We’re All Cool
I must remember
That just like how I wish I were a knitter or a baker or a pool player
Other people wish they were poets
I’m nearly thirty and capable of commanding my body
inside a vehicle. The car and I, we go places together.
I drive south and then west, four hours plus one coffee
stop, to see Scott and his brand new baby. We meet
at a French cafe with “vintage gas station” as its theme.
The baby is strapped away against his chest, silent
and unseeable. We drink white wine and eat Frenchly
-titled meals by the window. Scott covers the baby’s head
with a napkin while he eats, which I both notice
and don’t notice. He is exhausted & he is a father
& I’m so proud of him. He looks natural with a baby.
He looks like someone related to me. Maybe this is why
I love him, or maybe it’s his excellent taste
in wall clocks, or the sandy fields & shifting days
we survived together in laughter. His husband is away
that day, working in the city. When he arrives home,
his face is nearly yellow from exhaustion. I want to feed
them both: applesauce, keffir lime leaves, matzoh ball soup.
At Scott’s birthday dinner party the next evening, there is wine,
deeply chocolate cake, and lentil soup with a pad of floating butter
on top like the raft we each contain inside us, each of us
the fat, the proteins, the flavor, the impending melt.
If you slide your fingers down the slender stem
like a man searching the body of a woman
for signs of yes,
you will find your palm filled
with tiny flowers composed
of intricate beauty
You will find your palm
has become a bowl of soundless
You will find faces
made of petals
& you may even find
something of yourself.
I’m a poet & a farmer, sure, but also, I’m a freelancer, I’m a poet for hire, and I have a day job selling dairy equipment to farmers. The photo above, from Sugar House Creamery, displays the type of equipment I sell. I never thought I’d be in Sales, talkin’ teats (literally) with old guys over the phone, but life is mysterious & often hilarious & as it turns out, I like my job. I have access to the most delicious milk; I’ve learned how to make cheese, butter, yogurt, and kefir; I now understand how milk is made; the paycheck is more like a big-girl paycheck; the benefits are multiple.
Cheers to the jobs that pay the bills. Cheers to the dreams they fund.
Check the temp
Laugh w/ husband
Sing a little ditty
Watch the sky
Write something down
Look something up
Take a tincture
Wash the dishes
* * *
(photo from Jenny Holzer’s 1993 exhibition “Marquees.”)
I loathe when people complain about the weather. It’s like complaining about being in a body. Being in a body is 1) the only choice we all have, and 2) essentially a miracle. I’m bored by easy negativity because it’s not creating anything. It simply laments what IS.
Weather is the main way that nature touches us. Even if you live in a city, the weather affects you. One of my favorite things about living in the country is how big of a character the weather is in my life, in the lives of all my friends and neighbors. It’s something we all share, and yet it affects us differently—where Justin’s snowdrifts pile up is different from where mine do, but both of us have blocked windows.
That being said, February is not an easy time to be alive in the northern hemisphere. It’s cold, it can be dark for days. Which is why, two years ago, I created something called Patti Smith Month. It started when I decided to reread her book “Just Kids,” because my friend Scott had gone to the St Mark’s bookstore in search of it (we had recently seen Patti Smith do a reading there in frigidicecold winter). When he got to the bookstore, he couldn’t find it anywhere. He wanted to buy it because I’d told him how much I love it, and because we both loved the way Patti Smith looked at her reading, with her boyish body and her black beanie. We both loved what she said.
He finally asked a clerk at the front of the bookstore where he could find “Just Kids.” In my head, she looked at him like he was an Effing Idiot (because this is how clerks look at you because you ARE one and also they’re tired) (I’ve been there), and said “Her books are all in the back, next to her.”
Patti Smith was in the store at that very moment signing books. Instead of buying the book for himself, he bought me a copy, which he had her inscribe. This is one of my most prized possessions.
As I read this book two years ago, it lit all those little flames inside of me. Some of those flames have to do with being an artist, which has practically become a dirty word these days. Some of those flames have to do with the talismanic powers that we all have to instill our lives with meaning. Some of those flames have to do with wearing menswear and necklaces. Suffice to say: that book is a world I need.
And so I decided that every February, I would re-read it. That’s the beginning. That’s the kindling. Because when I reread it, I relive and remember my own dedication to art-making. I am reminded. I am refreshed. I refurbish my altars and don my Patti Smith shirt, the only shirt with a face on it I’d ever wear. I drink tea in the dark nighttime house and tear up pages of notebooks with words. Sometimes I commit to writing more letters, or revising a long piece, or improving the art on my wall.
This year, I will write a poem every day for the month of February. I will write a letter to a new penpal in the hopes that she wants to write back. I am in the process of beginning an exciting new literary project with a friend of mine, so that will come to fruition, too. I don’t know what else will happen. Patti Smith Month is about saying, I am a maker. And: there is no time but the present.
I believe Patti Smith Month is one of my best ideas. Not only because what it inspires, but because in making February a special month for myself, I have improved my own life. Patti Smith Month is the opposite of complaining about Feburary. It means I look forward to February and the way I’ll spend the month leaning in to the artistry inside me. Remember how environmentalists sometimes tell you that you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem? I disagree. You are both the problem and the solution. So even if Patti Smith Month isn’t what will make your own personal February awesome, find out what will. Then buy yourself a t-shirt and get to work.
Today I feel like giving shout-outs
to my people around the country (around the world)
doing their thang as hard & best they can.
Shout-out to the poets writing poems
and the poets trying to write more poems.
Shout-out to the hard-workin’ ladiez
in grad school tryna make time for their boyfriends
& do their adult homework & get enough sleep
& not cry every single day cuz it’s a little too much.
Shout-out to the doctor-in-training.
Shout-out to the lawyer-to-be.
Shout-out to those who have moved recently
out of love for their partner
which I find a valid reason
to cross state lines.
Shout-outs to the ladies turning male
and the males transitioning into ladiez,
making a switch so tough I’ll spend my life
just trying to fathom it. Shout-outs to the players
of nighttime piano concertos in the bossman’s
vestibule. Shout-out to the teachers
and the educators and the riot-makers
asking everyone around them to Please
Step Up And Change with Me.
Big-Ass shout-outs to the baristas & baristos
serving medium-hot coffee to the assholes
of the world, myself included.
Shout-out to the musicians sitting in low-ceilinged rooms
making their tall music.
Shout-outs to all the dads & the moms
especially the new dads & moms
figuring their shit out and loving their babies
and trying to devise the best way
not to get pissed on. Shout-out to the pissing babes
spraying their new baby-yellow rooms
and puking right onto their mom’s faces
because that mom is still gonna love you
and I look forward to understanding a love like that.
Shout-out to the horse-owners and the pig-lovers
& the goat-chin-scratchers, pulling cold flakes of hay
from the bales to keep those animals alive
through these cold-ass months. Shout-out
to the gay dads preparing for their baby girl
& conquering the question of breastmilk.
Shout-out to the ones looking to feel better next year
cuz I think we all want that.
Shout-out to the firepeople for saving our lives
and the ambulance drivers for saving our lives
and the snow plow drivers for saving our lives.
Shout-out to the intrepid mailman
driving up the hill to bring me the news
I need. Shout-outs to the chaps & broads
serving lunch & dinner & breakast. Shout-out to anyone
working outside at this very minute. Shouts
to the truck drivers who are Literally Bringing Us
Everything. Shout-out to the pilots of the planes
that carry us to family and vacation.
Shout-outs to the grannies knitting hats for charities
& the grannies knitting hats for grandchildren.
Shout-out to my grandpa who asks good questions
& who I owe a telephone call.
Shouts to the journalists trying to make sense
of the world quickly enough to help us make sense of it.
Shout-out to the witches that still live in Salem.
Shout-out to the volunteers of anything.
Shout-outs to the instigators & the academics
crushin’ it in their university newspapers
& in the streets. Shout-outs to the full-time potters
& the full-on proper ladies serving tea
to the homeless (if you exist).
Shout-outs to Every Single Person working at a job
that is not their dream job.
And shout-outs to even those working
at their dream jobs, because not even dreams
are perfect. Shout-out to the humans in Info Booths
everywhere. Shout-out to the toll collectors & magazine
slingers. Shout-out to the people driving across the border
to get to work. Shout-out to the tractor drivers
& their neck pains. Shouts to the lovers
underneath the sheets & the ones defaming
public restrooms with their bodies (cuz who am I
to judge). Shout-out to the straight-laced ladies
who wanna get whipped in their bedrooms.
Shout-out to the ladies who really don’t.
Shout-out to any man acknowleding his status
of power and using it wisely. Shout-out to the PhDs
& the RIPS along the highway.
Shout-out to all the goddamn good humans
whose presence we no longer get to enjoy,
may they rest their weary heads in a sweeter world.
Shout-out to the writers writing in secret
at their jobs & sleepily at home.
Shout-out to the beekeepers & the bees.
Shout-out to the injured athletes, because pain
knows no salary. Shouts to the loudmouths
& the whisperers and to anyone
with a birth mark on their face
that made their formative years miserable.
Shout-out to the people living with disabilities
that are finding grace where they can.
Shout-out to to everyone I missed,
because I know you’re shouting, too.
Shout-out to everyone who knows
it’s about listening & not being heard.
Shout-out to the haters who are gonna be all
“That girl’s poems are too damn long.” Cuz listen:
I’m short, I’m compensating, I’m just trying
to be a little loud to make a little more goodness grow.
I’m shouting out. Holler back.