to that guy who sneezed 3 times during Charles Mansfield’s open mic set

Dear fellow
allergy sufferer, or
perhaps just rapidly
sickening sir,
your triple sneeze bonanza
has now been emblazoned
into my memory for all time,
because I recorded that song.

it was a new one by Chuck –
the one I wanted him to call “Liberating,
But” but he insisted on titling “New Joy”
when he released the studio version
a few weeks or months later –
so now in my mind every time
I hear it, I will pause for the sneezes,
curse you, anonymous man, and want
to angrily say, “Bless you!” in a passive
aggressive tone.

but then again, I’ve been known
to rudely shush my best friends
when they start talking to me
when I’m recording. on the one hand,
the audio is already marred, so
why not just let them talk,
and on the other, I’m starting to think
I must come off as a total dick. on
yet a third hand, they don’t know
how these things stick around
to haunt me. I will be hearing
myself shushing them
for the next 2 weeks, at least,
thanks to my “new additions”
iPod playlist.

which is worth more, in the long run,
the experience of the moment,
the documentary evidence of the moment,
or my relationships? when you
put it that way, there’s no contest.
I should either stop taping, or stop
having friends.

in which the past repeats itself

so I
saw people posting
their favorite books
they had read last year
and I thought, “I should
do that” and “I think
I CAN do that
fairly easily”
and then I went on
the site that I use
to track my reading
and got the list and started
manipulating it in
spreadsheet form.

at first the list was
a bit overwhelming
as it was 600-odd titles
so I quickly filtered out
only those read in 2018
and arrived at a count of
418. more than one a day.
which seemed excessive
even for me.

chortling and chuffed,
feeling highly superior,
I quickly fired off a tweet
with this number, rather than
double check my work.
big mistake.

further investigation revealed
the true number was ONLY
177. this now seemed paltry
compared to my huge boast
and furthermore I felt a fraud.
since someone had already
responded (shocker!), I did not
delete my original, lying tweet
but merely buried a clarification
amid the replies. further filtering
gave me the 25 books that
were published in 2018, and of
those, the 10 I liked best.

anyway the second, secret
point of this exercise
in self-aggrandizement
was to set my reading goal
for this year. 200, I said to myself
and filled in the box.
then I thought to look
what my goal had been last year.
200, it said. I achieved a mere
88% of this goal.

I tried to feel good
about myself nonetheless.
other people (presumably
gainfully employed, parents, normal
to slow readers, or all three)
were listing goals of 10.
25. one ambitious soul
said 52. ok. I can beat
that. the site is stupidly
counting re-reads which
in my opinion is silly,
but it works in my favor,
so I’m not complaining.

surely I can read even faster.
surely I can prove
that I’m the best
at reading
if not so much
at math.

3:20

things are different,
in the dark. in the middle
of the night when I’m
the only one awake – even
the cats are sleeping, and
the birds not even dreaming
of their stupid little chirps
for hours yet – my mind
starts to play tricks
on itself. thoroughly unfun
little games like “let’s remember
twelve times I was
hideously embarrassed”
one hopscotching to another
reaching back as far
as I can remember;
or “how many moral failings
can I count in the next
hour”; or “let’s analyze
every interaction
I had this week to see
who hates me and what
I’ve done to deserve it”
and nothing stops it because
there’s nothing else
to do.

that’s when
I get up and smoke
yet another cigarette, shivering
in the cold air from the
open doorway, feeling
it’s my just punishment
for still being awake –
if I had gone to sleep
two hours ago
like I was going to, when
I actually felt sleepy,
I wouldn’t feel the need to do this
to myself right now – but
helpless
in the face of the relentless
assault of a mind
brewing up horrors –
like when you go too long
without eating and your stomach
starts digesting itself – I
desperately take the stopgap,
in the hopes that this distraction
will give me a break.

that’s why sometimes
I wait until dawn
to sleep, when at least life
is happening.

because
the darkness breathes
at me. things that are not real
seem dreadfully, hugely
powerful, and only daybreak
robs them of their strength.
I suffer for that choice too
but sometimes
it feels necessary.

I’m sorry. I fear
you daywalkers
will never really
understand.

the sticker

I’m so glad
I never got around
to putting your sticker –
your very popular, instantly
recognizable, well known sticker –
on any of my instruments or
other possessions. after the
falling out we had – entirely
due to your reprehensible actions,
I might add – looking at it would
make me sick. you said
you did what you did
to me and not other people
because I would forgive you
right away, and other people might
hold a grudge. boy, you were wrong
about that. I will hold this grudge
till the end of the world
and beyond, just to prove
you wrong. fuck you, and fuck
your stupid sticker.

square peg

I used to be that girl,
the one with the knife in her heart
slowly twisting it
getting off on the pain
and the slow poisoning,
using it to make my art
because happiness seemed
in such short supply. I was angry
at life for tormenting me
and at myself for letting it,
but mostly I was wallowing
in sadness. and then
someone offered me
a way out. and I realized
that it was my choice
all along, and therefore I could
choose to feel differently.

all those things
that made me feel
like I was not good enough,
irredeemably flawed, broken,
gradually transformed
into what made me me
and seen through
different eyes, became
lovable.

if you’re out there trying
to hammer that square peg
into a round hole, just
walk away. all that energy
will come back to you threefold
once you release it
from its fruitless labor.

flawed

I’m sorry
that I’m such a passive-aggressive weirdo
who causes drama
and pretends to be
so haughty and aloof
when in fact I am a boiling mess
of seething feelings
that I try so hard
to cover up
and deny because
the last thing I want to admit
is that I still care
way too much
when it was never warranted.

there was never an us.
you’ve said it
time and time again.
I know. but it rankles
like a thorn in my paw
and I can’t bear to admit
that I wasn’t your type.

I’m sorry
that I made you think
that I no longer value you
as a friend and as an artist
when that was never
the case.

I just can’t bear
to be straight with people
when the situation makes me
feel lesser than, unwanted,
not good enough. I have way
too much pride.

you deserved better.
you were a good friend
to me when I needed it.
you tried to let me down easy,
but I insisted
on making it hard.

my whole life
I’ve had to learn
everything the hard way.
I guess
this is no exception.

the size of it

telling your companion
to leave space for me
on the bench was
(in theory) a nice gesture.
telling her to be sure
to leave extra room
because I am big
was unnecessary,
and furthermore
quite rude, dude.

a couple of things
to consider: first,
had you not mentioned
my sex, there would have been
no need to mention
my size. I am not bigger
than your average man.

secondly, since you said it
in front of my boyfriend,
you must have known
this would get back to me
by the end of the night.
so your later attempt to kiss
my ass – the very one
the size of which you seemingly
felt compelled to mock –
was an ill-fated and
ill-conceived maneuver.
I innocently accepted
your flattery at the time,
but upon learning
of your treachery, am
now twice as mad.

thirdly, if you think
that I am not already
very much aware
of how much space I
occupy, you’ve got
another think coming.
I ride the subway
and also exist as a
woman on this planet.
it was unkind and unnecessary
to remind me
that I should be smaller
to be acceptable
to you and yours.

for all your preaching
about social justice, perhaps
you need to practice
a little more.