days of gray.

You’re something I’ve had to learn how to talk about, a story whose sharp edges I’ve sanded down with each retelling. The fury finally passed, fire giving way to ashes.

Where do I scatter this?

I run the city like I’ve been in a coma. To reacquaint with the world is to admit to myself that I’ve been away. Sun spills between sky-high buildings as I hustle up the street, a love song ringing in my ears. For now, the love letters are between me and myself: forgiveness, gentleness, admiration. You were brave, you know?

I arrive back home, pull off sweaty clothes and stand beneath a shower of warm water, and my palms run over my body with loving detail.

The hardest part of looking back on you is acknowledging what a traitor I became to myself. That August morning, waking up in a panic, walking into the bathroom and facing myself in the mirror. You stupid fucking idiot, I remember thinking. You deserve every fucking scar this leaves behind.

Scars give way to stories and someone else will kiss the skin you bruised. The world we built and broke will become a picture tucked in some drawer. Small though the aches have become, your memory still echoes into my awareness. One day, I will go to write and you won’t spill out of my fingertips. Til then, I’ll run and rinse and release.

I am standing in a year of purposeful transition. These are not the most exciting pages of anybody’s story. These are the days of taking inventory, of changing up our yeses and nos, of packaging things into cardboard boxes and preparing to step into new beginnings.

Every aspect of my world feels a little adolescent, not in its youth nor ready to be released, and I search for beauty in the becoming. We are always in some sort of flux. Movies present our lives in clear arcs – setup, conflict, moment of great peril, and triumph – but most of our days are a muddy blend of these.

Planting seeds for tomorrow’s flourishing takes faith, stubborn conviction. I think you should bet on yourself. A friend said this to me in a moment of peril, and I have since taken it to heart.

I have not even come close to my most honest flourishing. If you thought life seemed vibrant before, wait til you see where I take it next. I scatter seeds, laugh with friends, learn to exist again in raw skin.

Hurdles and hopes. My friends and I meet weekly, and we report a hurdle and hope each time. I love the way it plants us in one another’s stories. Oh, I discover, he has been learning how to peel the thorny vines of anxiety from his skin. Then I grin as I learn he is finding hope in the later sunset or the chance to revisit a coffeeshop he once made a second home.

I love, also, the opportunity it grants me to story myself, right where I am. I am anguishing over goodbyes I will soon have to say, untangling my friendships, inventorying my time and energy. I am getting excited over connections and learning to let them crumble when they do.

Some weeks, I struggle to come up with a hurdle, and what a relief that can be. I’m all hope. When I think on it, I feel incredible gratitude that I’ve never had a bit of trouble conjuring hope. My eyes are fixed ahead, on some horizon, imagining sun even when there are thick sheets of rainfall overhead.

I’m betting on myself.

the tiger dream.

I have a recurring dream.

In it, a wild beast begins attacking a crowd of people around me. Instead of running, I toss myself into its path, stretching out a trembling hand and saying softly, calmly, ‘it’s okay.’ The beast, usually a tiger or lion, paces and pauses, its eyes locked with mine, breathing short and unsettled. ‘It’s okay.’

Sometimes, I wake up here. When I do, I find my body is tense, as though physically matching my mental effort to calm the beast. I drink in a deep breath and exhale.

Other times, in the midst of my gentle chiding, the beast lunges at me, fangs bared, bringing my body to the ground instantly. This waking is more startled, more afraid.

Some elements of the dream change every time: the setting, the ‘storyline’ leading me to this moment, the company I keep, the clarity of the ending. But each iteration, when it comes, has its constants: a wild and furious animal, a gut feeling that I can bring it to calm, and the terrible, eternal silence of waiting to see what happens.

Sometimes, I am mesmerized by the fact that we dream. In the dark, we surrender ourselves to rest, and our brains start carving out storylines on autopilot.

As a child, I was told we dream about the last thing we think about, and so I would try to drift off thinking about something specific. The Power Rangers, or The Fox and the Hound. I remember waking up at, six or seven, in the middle of a good dream, and trying desperately to resume. (It never worked.)

Then, at 25, I experienced my first true heartbreak. For months, my first boyfriend worked his way into my dreams, showing up and making me sad all over again. On those mornings, I stood in the shower longer, hoping the warm water might rinse the grief off of my limbs.

Once, I dreamed about getting together with an ex-boyfriend again. In the dream, I was so happy, but I felt a pang of sadness, too: When are you going to leave again? I tried to press on, happy, but my dream ex-boyfriend eventually changed temperatures. He yelled at me, ‘See, this is why I left, why are you like this?’ I woke up, startled and sad, and then picked up my phone, breaking a long silence:

Hey, I had a dream about you. I know you weren’t there, but it told me a lot about how I think of you. Can I call you to tell you about it?

He said yes, and so I called. I told him about the dream, and he told me he didn’t feel that way, that he didn’t want me to think of him that way. The conversation we shared was bare, kind, and healing. The kind of conversation I wasn’t sure we’d ever have.

This is, of course, a rarity. Most of my dreams aren’t so meaningful, and many I do not remember at all. But often I am curious what they might reveal about me. What am I carrying, in my day-to-day wanderings, that manifests in this nighttime storyline?

From what emotional soil, tended by me in my waking hours, does a wild and furious beast grow?

At a young age, my grandmother told me I was a ‘peacemaker.’ I’d never thought of myself this way, and so I reacted with surprise, but she went on to explain she had observed it many times: When we, as kids, broke into an argument or a fight, I often stepped up to resolve it. I wanted to be friends.

Sometimes, I think I find myself trusting inherently in this quality. If I were to find someone standing on a ledge, for example, I would immediately begin trying to build a bridge to them. When I am at odds with someone, when emotions are high and communication is off the rails, I can feel myself click into a mode: ‘Hey.’

This doesn’t always work out, though. I can’t sustain a bridge between two people, and I can’t always be the one building bridges. A relationship cannot be sustained on this alone.

Is this the tiger tearing through my dreams? Am I at odds with my own peace-bringing, and should I learn to let go of this? I don’t have a clear answer, just an idea of a quality that has brought my life more flowers than scars.

I think of my friends, the people I’ve chosen to keep in my life, and realize there’s a quality they all share: When I am furious, when I am lost and bewildered, they are there standing, arm outstretched, ‘it’s okay.’

And then, I discover, it is.

for lovers.

and, some years, the rain fell freely
into the open mouths of flowers,
love in abundance, possibility
rinsing over the scene in watercolors,
and every deep breath felt like
it was making room for something
more, and everywhere we reached
there were petals, our wild eyes
dilated, oh, this, we knew, love

still there were
years on the concrete, empty
slab, save for the stains of
memories wrapped in thorns,
which taught us the soft incantation,
I have enough, and our friends grinned,
old souls seeing magic firsthand, I have
enough, and the sting of old scars,
gone, I have enough, and then
came the rinse, exhaling color over
all the everything, gratitude
drowning out the deficits, love
letter to those years, too

notes on love, 2023.

Love should feel sturdy. Reliable, steady, within reach. Love is not happenstance, but practice. The power of saltwater is devotion, currents etching pathways through rock. Love is an agreement, together, to show up beneath blue skies and amidst the bleak and dreary gray.

It isn’t always scanning the room for something better. It doesn’t pull away when we falter, when we fail. Love knows how to say sorry first, to extend its hand, to dismantle the barbed wire together. Love seeks to understand, even when it stings to share the room.

Love is an exhale. A favorite sofa, well-worn over the years but, man, sinking into it after a long day feels right. Love is a song that slow the world down, makes you close your eyes, tilt your head back, forget and remember.

Yes. Love is hard work. But that does not mean it should be a fight for your life. Love will not bruise you, not over and over. Love will not leave you feeling lonely in every crowded room. It will not convince you that you should subsist on less. Love has the energy to show up, prioritizes, swells and grows to fill its container.

It will not drop you in the midst of some trapeze trick. It has your back, particularly when it’s hard. Particularly on your heaviest, moodiest day. When your hands shake and your voice breaks. Love is a forehead kiss. Love is a Saturday afternoon call just to see how you’re handling being stuck at home. It is a trip to the pharmacy to grab you medicine and some small surprise.

Love does not punish you with petty silences or sharp-edged jokes. It forgives, it discovers, it adapts. Love discovers your least lovable colors, and it includes them in the portrait it paints of you. As if to say yes, this is you. As if to say yes, I choose this, too.

It hangs the portrait on the wall, points it out with pride to every incoming guest. As if to say this is my home, this is my home.

brushstroke of a saturday.

Should we start with Egypt, you ask,
and we do, two boys on a
Saturday unseasonable, your
passion flows freely, describing
Hatshepsut and Blanche Devereaux
with equal enthusiasm, I am
grinning, we are
kissing in the Met’s
quietest corner

Funny the way
tentativeness melts to the
floorboard, how we look back
on the nerves with fondness,
forget just how wonderful
it is to be at rest
with someone

By candlelight, dinner,
the drinks all wrong but
we drink them, share
stories and the hummus plate,
charm the server for more
pita, make a plan for
where next, then we linger
in the glow, conversation
a beautiful book, no clear
‘good place to stop’

It’s a blur, but it’s warm,
when you retell stories
you laugh like you are
experiencing them for the
first time, and it’s
wonderful, good to clasp
hands that build amidst
all this breaking, Saturday
stolen from a cold winter,
pin it gently against the wall.

i know who i am.

When I like something, I love it. Taylor Swift, my cat, Fire Emblem, Jigglypuff, the wing spot on 10th Avenue, the quilt sprawled across my perfect, ugly couch. I love unironically and enthusiastically, in a way that overflows. If you let me, I’ll tell you all about it.

The heart I carry around with me is tender and prideful. I will tear up telling you about my niece, about how deeply I love my friends, watching some scene in a TV show I’ve watched thirty times, but I will wage war to keep you from seeing me cry over you.

I will keep everything. Months, years into knowing me, I will remind you of specific instances, the moments I fell in love with your personhood. I will remember the first time you pulled me into a kiss, where we were and how it felt. I will recall the way your eyes look when you’re focused on something, the small signals you are feeling nervous or agitated. I will be able to describe what you are like at rest, how you sleep, the sweet and subconscious ways in which you share a bed.

Everything. I will remember how you are when you are on the opposite side of an argument. I will keep what you said, the way you argue, the ways in which you are fair and unfair. I’ll take note of the way you make amends, whether you ever say sorry first, how long you hold on or let go.

I will run late. I will say yes to too many things, and – at some point – yours will be the plate I will drop. I will need the reminder to listen, sometimes, to drop my defenses and listen. The same hand that writes love letters can capture your harshest edges. If I decide you’ve broken my trust, I will remove access to most of my ‘rooms.’

I will see you. I will hang back from the group, squeeze your hand, say hey, how are you doing? I will barely blink as I listen, eyes right with yours. You will catch me observing you, and I will need reminders when it’s the wrong time to check in. I will never not want to talk about the ‘big matters,’ our dreams and our griefs and our takeaways.

I live my life like it is a grandiose tale. I am lucky to be living it and grateful to explore every corner of the story. I will expound upon how you fit in it, how the narrative bent and expanded the moment you came. My words are my paintbrush and you will see yourself in portrait. It will pain me, I admit, to figure out how to write chapters after you.

I’m the sort of person that people confess themselves to. My messages are full of conversations on the heart. I am a friend who is just as honored to be with you on the hard mornings as the joyful nights out. I give pep talks to people I haven’t seen in years, decades. This is an honor and a consistent, lifelong pattern.

I am hard-headed and soft-hearted. I am bright, am a mess, am defiantly sincere. In conversation, I will jump from absurd ideas to gentle notions to a story about my hardest grief. Stay with me; I promise I won’t drop you.

finders, keepers.

Strange is the way
we become strangers in the after,
can you even fathom my casual
arrival at your door, kicking
off my shoes, setting my backpack
against the wall, by the chair,
kissing you hello, making
myself at home?

We are polaroids now, tucked
away in some closet shoebox,
one man seeing another off at
the New Jersey transit, dinner
on a sunlit patio the day after
I cried myself to sleep
for the first time since I was
a boy, skin rubbed raw
and draped in wild colors.

I wish I could keep the joy
without feeling the sting, Oz
in reverse, Technicolor
rinsing loose to stark gray,
wish I could know you
like I knew you, but we are
finders, keepers, nostalgia
the sweet, ugly ache of
trying to exist in some

page one, again.

Is there a better smell than
a freshly struck match? I light
a candle and watch the wick curl,
remember the scratch of every
page ripped loose from the binding,
bad ideas and broken plans, and
when did I become better at
the breaking than the building?

Give me a life with a man who
reads books, not out of some
higher ground but because
I can’t even fathom how safe it
would feel to sit together in
quiet, minds exploring worlds,
with someone who knows
how to be content with his
thoughts and the things he
already has

Pause at the library
and study my reflection in
the glass, am I really
a character worth rooting
for? Michael and his sinking
arc, stubbornly clings to
what has become heavy rather than
glide his arms through the floodwater.


There are people in your story
you will merely survive, I scribble
down, kneeling beside the coffee
table after a run
then, beneath the shower,
the sentiment melts
as the cold rinses
loose from my limbs

There are no bad guys, I write
on an unblemished line, I know
firsthand the hollow sting of
having tried to love someone
and instead leaving behind
scars, then I shrug, stand up,
tired of apples and oranges

Maybe everyone was trying his
best, my jawbone says, generous,
and my fingertips recoil, so it’s
a matter of capacity, then, and
not willingness?, my lungs
bark, sternum wails, forehead
aches at the cacophony,
a body at war with itself,
wringing itself ragged for some
meaning, for some meaning

What does it say about you,
says my heart, in some silence,
that your love is this color, sun ray
through an open window, what
does it say, for some meaning,
for some meaning?


sunrays of an early morning
and here I am in the mirror
my body a tender mammal
warm and wanting, still
recoiling where I press recklessly
against the spaces where you
pressed recklessly

some hundred crumpled-up poems
over the last week, sharp-edged
lines slicing papercuts into my
healing fingertips, what is there
to do with fury, really? I
press on, starving the fever

relief swells in your absence,
no longer combing up the
crumbs and declaring myself
full, watch all the prettiest
boys open up briefcases
and bruise my own wrists
hoping you might
just take the money

I’m sorry I wanted so
much and expected so
little, tell myself you could’ve
left well enough
alone, and still I’m
enamored by the boy who
tried to love despite
better instincts, still
feels so unflinchingly
on this cold, bright damn morning