the night, plugged it into our collective conscious, and eased me into paying $11 for a watermelon margarita and a Saturday hangover.

 

In all seriousness! You, too, should check out https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2019/09/23/introducing-stealing-ur-feelings-an-interactive-documentary-about-big-tech-ai-and-you/ but don’t worry, I won’t force you to

October 12, 2019

Brooklyn Bridge

Maybe it’s time I delete you from my text messages;

Maybe it’s time I scrub you from my skin,

the kisses you would have planted down my neck.

 

I can close my eyes and see you in your black tank top,

the sun warming our backs,

a dozen freckles sprinkled on your shoulder.

 

The things I would do to that constellation…

the stories it could tell if I connected each star

with my finger, or kiss by patient kiss.

 

The sparks that fly between us are almost as bright,

lighting up my hope against my better judgement.

 

And since I cannot erase the stars from the sky,

I will take a snapshot of that moment in my mind,

maybe save it with my screenshots.

 

I’ll hope that this time next year,

I’ll meet Earth’s orbit where I saw you last:

on a beautiful bridge, with a beautiful boy

 

Remembering what it was like

the first time I read a poem that breathed your breath,

traced the marks that line your skin,

 

Felt the smoothness of your lips against mine—

while specks of light danced on your Brooklyn face,

the way the sun welcomes the stars home.

 

September 26, 2019

Litany

The thing is…

it depends on how you define environmentalists.

 

If you define them as the recyclers and the “good-doers,”

the vegan eaters who see nature as something outside

of New York City’s walls, then I am with you, my friend—

I am tired of them.

 

Don’t get me wrong,

I nod my head to them—

but I bow my head, low,

to those teaching me

in this moment of climate catastrophe,

as my mom figures that, “Yeah,

my fall flowers may die

in this 90 degree late-September heat

but they look okay, now,”

that this is a fight for justice.

 

Look up the social pyramid

and you will see them:

another man with bottom line on the mind,

another woman standing up for him.

Another man calling out why feminism is

“A scam. We’re all equal here.”

 

It’s in the oil.

It’s in the system

that we were all born into.

It matters how we got here, oh yes.

It matters how we fight so that our children,

our children’s children and their children, stay around.

Can you really see them, Mr. and Mrs. Man, from way up there?

 

The system was rigged long ago,

and we have so much to carry already.

Shame is too heavy.

We need our hands to fight;

We need our voices to scream.

 

We need our eyes to see into the very near future,

into a world where the insects lay dead* and

and the birds in the morning don’t sing like they use to

and the fish in the ocean don’t swim like they used to

and the bread on the table don’t taste like it used to

because we cannot go back.

 

We can only hold those high up fuckers accountable,

rebuild,

and move on.

 

Industry heads, government leaders, blog readers: we are way past deciding whether climate change is something to be “believed.”

A highly recommended read: https://popula.com/2019/08/19/the-case-for-climate-rage/

*and a note: https://e360.yale.edu/features/insect_numbers_declining_why_it_matters

 

September 24, 2019

Letting the Memory Settle

As we skipped rocks at Walden Pond in steady rain,

you told me I just needed practice,

that my outstretched hand needed to move

in one single, continuous motion.

You selected each stone with care, inspecting

their flatness as if choosing flowers for a date,

only to send them off into the gloom, certain

of their own uncertainly paced descents.

I laughed at your advice, my voice skipping

rhythmically despite my un-thrown stones.

We were part of our history class field trip,

and you asked, “Why does the water

only reflect parts of the trees?” I shrugged,

letting the question settle into the pond and practiced

questioning what parts of you I could see:

lone like a stone, easing me away with each ring

of water that expanded to meet the trees;

you alone, like Thoreau, without me.

 

Unknown, 2014

Only In My Head

Does anyone else

realize how fast

we are moving,

or is it just me?

Railroad cars,

and subway cards,

and price limits,

and band tickets

all so much to buy

I’m not sure who has the time

and courage

to yell, “Stop!”

Just fucking stop already.

I channel my thoughts to my 17 year old brother

awake,

in bed,

on his phone,

under a VR mask,

playing the switch

(or whatever it’s called these days).

Yes, play Pokemon Go, my boy,

but don’t live Pokemon Go.

“They think I’m happy,” Yeah, Joe.

“They think I’m happy when I’m sad.”

That’s all this social media is about.

I may speak, write, live directly,

but I can be patient about it.

Do not write me down as just another name,

another number, to walk into a room of strangers,

check my pocket three times for a ghost buzz,

see no notifications, selfie instead, and move on.

Instagram? Marketing.

Facebook? Self deprecating.

It all doesn’t exist until we make it exist,

that’s what Steve Jobs, a Steven Jobs,

said, some time, some where.

The Internet is a place like any other;

no wonder we move so fast to keep up,

living in two worlds —

I got enough on my mind,

a bi gal wondering what to do with all this love.

Be patient, spread it ’round;

don’t squash it and run.

 

This all happens in my mind, 9AM,

on a subway car: cold yet humid,

crowded yet silent

on mustard yellow seats

pretending to be chairs,

heads down,

money away,

screens up.

 

August 28, 2019

 

Thank you Jonas Brothers for inspiring this poem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZnBVfSGdqk

My Gold

Because how can you read the news, my Jo?

How can that shit be your day job?

The day glaciers melt and

people teach machines to

teach other people

about the same machines and

sitting in my rose garden all alone

can lead to murder and

taking a soda without asking

and running out the door

can lead to murder and

you can meet a love of your life

and realize that everyone

is human, and that no relationship

or person will ever be perfect and

that in spite of all the “good shit”

going your way, you can still feel

lonely and out dated and

so damn curious about the future

that you just don’t want to know anymore.

 

How can anyone guarantee family?

I got so god damn lucky.

 

How can anyone read my lips

and promise neutrality?

Everyone’s always gotta have an opinion.

 

We live on stories, so we might as well

accept the truth and move on.

 

If truth is the end of a rainbow

I am never going to see,

I might as well pray to it

and acknowledge its existence anyway,

know that Spinoza will help me find my way,

that Julia will help me find my way,

and that this god damn one beautiful Earth

that has done nothing but save our sorry souls

one lifetime after another, promising renewal

and never quitting, never disappointing—

it lives in me. In you. In us.

 

After I read the news,

I have to remember:

my first mother may one day be all I have left,

but she is everything…

before I got here, now, and long after

you and I are gone.

 

Thank you for giving me the chance to live on, to see a few stories play out,

and know that while the foreground is temporary, the background holds,

sacred,

secure.

 

August 19, 2019