dear Melissa – A Poem From Tucson's Poet Laureate

dear Melissa –

                        a curve billed thrasher

is cleaning its beak on the ground –

we are closer now than ever – sitting

in shadow – I never want to scare

anyone – not really – I have a friend

who loves people who come out

suddenly – in the dark –


is the same distance as pain from here –

that’s my skin on your sweater – both hands

stripped now – I know I am someone

to you I am entirely – practicing

Spanish on the computer – gesturing to

the neighbor instead of speaking –

                                           to sharpen

the body is never an accident – someone

I know I am not – letters are inseparable

from loss – moving what can be still

moved – one is sweeping the mouth –

what ever isn’t skin – take it off –


Last spring I was in a cab accident that displaced 4 ribs. The healing process, although still ongoing, was at its most intense during the 6 months following the accident. During that time, I couldn’t sit for any extended period of time (anything over 15-20 minutes was excruciating) and I couldn’t read, type, or write. In other words, I was completely cut off from the tools I use not only to make a living but to understand the world and my place in it. There’s no beautifying it – in addition to the physical pain, that was an emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually demanding time. Anyway, as I lay in bed (and on the couch, and mostly on the ground), I would watch and envy the birds. I learned their names and behaviors and began to notice (wake up to, fall in love with) the many slight shifts which precede and then create large movements. I became a student of accretion and accumulation.

All of this waiting and watching for my body to change brought to mind my experience of going on testosterone (and thus entering into a physical gender transition back in 2006). Although there are, of course, many differences between a gender transition and recovery from an accident or illness, some things they seem to have in common are the need for interminable patience, surrender to asking for help, accurately seeing the flaw in capitalism that says we are only worth what we produce (and rejecting that logic), in addition to holding the heart open for whatever might come and then change.

Lying there, I kept wanting to talk to the girl I had been – Melissa – and get her take on things. I wanted to know what she made of the life I was living, had I made her proud. This is one of several epistolary poems to Melissa – a way of bringing her into my world and showing her around.