meditation on stimulus and response

Lora, who always talks me through the difficulties of interacting with other humans, gave me this quote by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl: “Between every stimulus and response there is a space and in that space is a choice.” Thank goodness for personal agency and decision making.

She has also mused me into the Dickinson-esque use of the hyphen, which is present in the following poem; it relates to my constantly firing mind and my (in)ability to deal with my body in the space-people continuum.


the space between bodies —
stimulus & response
one I have worked for years
to learn

when aerial words seem to
morph into tangible objects —
ones that must be deflected
with shields — the look on one’s face

when feeling is supposed to be
first — yet — the short distance between
your skin and mine cannot solve
every equation, every misstep

when time provides chances to mull —
response to humans and their actions,
it is still not enough for peace in
mind. peace is ever evolving, coming & going

I find space’s waters troubling,
mapless, navigation which needs knowledge I don’t yet harbor.
But, as days pass, the soul sleeps,
and rises — to continue again.


just a few elements of the mirror soul

i can say all the
right things, mirror
soul. i am not a
sage, nor a Tao, simply
a reflective surface
who can probe and
smoothly react.

when you are sad it
seeps into my being.
i wish to take it off
your back so you can
be strong enough to
make us both smile.
this never works. sadness
simply duplicates, its
impressively cancerous
ways reveling in my
silly little thoughts
that it could be beat.

every poem i read i
think of you. i wonder
what you would say
about it. wonder
what we could
contort and distort
and bring to life and
put to bed, together.

historically speaking

historically speaking,
april’s extending light —
full of itself in bloated newness.
the rain, the rain,
then the sun, the sun
all this back and forth
the newborn kittens, the blind
the anamnesis – when i had wanted to
things i worked so hard to forget.

but historically speaking,
april crawls along.
poems dried up on the sidewalk
left in a beach town where the wind
wouldn’t let up.
dropped like a quarter off
a bridge, no sound made
on contact.

i remember the noise of moving forward,
and april is swept.

precurser to poetry month (i’m ready)

peeling skin, melting snow
molting every changeable element of me.
i try to remember to speak only after
assuming the best intentions,
but it's easy to forget once
my body has shed all the icicles
winter stayed, now dripping fast from my
limbs. zinc, soma, caffeine
to replace the cold. thank iris for
the pieces of light. driving out the grey.

musings on cat power “sea of love”

it’s almost spring and i’m thinking of the sugar bush and i’m thinking of isis and osiris and i’m thinking of love and i’m thinking of myself and i’m ready for april to spring me back into my poet body.


come with me
saboteur of love
to the place where i come from
i want to show you
how much i remember
the peeling of the bark
from my tree
but not
the fingers that peeled
bare skin of maple
let seep all that was inside
the unfiltered human we all are at the core
my bark has begun
to return
like the bad habits of the smoker
i pick it away sometimes still
thinking it doesn’t belong
this is who i am —
pained to be standing cold —
proud of the raw.

Digressions on a Mantra: It Will Pass

rewrite of one of the oldest poems in the book.


Standing on the sidewalk.
Midway – between years suburbed and new days grounded,
St. Paul.

A hammer in your mouth
raps on the concrete,
slowly first,
tap, tap tap.
Birds stir from perch,
and you continue,
thumping your words along the street.
The wretched friction
tells the tale of our madness,
your claim to reality.

I toss for always,
for ever,
halves of lives together,
in the path of your thrash.
The hammer comes down upon these words,
Let one have it.

Then –
it is quiet.
I ask the birds for forgiveness,
for my body to make a move,
for the questions that sleep beneath my tongue.

I’ll wait so long I’ll turn to the bits of stone
lying crumbled in between.

dylan deep cuts

b-side inspiration

Dylan, deep cut
record the deep
the spinning deep
twist into histories —
the belly, the heavy
got the best of me.

We all have want for
something whole.
Now I am open to the deep cut
even in its darkness
even in knowledge of injury.
Edge into the deep
peer in —
even into tenebrous dark
even knowing there is no

& to those who wave red flags
your flags are not mine —
I have known mine well.
Have dined with them,
slept in their beds
pulled and pulled to get them out
of their deepest cuts.
I know their depth.
But we all have our warnings,
and yours are not mine

Dylan, deep cut
remember the deep,
the b-side,
in umbras of surface self,
the smirk beyond the peripheral.
Spinning into sight
even if it gets the best of me.


being devotchka
plant obscured from
light still thrives. idle in
the darkness that surrounds.
the lone wolf grazes, and the one
glacier that’s left floats
way from its friend
the land.

is all we are, after all.
slow, the slow fade of
bed sheets tied up in
one another
tied up in
one another.

does darkness mean alone?
or everything?
either white or black
it’s every color
or no color
and I can never remember
to differentiate between the two
the binary of life and loss.
of feeling alone in a room of
five six
ten billion people.

the spirit becomes soft,
and fades into itself.
I become abstracted,
because the only self I know
stands in front of young bodies
and returns to forget
how to breathe not in front
of a crowd.

that is alone.

The Appeal and Threat of the Red Flag



angry, crazy mom, dad with gun, workaholic, insecure, alcoholic, immature, restless soul, numb, drug dealer, too young, too old, too serious, too clown, crazy ex girlfriend, lives with parents, no car, wandering eye, stagnant, lack of hygiene, liar, fixer upper, not interested.

There is a plane flying
straight over me. I am
his flight path.
I watch him in all
control –
engine in view of my
ears. He banks south
just after his shadow
obscures my sun.
And it is quiet again,
and suddenly warm rays
further bleach my
fuzzy thoughts.
who fears a dragon–
He who fears death.


There is a fire on the other side of the wall.
The most profound rusted rose
licking up flames for minutes
or days (depending on the day).
It is anger. It is plates smashed on the tile
red words flown over heads.                                                [FLAG]
The next day, the fire is gone.
A skinny man stands in its place,
head banging music
face quickly flickering over the wall,
but quiet.
I watch and churn.

There is no business in staring,
in absorbing the surrounding
of the days and days it takes to sort
through scattered thoughts.
Danger lies in meeting the eyes of another human
who stares back.                                                                   [FLAG]
Eyes linger long enough to know
I have no business in those eyes.

Long ago you decided you would be
only you
the only you that you are,
even at the expense of the world.
Even when in your heart you wish
you could be
another you.                                                                         [FLAG]
A you that does not inflict
such a self onto others –
“Accept me or reject me.
You’ll probably do the latter, in the end.”

A smile is only as good as lips can curl.
Mustaches can curl
upwards and out –
little signs of age,
cultivated and proved to the world.
Proved to me that you are
in fact
a man, a working, thinking, love-making
Something that must be proved.                                     [FLAG]
Hopefulness wavering between us,
little rivers with a million tributaries.
In that certainty of uncertainty,
I run.

“don’t lick art stuff…” – “but don’t try not to…”

our students wrote the most beautiful poems in the world. my favorite lines:

“Nature can’t speak, it is impossible but humans
Think that is the base of our lives
When really we are the base of the
Nature, to grow together.
we must cherish each moment,
each gift of life that is nature.
and every gift should return to nature
by planting a new silver,
which is a new life that came into
the world like we did.”

“It’s a kind of madness
It’s a kind of torture
It’s just my sadness
It’s just my fortune”

“Humanity has the capacity
To make the final decision,
The world’s salvation
Or the world’s destruction.”

“War is more than the loss of the same reason
It is found as far away from us and Awareness
The war and suffering is only because of that wild creature
Which calls itself rational
War is fire the pain and death that we all suffer”

“Many stones against your face
The painful memories
That you can’t just forget
The fear of the times
You were stuck without thinking
Reaching for hands
You felt they were always missing”

“Because maybe
I need to know
Which is the real end
And if it is this or not
I won’t know it
If I don’t continue
And resist, resist,
Always the same, resist”

“Some people just wait
drowning their sorrows in silence
throwing the empty to the sea
knowing that everything is going to oblivion”

“You’re not taking me today, death,
I’m creating a new world,
I’m fixing the wrong,
And I won’t stop,
Today I’m not presenting my paper boat.”


they are very dark, yes. this is because we used inspiration poetry that had many social themes and undertones from oppressive histories. we cannot ignore these histories; as artists we are responsible for exposing their effect on the soul. this is one truth I know about the world. for otherwise, people will, as one of our students wrote, drown “their sorrows in silence.”

I am painfully unaware of all histories besides my own. as a teacher and a poet, I want to read and listen to the past of the world and the past of my fellow humans. however, I do not wish to open these soulbooks lightly, for it is not my place to do so. but by framing these poetry exercises in the mandala form and using other Latin American poets to kick start our students’ creative minds, I feel we have done justice to this community. I feel we have allowed ourselves, them, and their community a glimpse into an internal consciousness. I feel so lucky to be witness and a part of this.

where do I feel in place? in the souls of others. I am me, of course. I breathe my own breaths and think my own thoughts. but I know, over and over again, that I am a larger part of the whole. I clutch onto the people I meet, never wishing to let go, for I learn myself through them. I used to be afraid of this fact; thought perhaps I was not my own human. that I needed to present my soul as a new one. I have finally found all the beauty and hope in the collective nature that is my being.

as I walked through the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Casa de Azul two weekends ago (D.F.//Mexico City), I began to feel her soul permeating my own. i finally found myself in her two rooms, one for day and one for night. it was the last stop of the tour, and as i stood in the memories of one of the greatest artists, emotion welled inside me. tears in my eyes; i could feel her soul ebbing and flowing through the keepsakes and paints, through the dolls and medicines. i could have stood in that room and wept for hours. of her pain, of her colossal dreams, of her beauty. with the spinning feeling in my brain, I walked out of the room as quickly as I had walked in, overwhelmed.

i have seen many things in the short days of my 25 and one half years, and had endless feelings that morph, grow, recede. i reflect, and i become a new person each day. few things change me instantaneously. one memory that comes to mind is viewing Van Gogh’s work in Amsterdam. this was another experience in which i was moved to tears by the stroke of the brush on the canvas. we rushed from floor to floor in the very large museum, and i could barely contain the desire of my heart to jump out of my chest and into the olive trees. these moments of art are only one representation of my personal affect that becomes from the mandala of humanity; it does not always so explicitly inhabit my body, but when it does, I feel like I float above the plane of reality. I feel myself at oneness. I cannot meditate (traditionally) at this point in my life, but I believe this connection with humanity is the closest I have come.

what I mean to say by all of this is that I am trying, each day of my life, to  find my oneness with the world. to accept the place I set my feet in front of me; to respect in each body and being around me; to awe in the sacredness that is one second, and not wish it’s coming and going. i am thankful for Frida, for our students, for Lora, for Jocelyn and all of Arquetopia, for helping me realize and articulate this. thank you thank you thank you. i am only as good as the art and souls around me.


Noguchi’s Butterflies

I can not walk
I can not see
Further than what
Is in front of me
I lay on my back
yet I do not cry
Transported in space by the butterflies.

 Above my bed
Another sky
With the wings you sent
Within my sight
All pain dissolves
In another light
Transported thru
By the butterfly

This little song
Came to me
Like a little gift as I stood
Beside the bed of Frida.
I give it to you with much love,

Patti Smith


I’ll include some pictures here from D.F., because that is the closest concrete experience that inspired this philosophical experience.


Endless Mexico City

Endless Mexico City

Accept the faces you actually want to make. Try not to say "omg delete that one."

Accept the faces you actually want to make. Try not to say “omg delete that one.” Derp.



Jaime y Lora. Yeah they some tree huggers.

Jaime y Lora. Yeah they some tree huggers.

The beauty of the lychee

The beauty of the lychee

The women who crafted our first Quesadilla Flor de Calabaza (squash flower).

The women who crafted our first Quesadilla Flor de Calabaza (squash flower).

Stop to look through the windows of a courtyard of intrigue.

Stop to look through the windows of a courtyard of intrigue.


mi cuerpo es su cuerpo

mi cuerpo es su cuerpo


finally, one more quote from a student, who I think perfectly summed up a collective dream of humans:

I come from throwing paint into a blank paper and from finding a girl by casualty who likes me enough to kiss my face, so we can go nowhere talking about nothing.”