Thursday, March 31, 2011

April Resolutions

1. Write 30 Poems

2. Get on more stages

3. Do more things that are just about art.

4. Secret resolution, continued.

Songs of the Week: Courtney Love, Meet T.I.

I've been having a really cheery week, and I was all set to post something superoptimistic, but damned if this one doesn't just hit the spot.

They say your ears change around age 30 (Which only partly explains why I can't tolerate Tori Amos anymore) so I wasn't sure if Hole would hold up. But man, it feels even better as an adult.

Amy pointed out that T.I's Whatever You Like (Which is really the sing of the week every week, but only because, in my head, it's a drag show.) could be seen as a nicer version of Violet. So I'll add that too. Where else would you find these two songs together, besides in my heart?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fun Gig on April 12 w/ Gender EDGE Collective.

March Resolutions Check-In (With a Song for Philly)

  1. Secret Resolution Cont’d
 Could always be better, but I’m giving myself a blue butterfly for effort.

  1. More silence
 This is the hardest one ever, but the times I manage it, when I’m just sitting in a chair doodling or going for a walk without headphones or managing not to check the internet, it feels so good. Time stretches out and I feel worthwhile. I feel full of possibilities. Then I get sick of my own thoughts and put the music back on.

  1. Get the new version of the manuscript finished and out into the world, even though I’m scared to.
I did get For the Comfort of Automated Phrases to a good stopping point—it felt so good the day that it gelled into something coherent, when I figured out the (kind of sad) story the poems were trying to tell. But the getting it out into the world part is slow going. I’ve been researching presses and ordering books from the ones that might work, formulating thoughtful things to say in cover letters, but I’ve yet to send the new version to anyone but friends. I guess it’s just a long process, but I also feel blocked about it. I’ve wanted a book with a spine for so long that it just seems impossible.

  1. Do more things that are just about art.
Dear Resolution #4--Welcome to being an April resolution, since I forgot about you.

5. Get less lonely.

So much good came out of this one, especially getting myself out of hibernation. My favorite part was deciding to be less shy about reading around Philly. Last summer, our venue really let down some of the stars of the Philly scene, and I’ve been shy about visiting them ever since. But as soon as I started fighting that shyness, I realized that there’s nothing but love and welcome around town. Thanks Philly, I heart you.

Here’s a song that also reminds me of how much I love Philly:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Motivation Mondays: Inspiration for 30/30!

Oh my goodness! It’s almost April! National Poetry Writing Month! A bunch of my friends and I write and post a poem a day every April. For a half-introvert like me, it’s almost more fun than Nation Poetry Slam events, and in some ways, it’s a better way to get to know people.

I love any writing game that does the good old surrealist trick of accessing the unconscious and bypassing the inner censors with fast and urgent writing. I LOVE being forced to use whatever I have from day to day and of COURSE I like any excuse to be in touch with everybody more.

If you have any favorite writing prompts/games, email them to me: I’ll post and try as many as I can.

Here are some ideas to keep you going:

  1. Get What It Is by Lynda Barry. It’s my favorite ANYTHING about the creative process. You’ll have infinite writing prompts and a heartening new perspective on getting drafts down without judgment. I really can’t recommend this book enough.
  2. Write a pantoum.
  3. Cut up a pop song.
  4. Cut up Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton and make someone a benediction.
  5. Write about all of the stuff that pisses you off.
  6. Come out of the closet even more.
  7. Write letters to people, places, things.
  8. Read Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens and write your own____ Ways of Looking at _____.
  9. Save your Scrabble words and your Apples to Apples words to make into poems. I haven’t actually tried this one yet, but I think it might work.
  10. And of course:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Poetic License Horoscope for March 25-31

Aries (March 21-April 18): (Happy Birthday Month!) The High Priestess: Disentangle yourself from everything but your inner mermaids, they know what to do: live on bioluminescence and sea monkeys. Float and listen. Get fat off the sea.

Taurus (April 19-May 18): Six of Coins: Mindy Nettifee says, “There are some things you can’t write yourself out of.” Give it all away instead. Seal up your regrets in shiny envelopes and float them down spring gutters, fly them away like kites, shred them into slightly sinister-looking Easter grass. It’s a good way to be generous to yourself.

Gemini (May 19-June 21): Temperence: You’ve always been my favorite card, you and The Sun. You’re standing in clear water defying gravity pouring more water from one jar to the other. You balance everything good on your wings. But even serene expressions should be enjoyed in moderation. This week, be immoderate. Overspend on drinks, kisses, and time. The next day, you’ll still be a flowered field.

Cancer (June 22-July 23):  Seven of Wands: Your voice is irresistible. Use it to sway crowds to inventory their privileges, raise their own voices, and march sweet revolutions. Or use your voice to sing lullabies. Either way, magic. Either way, infinite.

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): Two of Swords: “There’s no flaw in being kind.” (Ian Khadan) Meet someone of equal strength, and offer her anything: love letters, sushi, concert tickets, watching your not-favorite shows on her behalf. Forge something lightning-struck and indelible.

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): The Tower: You’ve pulled the disaster card a million times, yet here you still are. Rickety though you may be, you are a structure that won’t collapse. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to reinforce the masonry.

Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): The World: Is what you already have. It’s in your hand like a biodiverse snow globe, a microclimate of your own success and influence. Turn it over. Shake it. See how it settles back down, every leaf and petal obeying your arrhythmic sense of gravity.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): Page of Wands: Whatever chained you to the ground is gone. You wear the ends of arguments like coats, but it’s getting warm out. Look at the horizon, the very many tiny blue flowers, and go ahead, disentangle.

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): The Moon: What is there that doesn’t come under the heading of reflected light? You are counted in candle power, a steady flicker, wicking up heat and curling smoke. You are immutable as the tides; risk the current.

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): Nine of Coins: Take a walk in as quiet a place as you can. you can borrow my bird book. Read religions into the insistence of spring.

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19):  Knight of Coins: My goodness this horse is huge and powerful, steered only by filigree chains. You can trust this horseman with your treasure, your spices, your silks. He can carry it anywhere you want.

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): Justice:  Look around and count your luck. Hand it around like parade candy, like show fliers, like cookies at Christmas. Everyone you see is a million billion stars. Feel free to love them accordingly.

Poetic License Horoscopes is a free syndicated series which appears weekly on such lit blogs as The Serotonin Factory, Critical Mass and The Legendary and Apiary If you are interested in adding the Poetic License Horoscopes to your lit journal / lit blog, please email me at

Friday Love Poem: Marty McConnell!

Page of Rods: road song
Marty McConnell

the night owns nothing but the stars
and the asphalt, the moon
a radioactive eye making dim work

of the cloudline. the woman next to you
in the cab of the truck holding everything
you own knows more than three-quarters

of your stories. it will take half
the fourteen hour drive to finish
the job. that is a lie. the job

is never done, and there are stories
you hold between your thighs
like origami swans, red
and waiting. mostly

you speak from memory. the times
each of you were roofied. the drummer
who put you up and whose mother

made you spaghetti. the night in Austin
you broke into the hotel pool to skinnydip
after snatching the black-haired girl

off the sidewalk and away from her explosion
of a boyfriend, how you tricked the man
who trapped you in his hotel room

by getting him to order a pizza
and barricading yourself in the bathroom
until she came to find you. look at you
now. how did you survive each

devastating adventure? the mosh pit
that snapped her finger. the copyshop bathrooms
where you bathed. the leather couch infested

with chiggers. heatstroke and flat tires
and competing for audience
against the ska band in the next room

with poems, a guitar, and a flute. what
exquisite fools you were to drive
into the face of the night with pocket change

and a plastic bin full of bumper stickers
and t-shirts. what did you think the dark
would give you in exchange for your daring?
the moon? an old rock. the road, that pitted

dancefloor? the muscle for long-distance driving
takes eight years to atrophy. it’s 1:17
a.m., you’re three hours from Chicago,

from sleep, you alternate caffeine,
candy, nicotine, and the memories surface
like oil does in the movies, welling up

from the ground. the memories collapse into
each other like paper dolls, face
to simple face, the body gives up

its memories to the waking fever
of the night, one hand on the wheel,
one peeling back the face you’ve made
to get at the sweet fruit underneath.


Marty McConnell is the founder and director Chicago's Vox Ferus, a co-founder of New York City's louderARTS Project, an MFA grad from Sarah Lawrence College, a show producer, poem writer, poem performer, sometime slammer and native Chicagoan. She's been widely published and heavily YouTubed, performed in places ranging from the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival to HBO's Def Poetry Jam to a laundromat-slash-bar in Santa Cruz California. She probably likes you.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Songs of the Week: So Long, Big Love.

"Faith comes from love, not the other way around. We know that now."

I'm gonna miss Big Love so much. For all of its creepola patriarchy and everything else that made Amy only tolerate it, I like that I had a humanized poly-something family to watch. And that (is this a spoiler?) the Heavenly Mother had her say in the end.

Bon voyage, sisterwives!

Here's the original opening sequence.

And here's the later one:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gender and Me: A (Kind of Sad) Love Story

Let’s start with Amy. She has approved this message and knows every detail of this conversation with myself. I know I’m not winning any wife of the year awards here. Suffice it to say, she has her own charms. I’m pretty sure this story doesn’t end in divorce. I’m so very grateful to her for giving me the space to work this whole thing through.

One of my resolutions this month is “Be less lonely,” which is so bewildering that it might as well be a Zen question, but I know I have to take apart the things that have caused me to isolate myself. Mindy Nettifee says “There are some things you can’t write yourself out of,” but I don’t know any other way. I feel like I’ve written parts of this story a million times. Readers of my good ol’ friends-locked LJ posts, feel free to sing along, you know some of the words.

The story starts, as they all do, with a cute guy. Moseph came into my life exactly when I needed him. I was drowning in self-hate (blah blah, homophobic workplace, blah blah, white-lady issues, etc.) and here was this rockabilly angel who worked at the bookstore, (I probably shouldn’t call people angels.) FTM guy one minute, butch girl the next, letting everyone choose their own pronouns for him. He put his number in my phone and we started texting all the time about how we get crushes—a recipe for trouble if there ever was one. I used to fantasize about him walking me home from work- a modest wish that didn’t come true.

Something in the way he looked at me made me feel recognized, beautiful, like being wanted by a man might not be so impossible after all. Like I could be myself.

The last time we spent time together,last July, his band was playing at my apartment. As a surprise, he’d added Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi to the band’s repertoire. He wore a wig decorated with cupcakes, a shiny leotard, and gold Spanx. Singing along to that song was a serotonin factory in and of itself and after that I was absolutely devastated with desire for him. Somehow, we never hung out after that. Probably because depression made me really, really not awesome at being a new friend.

Moseph’s cross-cross dressing was a dream within a dream, the Inception of crushes, sending all of my rigid structures about gender crumbling into the sea. As I’m writing this, I realizing that “bisexual” is not quite accurate for me, that maybe polyamorous can be an identity as well as a logistical decision. It takes me a while to figure things out sometimes.

I have him to thank for awakening my particular attraction to trans guys, which takes me a good distance toward being comfortable in my own skin. (On a good day it seems like that. On a bad day it seems like just more guy friends to scare off with over-flirting.

He also made me realize that I like gender.

Marriage can have an isolating effect when it comes to progress, even in the most progressive of households. I feel like I’ve spent my whole adult life avoiding gender. In the Nineties, it was very popular for a bi person to say, “It doesn’t matter what gender someone is, I fall in love with souls.” Looking at that statement now, it seems like a way of neutering myself, of trying to be more acceptable to the straight world. It also reminds me of the way I try to make myself safer to be around by spiritualizing attractions into “Muse” relationships.

So here it is: I like the feeling of being a woman in relation to a man. I like the game of gender, the tropes. (Well, not all of them.) I have an impossible time giving up control but I would really love to meet the guy who could get me there. But safely. Because I am terrified.

Amy asked me why identifying as femme (I mean, duh, right?) isn’t the same as saying “I feel straight right now.” And that made me realize that at no point do I ever feel straight. My whole self is always there.

Underneath it all is the fear that there is something about me that makes me undesirable, unlovable to men. If there’s no man in the world for me, I can’t change that, but I’d like to find a way to be kinder to myself about it. I don’t want it to be a joke anymore. I want to find a way to honor the part of me, to LOVE the things about myself I’ve been fighting and hating for so long, to admit that, yes, I want him to see me, and know me, and love me. That’s all.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dr. Qiyamah Rahman: The Ties That Bind Us

I couldn't find video of her speaking at USG, but this is the sermon that had me sniffling through the rest of the service. Toward the "Be Less Lonely" resolution...

And here's one of my favorite Radiolab Episodes, with the same whale story: Animal Blessings.

Monday, March 21, 2011

P.S. To Motivation Mondays!

The Legendary's Slam and Flash Issue is up! It includes audio so you can make new ear-friends and visit old ones. AND! Poems from Factory favorites Hannah and Matt McDonald, Elliott D. Smith, Victor D. Infante. Go to there!

And (ahem) a very nice book review.

Thanks pals!

Motivation Mondays: Waiting

“And it seems strange
how we used to wait
for letters to arrive.
But what’s stranger still
is how something so small
can keep you alive.” --Arcade Fire

“Your whole life is a class on waiting.” Andrea Durham

“Why do you let me stay here,
all by myself?
Why don’t you come and play here?
I’m just sitting on the shelf.”—She and Him

“To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that are far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future…The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present in the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world that is preoccupied with control.”—Henri J. Nouwen

My life coach pal Andrea Durham is teaching a class at church and the theme last week was “Waiting.” I’d come into class telling her that I was feeling pretty lost, so the idea of an hour and a half of meditating on/discussing waiting was part annoyance, part relief.

At the moment, I’m waiting to hear back from my teaching program of choice. I’m not even sure what I want the answer to be. Part of me wants to be certified to teach, but part of me just wants to get a fulfilling-enough job and get on with my life a lot sooner. Even if I get and accept a yes, there are so many up-in-the-air matters, like how to pay for it, how to keep the household running with no time to play housewife, how to keep my writing self from getting swallowed up, etc.

Even without big questions like that, so much of writing life is about waiting—waiting for the nebulous ideas in your head to coalesce into a poem, giving the poem a little time to sit before editing, waiting to hear back about gigs, journals, manuscripts. At least once a week, I say to myself, “Boy, they call this submitting for a reason.”

But according to that waiting class, it doesn’t have to be such a helpless thing. Waiting can be a way to practice faith, to trust the better parts of you to know what they’re doing, and also to give yourself space to grow. I like to think of myself that way, like a poem getting a little breather before it goes into editing and out into the world. It even makes me feel kind of okay about my first and second full-length manuscripts (and third and fourth, etc, I guess…) getting rejected so that my first book would have time to be a better thing.

My tendency when anxious about waiting is to pile on more projects to wait and worry for, and that sure does get a lot done, but I like thinking about waiting as a way to make space. (As anyone who reads this blog knows, I do have space issues.) It’s kind of a relief to let my control-freak self be dreamy, distracted, and dawdly—it’s kind of a relief to just let myself be lost.

What are your favorite non-projecty ways to wait? I like doodling, fantasizing, indulging in magical thinking (Yes, I recently gave myself a Tarot reading, and apparently victory is assured.), making playlists, and engaging in the Zen futility of sweeping up cat hair.

Here's one of the best things to do while waiting: type your childhood address (es) into The Wilderness Downtown and see what happens.

It'll be something like this:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Love Poem: J Mase III!

A Desperate Stonewall Love Poem for Nikki G

40 years after the fact
I am standing in this store rifling through the 
crisp pages
Of a famous old dyke’s poetry book
Created just months ago by
Beautiful butch hands that have become 
From penning notes to her male lover
Fictitiously invented for her conservative fan base
And her elderly mother’s 
weak heart]
And it strikes me amongst all these words
Devoid of her own emotional presence 
That I expected her to write me a poem
I want her to write me a poem
I want her to write me the sweetest love poem
About my kinky hair
About my brown skin
About my smooth hips

About what our two bodies must look like moving through the dark
I want her to write me a love poem about freedom
I want her to write me a love poem that will convince a father 
His 13 year old gay son is still a child~ 
and not a leather bound punching bag]
I want her to write me a 
love poem that will house 1000 trans girls 
that have not had a home to go to 
I want her to write me a love poem
 that will petition the president of Uganda 
And tell him that 
love is not a reason to be put to death
when there are so many other wars going on outside
I want her to write me a love poem that lets two boxer wearing tranny fags 
hold hands down a dark alley and not feel fear

I want her to write me a love poem
That would have saved the lives of Tyra Hunter, Nizah Morris, Erika Keels and Sakia Gunn 
I want her to write me a love poem that lets a lesbian English teacher 
simultaneously keep her job 
and a picture of her first lover on her heart
I want her to write me a love poem
That would have tucked me in at 16 and told me
It was okay to want love
to try love
to feel *loved*

And that the 
true sin of Sodom and Gomorrah 
was about GREED
I want her to write me a 
love poem
Because to her other fans
it could be just that
But to 
it could have been so much more

J Mase III is the author of If I Should Die Under the Knife, Tell My Kidney I Was the Fiercest Poet Around and creator of two annual performance events called Cupid Ain’t @#$%! andTransfags Taking Over. A Philly based poet, activist and loud mouthed queer, J Mase III is the stuff that dreams are made of! To find out what J Mase is doing these days, check out his facebook page at:

Poetic License Horoscope for March 18-24

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): “If you see something you love, you’ve just gotta get it, and eat it.” (Shappy Seasholtz) This quote was inspired by coconut cream pie, but it can also be applied to your biggest, deepest meringue-cloud wishes. Get it. And eat it.

Aries (March 21-April 18): Sometimes I like to pretend that something is a big magical mystery for a while before I realize that I can just Google it. Research is magic, too. Know your true self by your search terms, or just look at pictures of kittens.

Taurus (April 19-May 18): “What we think about ourselves and our possibilities determines what we aspire to become."(Robert Frank) Add to your own thoughts the screams of your adoring fans, your mom and dad’s opinion on their best day, and, of course, the stars; we just think that you’re the bee’s knees.

Gemini (May 19-June 21): You’re in one of those dreams where you keep finding more and more rooms in your house—where did this extra parlor come from? Why is this ceiling painted like waves? What are these algorhithms painted on the windows? Why won’t this top stop spinning?

Cancer (June 22-July 23):  When the Big Love series ends next week, I have this wish that Margene (the most liberated sisterwife) would come to Philadelphia and pal around with me. Which adorable fictional characters would you invite into your life, and why?

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): I’m sorry if you are still singing to the music of a long commute. There’s work closer to home, soon, I promise. Imagine your life on two tokens a day, instead of measured out in gas tanks.

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): (SPOILER ALERT) Congratulations to Kurt from Glee on his first romantic kiss with a guy. The stars are taking this to mean that all of our cute love-wishes are about to come true. Bury your broken songs in a festive ceremony and ready yourself for duets.

Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): Write a thousand hymns to what’s missing. Make a scale model of the Universe out of cut paper. Stand in the middle and yearn.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): I used to slip ashtrays into my pocket to remember every diner I loved, and then sit in the middle of that plunder and smoke. Do whatever is the healthier version of that. Send me a picture of your wholesome souvenirs.

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” (Eleanor Roosevelt) Rethink your limitations, even if it’s just to change the color of your scarf, your ink. Know that you are the pretty thing you always talk about in everybody else.

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): At my church we used to light candles each week, to celebrate a joy or mark a sorrow. Recently they changed it to dropping a stone into water, and I don’t like that at all. Give yourself a little gift of warmth, a little time to think.

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19):  You are an aquarium of lost things, attachments and unattachements floating by in lovely, unattainable colors. 1. Don’t tap on the glass. 2. Look and see who’s standing next to you, out of the water.

Poetic License Horoscopes is a free syndicated series which appears weekly in such places as The Serotonin Factory, Critical Mass and The Legendary  and Apiary.  If you are interested in adding the Poetic License Horoscopes to your lit journal / lit blog, please email me at

Thursday, March 17, 2011


This morning I got off the bus to this encouraging piece of graffiti. Bless whoever's tag this is.

Song of the Week: Such Great Heights

Sometimes a song is really good and you listen to it a million times, until you almost can't even hear it anymore. I'm glad this one kind of shuffled back.

One of my favorite things in the world is driving in the early morning to The Postal Service. Last Sunday, driving away from one of my favorite friends, with more favorites in the car and others taking up a lot of space in my heart, Such Great Heights seemed like just the thing.

I am thinking it's a sign that the freckles
In our eyes are mirror images and when
We kiss they're perfectly aligned
And I have to speculate that God himself
Did make us into corresponding shapes like
Puzzle pieces from the clay
True, it may seem like a stretch, but
Its thoughts like this that catch my troubled
Head when you're away when I am missing you to death
When you are out there on the road for
Several weeks of shows and when you scan
The radio, I hope this song will guide you home

They will see us waving from such great
Heights, 'come down now,' they'll say
But everything looks perfect from far away,
'come down now,' but we'll stay...

I tried my best to leave this all on your
Machine but the persistent beat it sounded
Thin upon listening
That frankly will not fly. you will hear
The shrillest highs and lowest lows with
The windows down when this is guiding you home

Monday, March 14, 2011

Motivation Mondays: What to Get (Inspired by...Shappy!)

(Pssst: If you feel like you'd like a writing prompt for motivation, go visit my post on Radius--Made Up Forms: The Cut-Up Pop Song, after this, of course. )

“If you see something you love, you’ve just gotta get it, and eat it.” –Shappy Seasholtz

I would first like to mention that the same Shappy Seasholtz bought me a bag of caramel creams yesterday, because he knows they remind me of racial harmony. I was so touched that I got a tiny bit choked up, but then again, I was a little sleep deprived.

Anyway, though maybe I don’t always need to follow his advice when it comes to pie, it’s good writing advice.

The trick, though, is figuring out how to discern which things you REALLY love, which aspects of your goals are the most important ways to spend your finite time. I’m an urgent girl, so it seems really important to figure these things out.

There have been parts of poetry that I’ve always felt guilty about not doing. I’ve always felt bad that I haven’t tried harder to compete in slams, but I’m delighted to say I’m ready to let that guilt go. As much as I will never support the arbitrary and false division between page and stage, I feel much more comfortable and happy competing for publication than for points. (And of course I so much admire people who are wholehearted at both!)  And of course, having said that, I’m still going to try and get on my own venue’s team.

There’s a difference, though, between neglecting to do things because they aren’t priorities and avoiding things out of fear. There are a few things that are very important to me that I’ve avoided for years, waiting until it feels safe, I guess, but that avoidance is starting to make me feel stunted and repressed. (And, since I’m always encouraging everyone else to be honest and expressive, a little bit hypocritical.)  Admitting that those goals and desires are real and important seems like a good first step towards pushing past the fears and ignoring all of the prohibitive voices that have built up over the years. (My pal Cristen calls these my “anxiety terrorists.”)

So how can we move our own boundaries and dismantle the arbitrary limits we’ve placed on ourselves? All that from a quote about pie.

Mumford and Sons - Awake My Soul from Thomas Henley on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Poetic License Horoscope for March 11-17

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): Happy birthday to my very favorite Pisces in the Universe, Shanny Jean Maney. In her honor, everyone should please make caramel brownies, watch Jeff Goldblum movies, and fall in love with the periodic table.

Aries (March 21-April 18): Winter is starting to loosen its grip. There’s one tulip leaf outside my window, winning the award for most optimistic. That’s you. And those really are buds on the trees, not just chill-induced hallucinations.

Taurus (April 19-May 18): To the Taurus who broke up with the guy for the right reasons: The walls of your future house are papered with sweet-but-not-too-sweet love poems. Fresh air is fluttering the perfect window treatments. Your well adjusted future children are shining down the steps like liberated angels.

Gemini (May 19-June 21): “There is no more intrepid explorer than a kitten,” says Jules Champfleury at the top of the March page of my 365 Kittens a Year calendar. This week, delve in, bravely and adorably.

Cancer (June 22-July 23):  A Cancer I know writes so beautifully about family. The trick, I think, is to let everyone in the story be human, broken, and perfect, all at the same time. That, and good line breaks.

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): Your To Do list: Write some new political slogans. Find pictures for all of your music files that don’t have album art. Tolerate that show your wife likes. Get some good rest before a long drive.

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): A wise cute boy poet once told me, “Don’t be embarrassed, it’s a dull emotion.” Practice being brazen, even if that brazenness is hidden for now in your pretty little notebooks, in the songs you play too many times, in the poems you carry around in your pocket.

Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): To the Libra newly in love with a pink-haired lady: Well, I hate to have to share you, but I love the sound of her in your voice, the drives you’ll take between each other’s houses, all the music of long distance getting closer and closer. Share it with the other Libras, if you please.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): Please enjoy this nice paragraph from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods: “After the sugar snow had gone, spring came. Birds sang in the leafing hazel bushes along the crooked rail fence. The grass grew green again and the woods were full of wild flowers. Buttercups and violets, thimble flowers and tiny starry grassflowers were everywhere.”

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): “Make me a vessel for anomaly.”(simon iris) Deal out your contradictions like Tarot cards and ask them for their secrets. Sort them like shiny stones or leave them unsorted like a Dutch still life, every season of flowers, all blooming at once.

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): Wish for a million dollars. Wish for world peace and the end of hunger. Wish for more episodes of Firefly. Wish for free love and ice cream. Wish for libraries worth of love poems. Wish anything.
Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): “When in doubt, err on the side of the threesome.”—Dan Savage

Poetic License Horoscopes is a free syndicated series which appears weekly on such lit blogs as The Serotonin Factory, Critical Mass and The Legendary  and Apiary If you are interested in adding the Poetic License Horoscopes to your lit journal / lit blog, please email me at

(Early) Friday Love Poems: Elliott D. Smith!

It’s Thursday and Friday all at once here at The Serotonin Factory, before I hit the road tonight for the Women of the World Poetry Slam.

I’m extra exited for this week’s Friday Love Poems:

I am lucky to call Elliott D. Smith a co-conspirator. He’s a good influence on me. His writing is so vital and visceral that it helps me access parts of myself that I can’t always get to, and somehow I even feel safe there.

After you’re done swooning over these poems, I encourage you to go swoon some more on YouTube. Just make sure you include the “D” when you look him up, or you’ll just get the (to me, less compelling) regular Elliott Smith.


Only one lover has ever called me sweetheart,
and you are not her.
But you did call me arrogant
with those stubborn fingers of yours
the last time I reached for your hand.

When I talk to you
I feel like my father,
a southern baptist preacher in kentucky,
on the first day of deer hunting season.
I look in your eyes and know
the congregation (of rods and cones) is out looking for prey.
I am in my silly barstool pulpit
asking you to believe. again.

You are the only ex lover I still dream about.
I saw your back last night,
all 18 inches from shoulder to small
and for once I knew what to do.

We are doomed forever to be partners on the dancefloor of my retinas,
flirting with rapid eye movement that blinks its way
closer to the waking misery of she is not you. she is not you. she is not you.

This predetermined tango of whiskey and lies
does not need you, although you are its favorite witness,
giving testimony to the half-inch between our hands
that’s there to say no.

No, there is nothing of you in the way I flip women like coins.
No, I won’t believe in the apocalypse until you come again.
No, I will not jar the fireflies between us and call it light.


“We all know you’re soft ‘cause we’ve all seen you dancing, we all know you’re hard ‘cause we’ve all seen you drinking from noon until noon again.”-Belle and Sebastian
“I no longer need you to fuck me as hard as I hated myself.”-Buddy Wakefield

If you ask me
Buddy was wrong, I still need you to fuck me as hard as I hated myself
so I can always remember the way it feels to tattoo the past on my thighs.
When you slide your nails across my forearms I know the meaning of depth,
could mark every single inch, I will landslide under your sharp edges.
I built a shadow puppet of bruises, named it love, and hid it under my collarbone,
soon we’ll take it out dancing and you’ll know where a baby’s soft spot goes.

Sometimes you leave fuck on the wall. It’s the black scuff mark
by my bedroom door. We never meant to make this permanent
but there are nights you gotta kick off your shoes and wrestle with exes.
it’s why I rotate the mattress and leave lighters under the bed.
Some people call it karma, I just wanna see you naked one more time.

I’ve always liked sex more than I like myself, dug my heels
into strangers' sheets and let them ride me to retrograde amnesia,
to never wanted to remember me either.

There is a boy whose soft spot won’t close.
Without the fusing of bones it is free to migrate.
His lovers don’t know what to make of this, it turns them tentative
and he can’t explain the childhood that led him there.

When I want to fuck the boy with the soft spot takes my hand.
He doesn’t want me to sleep with anyone else, says I’ve traded my body
for a smile too many times, too many ways. Says bed and stage
aren’t supposed to be interchangeable. He wants me to know
I can be more than hard, build more than walls, but I don’t want to believe.

My heart is a cement mixer, must keep moving or else solidify,
you’ll understand this is why I could never stay.
My memory is a Narnian garden of statues,
each lover frozen in perfect pose, fisting the sky without fear of heat.
One day, we will all melt. One day, we will write and drink whiskey
and car wreck around bed frames until the storyboard is full and rocking.
One day, we will wake the neighbors.

Fuck me as hard as I hated myself
so I can remember how ridiculous it was in the first place.
Fuck me until Tomorrow is the name I call when I come,
until I prefer fingernails to razorblades and handcuffs become a metaphor.

Love the music our beatbox bodies loop over sunrises.
Love the soft spots we leave for each other, and baby,
I’ll call you wife if my heart stops turning in its grave.

Elliott D. Smith believes in the power of tattoos and reference books. He currently works with people with conviction histories, helping them to reduce barriers to employment and housing. Elliott also conducts research on masculinity, friendships, and identity formation. His writing tackles issues of gender, sexuality, and family, and is greatly influenced by the people and places he loves. 

Song of the Week: A Bite Out of My Bed

Yep, I'm still on the New Pornographers. This song has two of my favorite, favorite, things: romance and ambiguity. Well, three things, if I admit that I like that it has my name in it.

Plus: "I must've brought the weather back with me.
I'm soaked until see-through and dripping." is very nice for such a warmish, rainy day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On This Day Last Year

On this day last year, I left my second AmeriCorps term early, due to a hostile work environment and a can’t-get-out-of-bed depression.

It was a gorgeous, warm day and XPN was playing all of these really soothing songs about transition. I went in before anybody was in the office yet. Amy kept the car running while I gathered up my bins and some supplies.

I left a note that said “I’m sorry. But I have to get myself healthy or I won’t be able to help anyone.”

You can read the whole story starting here, but you certainly don’t have to.

Here are some things that have changed since last year:

1.I no longer hate the sound of my own voice. Sometimes I even like it.

2. I’m even more committed to fighting racism, sexism, and homophobia, especially the ways in which those things interfere with the happiness and safety of African American kids. (Well, all kids. But especially.)

3. I don’t feel quite so guilty about being smitten with people sometimes, even though that co-worker aimed that car at me that time.

4. I don’t feel like I have to work quite so hard to prove that I’m not evil.

5. That poet guy who told me once that I don’t have a right to an opinion about hip-hop? Can suck it. And so can anyone who tries to tell anyone they don’t deserve to have a voice.

I’m so grateful for almost everything that has happened since that devastating/liberating last day. So many thanks to everyone who helped bring me back to life.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Motivation Mondays: I Need a Better Word for “Muse”

Before the musing, here are some places to read/listen submit, and also some bragging.

**One of my favorite poetry-soulmates, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, was kind enough to include me in her Indiefeed series on the women of performance poetry. Being in my own iTunes queue was a pretty exciting thing to wake up to the other day. The series will be pretty incredible, so if you aren’t subscribed, go there soon! And here’s their submissions page, too! Do it!

**The Legendary is taking (audio and text) submissions for their upcoming Slam & Flash Issue until March 10. Really, you should submit to them every month. They’re the nicest editors in the world.

**Radius is a new journal headed by my Worcester favorites Victor D. Infante and Lea Deschenes. You should submit to there, especially if you write political poetry or like to make up forms like I do.


I’ve decided that I don’t want to call anyone a muse again. It’s such a passive, limiting idea, and it doesn’t do justice what happens when the creative spark crackles between people like a miracle.

Often I’ve called someone a muse because I'm overwhelmed by him or her, as a way of trying to control something uncontrollable. It’s often a way of sublimating desire, which leads to good poems, then bad poems, then tears. “Muses” have sort of shimmered in and out of my life, often because I’ve loved them so much I’ve just gone ahead and alienated them. (I thought about retiring the word “crush” for similar reasons, but, to paraphrase the Fugees, me without a crush is like a beat without a snare.)

So what do you call what really happens when a combination of people becomes a crucible for art? For when you adore another writer on solid ground? For a kindred spirit who makes you brave and light fires underneath you? For the people in your life who are so revolutionary as to make you listen to your own best ideas?

Soulmate is almost right, but not quite. I’ve never bought the idea that we only get one soulmate, per person, per lifetime. The soul is big and it needs a lot of different things.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve always thought this song is about. Pardon the typos in the video-- Gaga’s real video has too many poisonings for a post about love.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Poetic License Horoscope for March 4-10

 ***I'm excited to announce that the horoscopes have another new home this week: Apiary! Thanks to Lillian  and the rest of the beautifuls over there for always including me in their fun.

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): Things to do while you’re waiting for the next season of Portlandia: Memorize famous bridges. Send lavish bouquets to Aimee Mann. Listen to Sleater-Kinney records backwards, for the hidden messages. Remember your mantra: Put birds on things. Put birds on things. Put birds on things.

Aries (March 21-April 18): The stars told me to tell you that Ira Glass is your guardian angel. He watches over everything you do, asking thoughtful questions and moving the story forward in such a patient, soothing voice.

Taurus (April 19-May 18): “The sum of all known reverence I add up in you whoever you are.” (Walt Whitman) Etch that into your mirror, paint it on your coffee cups, write it in the middle of your palms for luck.

Gemini (May 19-June 21): I like Steve Carell’s character in Dinner for Schmucks. He loves his ex-wife so much that he makes her a whole parkscape diorama. Peopled with little dressed-up taxidermied mice, but still, endearing!

Cancer (June 22-July 23): Dress optimistically, even if it means your ears might get cold. Show your faith with just-light-enough sweaters. Believe it’s warm out until you touch the window pane.

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): Last night as I was snuggled up, reading in bed with my sweetie, she with her Wonder Woman graphic novel and I with my Bitch magazine, I thought, “This is exactly what I always hoped for.” Be prepared for similarly snuggly revelations.

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): “Love the music our beatbox bodies loop over sunrises. /Love the soft spots we leave for each other.”(Elliott D. Smith) The whole Universe is waking up next to you, blinking its eyes, with swoony thoughts and fancy plans.

Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): Last week when I was freaking out about an upcoming math test, my tutor pal came over to help me. Even though he only stayed for an hour and most of that hour was spent on gossip, he helped me to improve my score by 14 questions worth of points. Someone’s waiting to work that kind of magic for you.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): Hooray for Barb on Big Love! She’s realizing that she can have access to the divine without a man’s intercession! Sister-wife, listen more to your inner Margene, and less to your inner Nicki.

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22):Last time my nephew Holden visited, he was very, very disappointed that he could not give a cheeseburger to either of our cats. But as for you, in the words of T.I. as paraphrased by Lolcats: you can haz whatever you like.

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): I unsubscribed to my previously favorite podcast after the host made me cry on Twitter. Maybe we don’t need to interact with everything we love, or maybe we just have to keep trying. #stillalittlebrokenhearted

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): Like a ghost in a library, you have access to everything, but need help turning the pages. What little winds can come along and flutter you forward? Maybe an Aries can lend you her guardian angel?

Poetic License Horoscopes is a free syndicated series which appears weekly on such lit blogs as The Serotonin Factory, Critical Mass and The Legendary and Apiary If you are interested in adding the Poetic License Horoscopes to your lit journal / lit blog, please email me at

Friday Love Poem: Rachel McKibbens!

Lots of folks saw this video a few weeks ago on Valentines Day, but I thought I'd be remiss not to include it as a Friday Love Poem. Plus, it stars one of the two best Holdens in the world!

To my daughters, I need to say:

Go with the one who loves you biblically.
The one whose love lifts its head to you despite its broken neck.
Whose body bursts sixteen arms electric to carry you, gentle, 
the way old grief is gentle.

Love the love that is messy in all its too much,
the body that rides best your body, whose mouth 
saddles the naked salt of your far gone hips 
whose tongue translates the rock language 
of all your elegant scars, whose skin triggers 
your heart into a heaven of blood waltzes.

Go with the one who resembles most your father. 
Not the father you can point out on a map, but the father 
who is here. Is your home. Is the key to your front door. 
Know that your first love will only be the first. 
And the second and third and even fourth 
will unprepare you for the most important:

The Blessed. The Beast. The Last love. 

Which is, of course, the most terrifying kind.
Because which of us wants to go with what can murder us? 
Can reveal to us our true heart’s end and its thirty years 
spent in poverty? Can mimic the sound of our birdthroated mothers, 
replicate the warmth of our brothers' tempers? 
Can pull us out of ourselves until we are no longer sisters 
or daughters or sword swallowers but women. 
Who give. And lead. And take and want

and want
and want
and want
because there is no shame in wanting.

And you will hear yourself say: 
Last Love, I wish to die so I may come back to you 
new and never tasted by any other mouth but yours.

And I want to be the hands that pull your children out of you 
and tuck them deep inside myself until they are ready 
to be the children of such a royal and staggering love. 

Or you will say: Last Love,
I am old, and have spent myself on the courageless, 
have wasted too many clocks on less-deserving men, so I hurl myself
at the throne of you and lie humbly at your feet.
Last Love, let me never roll out of this heavy dream of you.
Let the day I was born mean my life will end where you end.
Let the man behind the church do what he did if it brings me to you.
Let the girls in the locker room corner me again if it brings me to you.
Let the wrong beds find me if it brings me to you.
Let this wild depression throw me beneath its hooves if it brings me to you.
Let me pronounce my hoarded joy if it brings me to you.

Let my father break me again and again if it brings me to you.
Last love, I let other men borrow your children. Forgive me.
Last love, I vowed my heart to another. Forgive me.
Last Love, I have let my blind and anxious hands wander into a room 
and come out empty. Forgive me.

Last Love, I have cursed the women you loved before me. Forgive me.
Last Love, I envy your mother’s body where you resided first. Forgive me.
Last Love, I am all that is left. Forgive me.
Last Love, I did not see you coming. Forgive me.
Last Love, every day without you was a life I crawled out of. Amen.
Last Love, you are my Last Love. Amen.
Last Love, I am all that is left. Amen.

I am all that is left.


I decided to write a bio for her:

Rachel McKibbens is one of my original poetry friends, from way back in Orange County. Now she lives in a Christmas card. Her beautiful, art-filled house looks as if it were curated by Tim Burton and Bust magazine. Her children are all gregarious and generous of spirit. She is really fun to shop for craft supplies with. Her partner makes amazing fajitas. Many great writing exercises can be found on her blog.