body hair

when i was young, i had a pet rabbit
named brownie

i played with him for hours
in the summer, in the backyard
in the hot and humid sun

i remember delighting in the feeling of
the breeze cooling me down,
tickling the blond hair
on my legs

on vacation in san francisco,
i am eleven years old.

my mom has left her razor in the
shower and i take it in my hand,
for the first time and
glide it across my legs,
watch in awe as clumps of my hair
flow down the drain

i don’t stop there
i shave my arms,
my stomach,
reach around to shave my back

i know now, my body hair is something
to be removed

i am in high school, seventeen
nervous around boys

with my boyfriend, one night
i go further than
i ever had before

in the coming weeks, he and i
split up, and he says to me,
to my face

“go shave your dry-ass vagina”

my friend kara, in college, is italian
with beautiful dark, curly hair

she is growing out her armpit hair
her leg hair
her chest hair

and in this small college town,
i notice so many women doing
the same thing

it has always been frustrating to
shave and have to do it again
a few days later

have razor burn between my legs

so, i stop buying razors and decide
to grow out my body hair, too

i hide it for a while,
don’t wear tank-tops in
certain situations
pin my arms to my sides
in public

i am not ready for
their reactions

i am not ready for
what they might say

everyone has something to say
about a woman with hair under her arms

my sister: “i just don’t like body hair in general.
not even my husband’s beard.”

a coworker: “can you lift your arms up? i
thought i saw hair there and i just want to
get a better look.”

a boy i dated: “you’re so 60’s, baby.”

a friend: “doesn’t it bother you when
it’s all sweaty?”

a friend: “if you could just trim it for my wedding,
that would be great.”

someone online: “gross!”

can i tell you about the prairie?
the grasslands that hold
the soil intact?
that absorb moisture,
create abundance?

the soil within the grasslands is
rich, lush, fertile

it does not ask for your judgment,
only cycles through itself
the way it was
created to

i am a woman
i have hair under my arms
between my legs,
and down them

my body is my temple
my dwelling place

for me to take care of
make choices about
to make peace with

last year, on a solo bike ride beneath
the organ mountains,

i stop to watch the breeze
ripple through the black gama grass
like waves

i, too, feel it
on my legs
and under my arms

a part of the grass
a part of the breeze,
no end between us,

just as i am.

-A

untitled

i pull my unwashed hair back
each morning
grow out my body hair
welcome the scent of my
own sweat
have a thick coat of dirt under my nails
constantly

i study the soil
the roots within
the worms beneath

across the valley, i see
dust swirling in the
spring wind

drive through mud
spattering my windshield

the soil is not a barrier
grime is not a shield
i am not glass,
will not shatter when i
fall off my bike
fall on the rock

i carry bruises
study them like a map
learn from their bumps,
colors, textures, memories

i have considered the dirt on my hands
at the end of the day, running down the drain
with water and soap

but for what?;
it always returns

-A

cycles

i am the earth
because i grow
from my own
decay

today, i trace the lines of my teeth
feel the gaps
with my tongue

and the salt i tasted
on your body yesterday
still lingers

is there a place i am going
where i can sit still?

am i everything i’ve
gathered until this point?
(dead cholla stalks, stained hair-ties,
dusty Appalachian books, flaky orach seeds)

the answer is no
i am only skin
only tissue
only the cycle of
life feeding on decay

-A

morning reflections while drinking tea with milk

Gratitude for plasticity. For the dynamic nature of existence.

I sit here, in color. In warmth. In sound. How do I reconcile my access to comfort, to beauty? Does it cost someone else something?

I am so grateful for song, melody. My own song and the songs of others. How truly awe-inspiring to hear birds sing. Insects chirp. Wind howl through frozen branches.

I am so grateful for creativity. For the collective consciousness and creativity of life. Seeds carry themselves across the breeze. Attach themselves to my sleeves.

For the blood that drips from my cavern, reminding me to pay attention. To dip into myself like a well, a spring, that provides me the strength to rise, to sacrifice, to be still.

For taste, for connection.
For hair, for grasslands, the prairie.
For lessons in trees, in roofs, in dirt, in age.

I sit on my knees. I kiss the ground. The ground kisses my forehead.
I see myself. I see everyone, everything.

I will treat you better.

-A

pain, the teacher

i look with wonder
at myself,
first

when i left him,
i asked my pain
what she might teach me

it was me,
falling on the rock,
bleeding ankle,
laughing to the sun

it was me,
plucking my guitar strings,
teary eyes,
singing to the quiet

it was me,
tending to the garden,
sweaty brow,
giving thanks to the dark soil

it was me,
picking up,
carrying through,
owning up and
accepting the weight

it was me,
trudging up the snowy hill,
surprising my own self
with my movement
with my stillness

i tell you now that
i have not forgotten my pain

but i have arrived on the other side
where i can carry her lessons
with me;

that my hands are never empty,
that my heart heals when i sing my song,

that i am worth
all of the wonder
i can give myself

-A

“woman”

it is not a title i earned
was given
but am

i do not claim it
as anything
but armor
anymore

try to tell me
that i can’t be
pretty and rough
all at once

or that i should have to explain
the knife in my pocket,
the hair under my arms,
the polish on my nails

because in my own
version of myself
i encompass each
line of my own topography

ranging from river to
mesa and
back again

when you ask of me
my heart on a platter,
i will offer you my tongue,
instead

-A

a letter to you, and her, and me

sister, all the water, blood and juices
oozing from you body are
freely becoming one.

and in a sea so fiercely curious,
you stand at the shore –
the culmination of all the whispers
and limbs and bones that brought
you into being.

imagine for a second, sister, that
you are not just a body.
you are a collection of synapses
and bacteria, a walking planet.

and inside, did you know, sister, that you are
layers of all the things? like
sandstone and mudstone, layered and
eroded, layered and
eroded,
pieces of fossils are your very
make-up.

these tools, this dust that sits within you.

don’t you know you’ve always had
everything you needed?

-A

my mother always interprets my dreams

what i like about myself is that,
once i am awake,
i will look you in the eye

last night, i dreamt of a jaguar
laying in my bed —
a mother and her cub
i startled them,
they left, and
i lost them

in this way, i carry my skin
as though i wish it were armor

at work, i hide my underarm hair
as a secret
i smile when i register that
that’s what you need

and when i get home late at night,
after mopping the floors,
i can’t sleep

last week, riding the sierra vista rail
i had to stop so i could listen to the
wind brush through the lovegrass

from where i stood, the wind
carried the sounds of
coyotes howling from the west

and tonight, on my walk back to my car,
i notice a fox crossing my path
ahead of me, looking for a bush
or shrub to
hide behind

now i think about looking him in the eye,
disrespecting me, “excuse me?”

i think about looking him in the eye,
disrespecting me, “i will explain”

i think about looking him in the eye,
disrespecting me
disrespecting me
disrespecting me

the jaguar, an animal,
and instincts,
my mother tells me –

something about
following them

-A

A Playlist of the Music that Boys Play in Cars

1. Suedehead by Morrissey

at midnight I am awake on the carpet
watching the ceiling fan spin round and round
while I listen to his mixtape
in the bedroom at my parents’ house

Morrissey is strange and new
but again, so is he
a year older than me
teaching me what couples do

but Morrissey makes me uneasy
like it makes me uneasy to
kiss him in the back of the movie theatre
when I really do just want to watch the film

2. Mr. Brightside by The Killers

nothing about this feels exciting or right
riding shotgun with him to the movies
with my favorite band’s songs playing
since he somehow knows that I like them

I am so much older now
this seems like what to do
towards the end of high school
to prepare for future dates

but just yesterday in Spanish class
after I tried to turn away
he would not stop touching me under the desk
watching my face for my panicked reaction

3. Gypsy by Fleetwood Mac

at noon we are riding through our college town
running errands I hate to do alone
while I put on my favorite song
and we both enjoy singing along

Stevie Nicks is familiar
her voice cozy, like him
a year younger than me
teaching me how to be friends

my favorite song makes me feel light now
like it makes me feel happy to
have someone who shows how much he cares for me
with no hidden motives or expectations

4. She Smiles For Pictures by Big Trouble

there is a sadness I cannot tap into
riding shotgun with him in his old car
with his favorite band’s songs playing
since he wants me to enjoy them, too

I am so much older now
this feels like what to do
when you love in college
and want it to last so long

but the next time we sleep together
after letting more go unsaid
I will realize trust makes a relationship
feeling our friendship break from what we won’t share

5. Tricky to Love by White Lies

this is not a song I would normally like
but I decide to listen just the same
because I want to know his interests
after I have just shared some of mine

I have never felt so sure
that this is how it goes,
it should be this easy,
that when you know, you just know

by the time we reach my apartment
we have decided our next date
and as he gently asks if he can kiss me
I can see that it was always worth the wait

-L

proper documentation

7 september 2017
i walk around, looking for empty glassware to wash
a group of men, young and old, stop me and say
“you have nice legs, sweetie”

i wore shorts today because
it is 99 degrees and i’m
hustling around this restaurant
for 8 hours and the ac is broken and so
i just smile and walk away,
my legs and face burning

29 september 2017
i am behind the bar putting clean pints away
and the man behind the bar, the one who comes
every week with his fancy camera
says “let me take your picture”
“no, thank you,” i say
“come on,” he prods
“no,” i repeat
and as i walk around the restaurant
i can’t help but feel
he is taking my photo

13 october 2017
“did you just give me the stink eye?”
an old white man behind the bar asks
as i hustle to put away all the
glassware

15 october 2017
“why don’t you smile more? you look so pretty when you smile!”

20 october 2017
“there’s that smile! i saw it!”

14 november 2017
it’s a friday night and my
hands are full and i’m
clearing tables and a man says
“yo we’re ready to order”

with hands full i explain,
“sorry, i’m not a server”
and walk away

later, as i bring food out
he says under his breath
as i walk past
something i can’t hear and so

i back up, look him in the eye and say
“excuse me?”

“i thought you weren’t a server”
he mocks me
and it isn’t until my
manager, who is a male
enters the space that this man
backs off me
(later, he tries to leave without paying)
(a real stand-up guy)

16 november 2017
behind the bar, an older man has had
plenty to drink
and each time i’m at the dishwasher, i’m
directly across from him

“boy, she’s pretty ain’t she?”
he says multiple times to his friends

24 november 2017
“why do you always look so mad?”

8 december 2017
behind the bar, i load the dishwasher
“can i get an amber ale?” he asks impatiently.
“i’m sorry, i’m not a server. someone will be right with you.”
“well can SOMEONE get me an amber ale?” he asks even more impatiently.
i stop what i’m doing, and look at him, take a breath and repeat,
“someone will be right with you.”
********
afterthoughts:

where do we learn to take up space?
and how?

(when i first started this job, i smiled on cue
but now i hesitate, and if you ask me to smile
i know you don’t deserve it)

each day, i remind myself that
i deserve every bit of the space i need