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Category: class

I asked my son to call me Nik, out of respect

I am huge on respecting my elders.  Still, I am thankful that I grew up in a place that taught me to call adults by their first names.  As if their marriage status was irrelevant to holding a conversation with them.  As if I was a human too, and not hoping to grow into one.

A few years ago, in trying to express to my child that I am a whole person–

not just the one who picks up his dirty socks

or the one who cooks his meals

or the one who works for his shelter

or holds his pain

or tickles his laughter

— I asked him to call me Nik, out of respect.

I wanted him to see me as a person in the world, not just a person who meets his needs.

I wanted him to understand me as human and dismantle the pedestal he had built for me to serve him from.

Not because I am afraid of heights.

Because it is difficult to hold his hand from up there.

Because I am more than his mother.

Because when he declares, “This is what a feminist looks like” I want it to be because he cares about women, as humans, not because he has a mother.  Not because he is supposed to.

Because it is his truth.

Today I am counting pennies and love

Have you ever not have the resources you needed but trusted that everything would find its way?

Told yourself it would all work out?

That is what my sister has been doing for over a year in planning her wedding.  And then their shared car needed new brakes.  And then they saved again.  And then they needed a new tire.  And so on.  And here we are, a month before their celebration.

I kept telling her it would all find its way and we worked hard to make that reality.  And I trust that it will.  Still, with the wedding a month away and the invites waiting until payday for stamps to be sent out and my sister in tears, I wanted to do more.  She works hard and loves even harder and deserves better than this.  So, I created a GoFundMe campaign and I posted this on FB:

“I am not sure I have ever been so nervous in my life.
But here we are.

My sister and I have both gone without food to feed our children in the last few years and we’d do it again if we had to. Maybe that is why I want this so passionately for her. Maybe that is why I am nervous.

I don’t want to get into why the stigma of sharing exists, not here, only acknowledge that it is real. Tremble in my hands real.

I am here, creating this top secret campaign for Ashley and Drew’s wedding and she sends me this text: “Its so much, my head hurts. i wish mom was here, idk if that would help anything but id feel better… Everything comes down to money and its gross and im scared to ask anyone for anymore help… I just feel exhausted and I cry all the time” and then she was trying to schedule a Biolife appointment, but couldn’t. I once drove her to the emergency room after donating plasma, it makes her so sick.

So often in her life she has been made to feel like she screwed things up and her inability to afford things is her fault. So often in her life she has been told she should be more like me. Especially this time, it just isn’t true. She works hard and she doesn’t have extra money for her wedding because she has spent it in every responsible way. She is one of my best role models of living and loving life. ❤

For me, this is not about the institution of marriage, but the desire to celebrate the beauty of committed love and partnership.

I agree with my sister’s repetition, she is blessed.”

If you have $5 to offer toward a ribbon for her hair or a seat for someone who cannot stand the duration of the 20 minute ceremony, your love of love will be deeply felt and carried forward into the next chapters of all of our lives.  ❤

Please feel free to share.

Petty Post



1. of little importance; trivial.

2. of secondary or lesser importance, rank, or scale; minor.

Petty officer, petty cash, petty theft

.                                                                petticoat.

We rank

shrink sums of money

women’s peeking undergarments.

.                                                                        The same origins.


I stopped flipping coins when I realized neither side of capitalism is the answer. 

Good Morning

Whenever someone audibly says “good morning” to me in public, I get the feeling of being in church.  And I say “good morning” back in the strangest of voices.


It feels formally spiritual, randomly intimate.


I think we did not say “good morning” to each other where I came from.  I think mornings were not good.  Just a continuation of the sore body work day before.  And weekends the space of second and third jobs.


A man sleeping and eating at one of the United States’ many homeless shelters said to me on Thursday: “Your hands are too soft for someone who works 3 jobs.”  And then we played an intense game of Scrabble with another man who sleeps and eats there.  College students made us bad grilled cheese and tomato soup.  We laughed and hoped they were not studying to be culinary artists.  I was thankful for the bad food, too.  My soft hands a marker of my educational, but not class privilege.


Later, over the board of letter possibilities, which became increasingly limited and increasingly expanded, as our moves were interconnected, we played sounds we had learned as children in place of words.  We challenged each other with a copyrighted authority in the form of a Scrabble dictionary published in 1996.  And we offered the insults we learned in place of love, too.  We laughed.  We slid and slapped our hands together and here, the contrast of my white privilege met my soft, educated hands. We left fingerprints of food pantry pistachio dust on each other’s skin.  A treat.  Because I could go in the kitchen and bring out whatever I wanted to.


I wanted to lose that game, but respect and competition had me playing to win.  Or maybe it was my lack of gender privilege and the echo of questionable demands of my sex, of me.

Respected and sexualized me?


I came in second place.


They went to bed on the floor.


I went home to where I have a bed, but chose not to sleep in it.


And much too early, we all got up and went back to work.

Today, I brought a mango.

Yesterday I bit into a peach that tasted like nothing.


But the spirals of fall colors on her skin were stunning, especially in the deep parts of winter.


I do not eat for the taste of nothing.


So, I took a few more bites, tasting with intention.  Nothing.  Another, nothing.


I am terrified of what it means to chew on the taste of nothing while I am falling in love.


I don’t know if it was the peach or my taste buds, but I threw out the peach and kept the taste buds.


It is not my work to make the peach taste good to me.  I want to overwhelm my taste buds.


And I think of these things:

1. The time a pre-lover woman left a peach, a gift of nourishment and implications, in my backpack.  I did not discover the gift until it had already begun rotting.  It smeared its rotten, sticky parts on my poetry.  Remain(s).

2. In an elementary talent show, we danced to Peaches by The Presidents of The United States of America.  I gave my mother the task of buying us peaches to bite into during the show.  She accidentally bought nectaries.  The body of the audience responded to our sour reactions, upon biting, with laughter.  Here, I wonder what we went without for those sour peaches that we bit and then threw away.  Food as prop.  Here I know that we never had peaches at home.  Was my mother as embarrassed at her unknowing as I was?   The taste of sour is not nothing.

3. What does it mean to eat fruit out of season?

4. What does it mean to eat fruit that could never grow where you are growing?

Today, I brought a mango.

Four Days Absent Nicotine

For me, smoking will always be tangled with class. Roots.

I was smoking before I was born.


And no matter how much I wanted to stay away,

I always had to run home and breathe in that cloud.


The one that separated my mother’s body from mine.

The one that touched all the space between them. Umbilical.


4 days ago I cut the cord.

It was time.


When you’re real poor, you learn not to want.

Beggars cannot be choosers.


And you learn not to fear pain, death. They called me:

Picky Nicky. You work through it.





In the brief absence of nicotine,

I have learned that there is a difference


between not being afraid to die

and choosing to live.


Tangled in my roots,

I am not supposed to realize there are choices.


Always called out for my difference,

I want to cling to those roots. Choose home.


But the only one still surviving there is

Cancer. And she strangled my mother with her own bootstraps.


Sigh. I could never keep my feet stuffed in those shoes anyway.

Barefoot.      Calloused.      Picky Nicky.


You work through it. Live.

But you can never really go back


.                                                         home.                once you’re

.                                                         free.

The News: November 5th, 2014

Midterm Elections 2014

Midterm elections and all the media

has forgot that we are so afraid of EBOLA.

Funny that politicians, or the other

party are the only things we fear more—steal our

stare at the sick, shake our rallying to quarantine.

Forget our voice, our demand to ban all flights from Africa,

as if it were one big, black, festering infection.

What were the names of those small countries?

The G.O.P. takes the senate and we forget to tremble.

The G.O.P. didn’t take the senate, we gave it to them.

Here, one vote and another seat. For you sir.

Just like campaign funds. Now what can I do for you, sir?

Midterm elections and we forget that U.S. police are killing

black boys daily. What were their names?

Those who were in the news? I remember Scott Walker,

Mary Burke for Wisconsin. Martin? Brown? Or was it Till?

Fill up those prisons with gangbangers before the majority votes-

the legalization of (medical) marijuana, print it on a hemp ballot.

Native Americans eliminating racist mascots,

but we forgot them long ago, didn’t they disappear, like the last of the mohicans?

Midterm elections and the Democrats cannot even remember

their elected president. Obama? Never heard of him.

Forty-percent, but the odds were never in his favor.

November 4th, 2014.

Ignore all of the falling color, look forward to that white, white snow.

In the dead of winter, G.O.P. snug in the senate.

In Detroit, no water in the house.

Midterm elections, should we increase the minimum wage?

Midterm elections? And the consensus at the homeless shelter is:

“Fool, I am too busy working too much for too little to vote.”

Midterm election and we forget the warmth of Florida:

Arrest after arrest for feeding the homeless

This, after all, is a democracy, show some

voter ID, prove you’re American,

respect the majority, by vote or by contribution,

we wont tolerate socialism: pastors facing jail-time

for feeding the homeless, I almost forgot, humanity

overlooked, this midterm election.

Wednesday Writing Prompts (on Sundays): Pick up that shoe and write a poem, or just pick it up

Prompt: “Write a poem for the inside of a shoe left lying in the gutter.”

[Fun! The editor has decided to reformat.  Anyway, draft 1/2.]

A Poem for the Shoe Left Behind

I want to write a poem in this discarded shoe,

but I cannot. Instead, I will bring it home,

clean it up,                                         or not,

and see whose foot it will fit.

This is how I grew up

addressing discarded shoes.

We were taught:

beggars cannot be choosers.

But we did neither,

begging nor choosing.

We collected what other people


We collected what other children

had once begged for

and then discarded.

Like we discarded their stories,

their poems,

to create our own.

A new shoe, after all, is a new shoe

no matter how many times it has been worn.

We were not taught to fear fungus.

This is not a poem.

And there is no way in hell

Cinderella would have left that glass slipper behind.

I am not saying we don’t know shame.

Aren’t shamed for not having

bootstraps to pull up.

[No one ever discards their bootstraps

cannot let go of that magic once its made]

I am not saying

that passing or transforming

doesn’t carry the fear of being found out


laughed out, caught there between

the palace      and     rags

My dad bought me a brand new pair of Levi’s once

I wore them every single school day

washed them in the bathtub with dish soap

and hung them to dry,

which they never did.

But I wore them anyway.

I wore them long after

they were more worn than my second-hand pants

and added a safety pin when they no longer buttoned.

They were my new jeans, eternally.

And I never had any before.

Cinderella would have grabbed that shoe.

Even if it was ding-donging midnight

and it was supposed to disappear anyway—

which, at the palace, it didn’t.

But out where it was real

dark, almost home

she had nothing

left. Everything back to rags.

And the other night a homeless man

came in to the shelter, covered in mud

one shoe on, one shoe, he said:

Left it, stuck in the mud.

These are his only shoes.

Now, this, his only shoe.


Yes, Cinderella,

But the next day,

after being sheltered from the cold, the rain,

the man returned for his shoe.

No shoes, no service.

I should conclude,

but I am preoccupied,

aside from it sticking in mud,

or running home barefoot chased by the



How the fuck do you not need to pick up your shoe?

Wednesday Writing Prompts: Signs of Humanity

Moonlight in the kitchen is a sign of God. We don’t blame God for the empty cupboards in the kitchen. We blame ourselves for hardship, thank God for miracles. Are we capable of miracles? Is God responsible for hardship? The Christian God created the world in seven days. There are seven days in a week for working. After working six, God rested. After working seven, are you rested? Are you working? On the radio last night you told us that she told you: “Idle hands are the sign of the devil,” so you kept working through your disability. Have you noticed there are many signs of God, always “a sign” of God, but when it comes to the devil it is absolute, “the sign” of the devil? Absolute, but we don’t capitalize devil. There are a million ways to capitalize, just tug on your bootstraps and climb up to the glass ceiling. At the top, pressed against the glass, who do you see? Do you see God? Is this success a sign of God? Take off those old boots and thank God that you made it, glass top. Drop those bootstraps, now you need to find a way to hold on to that glass. Grip, slip, drop. Get a grip on those bootstraps but they are gone now– you are barefoot. Barefoot, and pressed to the bottom, who do you see? Do you see the devil? Are empty cupboards in the kitchen the sign of the devil? Is capitalism, busy hands, making your way up, up, closer to the heavens a sign of God?

Where are the signs of humanity? Absolute signs like the devil? Varied and mysterious signs like God? They created them both, God and the devil, in our image. They say we climb to heaven if we work, keep working. Rest–if we don’t work hard enough, absolutely the devil they say. They, on the other side of the glass.

Prompt: Begin this exercise with the sentence: “Moonlight in the kitchen is a sign of God.” which is from Anne Carson’s poem: “God’s Work.”

Then, write something in which each sentence has one word from the previous sentence and is a reexamination of the previous sentence and that crucial word. And on and on.