BEAUTIFUL: A Slam Poem

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the sight of the person who is looking.
But I’m the only one sneaking peeks.
I spent an hour in the bathroom this morning.
Shaving my legs.
Plucking my brows.
Straightening hair.
Exfoliating off dead skin.
Covering up lines and freckles.
Rubbing on shadow.
Lining my lids.
Putting mascara on my short lashes.
Brightening cheeks with blush.
Trying to plump up my top lip.
Why? Who for? Myself? Its worth? Some unknown man? His affections?
What is the standard of beauty? I miss new city living where I’m considered an exotic Venus not a small western town plain jane. Here, they want the blondes with sparkling baby blues and leggy limbs. With my frizzy hair and dark skin, I will never fit into that mass.
I miss getting hit on by random strangers. Men in their tight denim. Blokes on the corner block. They smoke their cigarettes and look me up and down. Whistle. Call me, PRETTY. A STUNNER.
I’m shallow. But they made that way. Those men. These women.
I know that I will never be a size two but do they? They push me into buying expensive products and teeny garments, insisting those things will make me feel better about myself; but do they? The creams. The fabrics.
I’m a product of damage. Hurtful words of on-lookers and my mother. My own mutilation wounds. Doubts that always collect in my brain.
How can I fix what they did to me? These bodily ruins?
No self-help book will heal me. Neither will a million hours of psychotherapy, even though I know I’m not crazy.
Even that garbage paste and fake skin- cover up- they to convince me to buy will not suffice.
I guess I’m on my own. I need to fix myself.
I don’t know how but I will.
I need to see the beauty within in order to see the beauty without.
Dress size 12. D cup.
Oily skin. Acne scars.
Fake, chipped teeth. Scratched glasses.
Cellulite. Stretch marks.
Filled with kindness, spunk and an empowering brain.
I’m a knockout.

The Love I Deserve but Am Not Getting

Kisses to a band of horses
Rough hands against my soft face
Those precious whispered words.
That’s what I deserve but am not getting
Instead, I being fucked from behind with slaps against my cheek and a hand around my throat
I deserve better, I know that
But when nothing else presents itself
No one great pays attention and my loneliness builds
When I’m told ‘no’ or am ignored
I’m willing to see that sign of disrespect as a token of affection and let him pull my hair
Let him get away with the sexual abuse
Have my body in ways he shouldn’t
Chase his car with my tears and confused emotions
I know I deserve better but I’m not getting it so I will work with what I can get

I Love You.

The words “I” and “love” and “you” are the watermark of humanity. Strung together, they convey our deepest sense of humility, power and truth. It is our most common sentiment, even as the feeling of it is so infinitely uncommon: each to proclaim these three words with his or her very own heart and mindset of reason (or lack thereof); a proclamation completely and perfectly new each time it is offered.

Uttered daily and nightly by millions, the words are said in an unending array of circumstances: whispered to a newborn in a mother’s arms; shared between best friends on the playground; in the form of sympathy. It is said too loudly by parents to embarrass children in the company of their friends and by grown children to their fading parents in hospital beds. The words are thought in the company of old photographs and said in the company of gravestones. It is how we end our phone calls and our letters. The words at the bottom of the page that trump all those above; a way to gracefully finish a message, however important or trivial, with the most meaningful gift of all: the communication of love.

Yet the words themselves have been the victims of triviality, a ready replacement for lesser salutations among near strangers, burst forth casually as “love ya.” Truly? To what degree? Why, how much, and for how long? These are questions befitting of the stature of love, though not the everyday banter of vague acquaintance. The words have also been twisted by the dark nature of deceit. To say “I love you” with a dramatic measure of synthetic emotion, a snare set by those who prey upon fellow humanity, driven to whatever selfish end, to gain access to another’s body, or their money, or their opportunity. In this realm, the proclamation is disgraced by one seeking to gain rather than to give.

Our longing to hear them from the right place is maddeningly and simultaneously our finest strength and our most gentle weakness. In any case, and by whatever inspiration, these words are woven deeply in to the fibers of our existence. What should we do with these three teeny words? Let them escape from our lips at least once a day and have those words run from the cavities of our souls to the recipients’ ears and heart. May we all learn from one another that language of beauty, passion and emotion and pray that our true love for each other never fades away. I love you.

Asthma.

He smokes Marlboro cigarettes with the bedroom door locked. It’s an old habit that he refuses to break. I taste the cigarettes on his breath, his lips and his skin. I come over after class and leave my bike unchained on his front porch. I sit on his bed and watch him take in long, unhealthy drags. It is a mattress on the floor. Sometimes, we make love on it and I wonder if he’d rather have his mouth around another flaming cigarette than on me.

Then, he coughs. He has asthma.

The smoking is killing him. I once hid his cigarettes beneath the sink, but he just bought new ones and hid them better. I threaten to tear apart his room in search of the foul paper sticks, but instead, I cried with my head in my hands. He had his head down in the pillow, coughing and coughing until he vomited. I cried once more for him and he told me to stop being such a pussy. That throwing up was a daily occurrence for him and I worried too much. I told him that I loved him. He didn’t say anything and drew another cigarette, kissing it in ways he’d never kiss me.

I sleep over. He is so beautiful when he sleeps. My friends don’t understand what I see in him. Long, oily brown hair. Dark eyes. Sharp limbs. I whisper to him as he sleeps. We will get married one day and have children. I pray for sons that look just like him. Our life will be beautiful. He sighs and rolls over onto his back.

I want to know what he is dreaming about when his mouth hangs half-open. I kiss it, just to feel a kiss from him without the usual roughness and teeth. Does he dream of me? I dream of him. The nights where I am away from him, he’s all that’s in my head. I asked once what was in his head and he told me I’d never understand.

But I want to.

It is winter now and I’ve brought us coffee with the money I’ve earned from my four-hour a week job. He sips and I watch tuffs of cold air swirl from his nostrils. He tells me that caffeine causes cancer. I offer to buy him a juice but he says he isn’t afraid of cancer. He isn’t afraid of anything.

But I am. I’m afraid of everything. I take the coffee from his hands and throw it onto the road. Then, I throw mine. He calls me an idiot and walks back inside the house. His feet are very loud up the stairs and down the hall to his bedroom.

Now he cannot breathe. I hear it; the coughing. Then the gasping. Then nothing. The strings holding my heart up come undone and I lose my sense of balance. I fall up the stairs rushing to him. I reach out to hold him, just to only be pushed away. He apologizes with his eyes as he struggles to find air. I panic and wonder if his lungs are not working. Maybe he has forgotten how to breathe. Maybe he has had too much caffeine and this is cancer. I don’t care any longer. I just want to hold his hand.

I love you. Please let me help you, I beg. His breath is back now, but it is short and painful. If you love me, he struggles, leave me the fuck alone. And I do. I want him to believe. If I try and help anymore he’ll think I don’t love him. But I do. I do love him more than anything.

I fall asleep in his bedroom doorway. When I wake, the sun has set and the world is a dark blue. I wander to his bedroom and lay beside him, brushing hair from his eyes and tucking strands behind his ear. He sighs and puts his hands under his face. He looks different sleeping, not struggling for breath. He is beautiful. And I cry.

All I Want

I want raging nights.
Dark and wild.
Lit only by the city, bonfires and cigarettes.

I want sun-kissed days.
Breezy and free.
Interrupted only by the voices of my lover and friends.

I want memories. I want happiness. Those happy memories.

Sarah From Craigslist

I blow the steam off my coffee. I take two gulps, wince and add sugar packets. I don’t drink this shit. It’s too bitter no matter how much sweetner’s in it but I need to stay awake and alert. Normally, I’m not up at this ungodly hour on a Sunday but I want the first words out of my mouth to speak of my adoration for her.

I’m not sure if I should sit or stand. There are a lot of empty chairs here at this little coffee joint. This damn little coffee joint. It’s always packed with hipsters and selfish NYU freshmen. Not always, I can see that now. But usually. I take a seat, sip at my mug and get back up to grab a wooden skewer. I’m nervous. I shouldn’t be. I circle the table, glancing at my watch. Ten more minutes to nine. 9am. This is the time I decided that I was going to tell Sarah that I am hopelessly in love with her. I feel like Johnny Whitworth’s character in ‘Empire Records,’ ready to confess his love to Liv Tyler at 1:37pm. Was it 1:37pm? I think so. Why can’t I remember? I just watched this movie a few days ago. With Sarah. Damnit.

Diana hated ‘Empire Records.” I should have known at that moment she told me how much she despised that movie that we were never meant to last. After she dumped me, I wondered why life would have been like if we were still together. Would she still be banging her boss? Would she still feed me her lies and bullshit stories? Would I still be believing them? I hope she gets crabs. And she should; she never shaved like I asked.

I will admit that Diana was unbelievable in bed. For weeks, I didn’t miss her ‘charming’ personality; it was her body that I craved. Her long legs. The positions she could bend herself into. It was her flexibility I thought about as I wrote and posted that Craigslist ad. I never thought I would look online to hook up. My buddies have done it before and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I guess with the money that they dropped on these girls that they’d have a good time. All the rumors were true; these girls are hookers. I pulled off my shirt, did twenty push-ups and took a picture of my arms and chest; I prayed to God that no one would recognize my sleeve as I hit ‘yes’ for the acceptance of terms of service. Oh hell, here goes nothing.

Tattoos are still considered sexy by the amount of emails that flooded my inbox. I felt privileged, all these girls wanted me. I opened one email. Spam. Read another. Spam. Another. What the fuck are ‘roses?’ Another. Wow. I leaned back in my chair, surprised to see Sarah’s pretty face. The picture look like it was stolen off of Last Night’s Party; her with the Suicide Girl tattoos and nose piercing.  Her slight smile didn’t hide the fact that her undergarments were see-thru. I paused for a moment and considered the fact whether or not she was a ‘real’ girl; a real being that I could get my hands on, have her hot breath on the back of my neck,  the weight of her curvy frame on top of mine. Yes, I decided, she is real. Real enough for me. I was excited that she chose to answer my dumbass ad and I was happy to choose her. I sent her a response, commenting on her good looks and stellar body and left her my number. She called two days later, agreeing to meet and hook up.

We agreed to meet at this same coffeehouse on Bowery. It seemed to me the most logical place to discuss our sexual desires, at least location-wise, with her living in Fort Greene and me near Hell’s Kitchen. It was the space between and it fit. The afternoon air was bitter with cold. Autumn crept upon the city like a thief stealing away summer’s warmth. A week ago, I was wearing shorts and riding my cycle around. Now, I sported the heaviest sweater hanging in my closet and wished that I owned a car. I felt like a geek, realizing I choose the cardigan with the worn elbow patches. Damn, maybe she’ll like it. I walked inside and spotted her at the counter, smiling and chatting with the barista. She looked over her shoulder at me, the hipster-wannabe with messy hair and cashmere-blend sweater. I’m sure I looked like Mr. Rogers at that split second. Maybe her grandfather despite being only a year older. Saying her goodbyes, she walked over to me, all smiles. Her bangs hanging in her dark brown eyes. Hips that could sink ships hidden behind thin floral fabric. Gorgeous legs wrapped up in opaque tights. Shit, I knew what ‘opaque’ meant. Huh? Jesus, she was beautiful. Insanely beautiful. Extending out her right hand, she shook mine. “Hey Max. I’m Sarah. It’s awesome to meet you.”

We fucked for hours that day.

I can’t remember when my feelings for her arose. I think it was after our third time sleeping with each other. We laid in her bed for a solid two hours, talking fondly about our childhoods and laughing at the stories on how we lost our virginities. I liked watching her lips curl into a smile. I took in its glow and tried my best to make it appear often. When we met up for coffee. When I had her against the hallway wall. When we shopped at Duane Reade for condoms and lube. At any of the random dinners I invited her to. Our weekly affair turned into a twice-a-week thing, and then an everyday event. It was okay; it was more then okay. It was even okay if our clothes didn’t come off at the end of evening. It was just nice to call her and listen to her talk about her idiot boss and her thoughts about the concert we went to the night before. She was smart but didn’t make me feel stupid. It was the way she spoke to me. Sarah cared in ways that other people didn’t. You could hear it in her tone.

It was this past Friday night. I called Sarah and she took the 2 over. Kissing me sweetly on the cheek, she took a seat on the kitchen counter and watched me stir dinner. “How was your day?” she asked. That was it. Her wide smile. The two brown globes on her pretty face. The soft interest of her voice. Those four works spoken by that voice out of that mouth with her happy eyes searching for my answer. My heart skipped a beat. I didn’t want her as my fuck buddy as more. I wanted Sarah as a lover. My lover. I loved her. I really loved her. “It was good. Perfect, actually.”

I made up for my lousy cooking with good sex that night and watched Sarah drift off to sleep with her head against my chest. She left in the morning. without saying goodbye. I hated that. Why did she do that? I grabbed my phone off the nightstand and texted her. “Coffee at Think later?” She sent me back smiley face. Her smiley face.  My face hit my pillow as I prepared to sleep away today’s nervous energy.

So, here I stand. 8:58am. Two minutes until nine. Sarah’s punctual, to the point it gets disturbing sometimes. Damn. All I have to say is, I love you, Sarah, and that’s it. I can do it. I take a sip of my coffee. It needs more sugar. The sweetness I need walks through the door, with lips and eyes smiling and wearing opaque tights. “Sarah, there is something I really need to tell you.”

My Heart Around You

There she was again. The angel with amber eyes. Her dark hair fell in curls around her face. She always chewed her bottom lip every time I saw her but then again, the only times I’ve seen her was at the campus library, sitting at the same table, writing in that same notebook, lost in different thought.

I first saw her in the beginning of the semester. She was wearing a blue dress and listening to her iPod too loud. I wanted to hear the song that blasted through her earbuds. I circled among the shelves, listening through the cracks in the books.

The days grew colder and I continued to circle around the stacks, learning more and more about her. She continued to wear blue. Sweaters. Scarves. A blue saddle bag. I could never figure out what she listened to her but I finally learned her name. Kara.

Kara filled my dreams. Her cerulean presence filled my thoughts with its soft glow. I could hear nothing but the tinny sound from her earphones with each of my steps. I dreamed that she she wrote about me in that notebook of hers. Doodling my face on its lined pages. She had to know that my heart was wrapped around her.

I left the library one cold February evening. It was a day meant for lovers and the hour called for depressing music in my Walkman. I sat at the stop, waiting for the bus when Kara asked if the seat next to me was available. She looked at me with those tortoiseshell eyes and smiled. “That song you’re listening to is amazing. I’ve been obsessed with that one for months.”