Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I think I’m having an affair with my manicurist

I think I’m having an affair with my manicurist.

I look forward to seeing her like we have a standing date; every 2 to 3 weeks, usually on Saturday or Sunday mornings. I wake up early on my weekend (a rarity for me), trying to avoid the rush of women getting their nails, toes, eyebrows did. I always ask for her. I sit before her. we exchange familiar how are yous. smiling, she comments on the bright colors I wear. the first time I told her my name, she smiled and said “everything about you is free.” that made my spirit happy.

she’s in her mid to late twenties, wears heels all day and pretty things while everyone else wears sneakers and flip flops. she dresses up for work like work is on her way to somewhere sexier and more important.

while all the other manicurists ask me to pick from a photo album of nail designs so they can carefully stare at it then re-create the image on my nails, lily (my manicurist) just asks me to pick the colors I want and tells me “I know what you want.” I tell her she’s an artist. she laughs. I tell her I’m serious. she smiles and goes about the business of making my nails beautiful. she designs beauty off the top of her head, each nail a unique design of fuschia, purple, turquoise, yellow, lavender, gold glitter and silver glitter. each nail is an impromptu improvisational work of art that will live on my body for the next few weeks. each time I look at my nails, catch a stranger on the train admiring my nails or a friend compliments me on my nails, I smile and silently thank lily. I am consistent with this self-love ritual of taking the time to get my nails done. even when I don’t make dance class as often as I like or don’t drink as much water as I know I should, I make sure I tend to my nails, I make sure that I take that time to relax and let myself be still.

I watch her, like a student, I watch her take care to take care, speaking rapidly to her coworkers, laughing at their jokes, making her own. she occasionally laughs with me, asks me how I am but is mostly quiet, firm with the filing, cutting and buffing of my nails. firm but gentle with it too. knowing in a way that comes with repetition—like I know my poems, she knows my nails.

the last time she did my nails, when she was done, I looked at the masterpiece of my nails and beamed, “you’re the best!” she responded, “I like it when you say that. because it’s true.” lily got that undercover swagger like what!?!

me? I love butches like some of y’all like your coffee black, no sugar—strong and undiluted. y’all know this. but. but there’s something subtly hypnotic about her, quiet and lovely. charming and laid back. femme. feminine in this sweet way that brings softness to my eyes.

this affair is a sweet little thing. a hushed secret that amuses me. no kissing. she’s held my hands more tenderly than some former lovers. that’s real talk. I watch her. one of those women who doesn’t know how amazing she is. one of those women wrapped up in taking care of everyone else. I wonder if anyone holds her un-manicured hands with the tenderness she holds mine. I wonder if her eyes watch someone buff and polish and file and file and file again her nails, watch someone open bottle of liquid color and apply wet brush to her nails once twice, then a shiny, clear top coat. I wonder if anyone ever took her nails and made 10 visual art pieces on them for her to walk around with and feel beautiful because of.

she’s my favorite manicurist. her heels, her laughter, she’s soft spoken but her fire bursts out once in awhile in the way she sculpts her words, especially if she’s slightly annoyed. lily. the unexpected affair with no lovemaking, but plenty of intimate moments. we keep our clothes on and don’t kiss.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

compassionate disease

(I performed this for World AIDS Day in 2005; most of this poem is an excerpt from "LIKE WILDFIRE", a play I wrote from 2005-2007)

I want to write a poem specifically for World AIDS Day

specifically for you,

for all of us here today

& I don’t know how to write about you & I

or this “epidemic”,

the only epidemic I ever wrote about was racism

and homophobia

sexism & poverty


I’m going to write about an epidemic I would like to see happen:

I want compassion

to become a contagious, incurable disease

we pass between us with glances, hand shakes & innocent bumps in the elevator,

I want to become infected with compassion/passionately concerned about the welfare of people whose first names I may never learn/

you hear your neighbor beating his wife & you call the police & go over to see if she is okay,

you give money to everyone who asks if you have it,

we believe in rainbows, we swallow sunshine for breakfast,

your eyes stay riveted on the ache splattered across the face someone you’ve never met—his ache deepens as he reads the piece of paper in his hands,

and he grips the edges until the paper splits.

your heart jumps at the sound of any child crying

I want an epidemic of compassion of uncontrollable proportions

this compassionate segment of the population will have to be quarantined from the apathetic,

cbs will report that the virus is spreading at an unprecedented rate,

there will not be enough hospital beds to accommodate the massive number of people infected with their own humanity;

it’s some sort of super-virus-bacterium with a defiant resistance to antibiotics & vaccination,

compassion is a messy disease/your face wet from tears/sore from the bruises of heart beatings and you can feel your heart beating your ass

hands shaking

eyes open like a faucet:

I want to feel your spirit and not some facsimile thereof,

my smile is a disarming weapon,

thoughts are actions/wishes come true

words are dangerous/silence lethal:

I wear my heart on my face/my soul on my tongue

my intentions are in my eyes

all of me is right here

I ain’t got shit to hide

I’m wide open


honesty still counts for sumthin.

paper maché teacup mango soil poem amalgam

I want to write a million little poems

put them in a tea cup

drink them

I want to remember you at your best

frame those moments

melt the rest

I want to make paintings larger than me


that feel as intimate as a handwritten letter sent through the mail

from a lover

I want to forget the bad

treasure the good

selective amnesia like that is dangerous

and responsible for why my body stayed when my spirit wanted to go

your fingertips are made of flower petals

and dew drops

your words paper maché images that dance and do cartwheels in my head

you are as soft as cinderblocks

as sexy as pollination

broken hearted poets are as common as sidewalk cracks

sometimes we are mango pits

drying out on windowsills

the fleshy orangeyellow fruit we once inhabited only a memory

pit not in the earth, sitting there

full of potential wasted

when there is so much to plant

why do we spend so much time

out of soil?

kind of a revelation

I miss you

not the fights,

not all the ways we didn’t fit

the ways we did

the silence when it was beautiful, the laughter when it was real

I understood the way your hips moved

like a song I wrote

or a poem long memorized

you tasted like a permanent part of my tongue

your arms like something I didn’t want to sleep without

{I remember takin down your braids

& realizing I loved you}

you were a hurricane,

a flood,

a thunderstorm,

a slap in the face,

the most sensual embrace

now I

can’t decipher between the magic of you

and the disaster of you,

our brilliance

our pain

::real talk:: is it that I miss you?

or that I miss what we could have been

and never were?

why is tragic so romantic?

why is tortured heartache on a poetic pedestal?

receiving medals

& long winded odes?

I said to someone


great poems come from pain

but there’s other shit to write about that also

makes beautiful art

I love you

wherever you are

& I’m not even mad anymore

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