An Evening at Berl's

Selections from poets who participated in the reading at Berl's Brooklyn Poetry Shop on July 20th, 2017. Organized by Jean Yoon, the evening featured performances by Madison McCartha, Yanyi, Jean, and La Llorona. Readers:


You, skulking
at the border-
land of my mind
-body seam sewn on
at the ankles, unhitch
your axle and ride me
like the Hollywood cow-
boy you profess to
wanna be so bad. I literally
don’t care whether what
you’re wearing cuts
drag by what degree.
I’ve had it with that song
of arms and a man, and
I know you can’t,
by definition, be
what I want you
to be. Come hither,
my pestilent
quitter. Assemble
your screen. Do your thing
in the dark; hit the lights
as you leave. I never
get sick of this movie.


i was living
text to breech

this anti-thread
just now glistening

in the invisible
stressing out

this chalky light
behind the moon

hey baldy

when no one is watching
fire it up

open tongue
rolling in

i speak inside

tell me oracle

does it smell?

dripping on
the spittingwall

glauconite &
terre verte

in my little pearl

lidless like
hello? it’s twenty-seventeen

is everyone else feeling
this doily

mauve & ochre

under air
making air


My mother once loved a fish.
He was elegant and ten times
the length of a river.

My mother had a name
like none. The name was
gold and acid and. When
murmured, those tingles.
That is why she stayed
so long and underwater—
the liquid slow,
the fish-washed gentle—
no one prayed for gold
at that scale. 

Hives of clam who sucked

her into cold meridians. Open
closing over. House of loose
hair where she slid her name
through weaves of silver.

Fish or waves? The beating bay.
Those arms of fin or man
gathering the gulls.

Nostalgia Season

One unseasonal Monday in December
I go out running wearing a sweater.
I feel how far away you are.

The river smell reminds me of you, then this
Remembrance shatters.

In stillness—final degree
Of movement—again and again
I find you, cupped

In the bottommost divot,
Your worn strings floating
Up the zero

Gravity, sickly
Dappled in the muddy
Greenish light of night vision.

If you are looking to be pulled up
From the depth from which
You seem to be beckoning, first

I beg of you, honey: disclose
At once your hurting vow
And then when we surface,

Leave me completely—speak
your way out of my mouth.

Graveyard Shift

With enough shoe polish,
anyone can play an abandoned
coal mine,
& in my chest
a troupe of soot-covered
canaries keep reenacting
their long, drawn-out
death scene for no one.
Once in a while,
instead of dying,
one wakes up & bursts
into luna moths
but they aren’t
supposed to.
one wakes up &
my mother,
down to the last
painted on look
of not knowing me
                 & I wish
they'd stop doing that.

Statements and Facts

A man, objectively twice my size, lets me off the subway by leaning back, his arm still arched over the pole because he thinks I am small enough to fit in the space that he made for me. Why don’t I fit into the space that he made for me? If I don’t, he can crush me with his body.

A man grabs my butt when we are going up the stairs and I tell him not to do it again.

A man makes a joke about how small I am. Another time, he calls me helpless.

All of this is a joke. When he pushes his arm against my face on the subway, I am just small, this is just where his arm rests, the subway was made too crowded so I have to wait to turn my face, wait for him to move, or not.

A man feels hurt when I ask him not to touch me. Later, he puts his arm around me when he wants to. Later, he puts his hand on my knee when we are with other people.

A man grabs my butt when we are going up the stairs and I tell him not to do it again.

He grabs my boobs as a joke because it’s funnier because he’s gay, I’m gay, sometimes I even look like a man, he will go no further and it doesn’t count. I’m not the one who knows the count. Leave these two ornaments or dog toys, a type of bauble, something you would throw and leave in the yard for squirrels, starlings, anything that loves pink.

A man wants me to walk some more and I say I don’t want to. But it’s not that much further, why wouldn’t you want to. I say my feet hurt, but they are blistered, they have been this way for miles. To wait this long to say anything means it isn’t anything at all.

A man grabs my butt when we are going up the stairs and I tell him not to do it again.

In my living room, without warning, a man shows me his balls. He is trying to love his body. But to me, the rush of pink, what I’ve been forced to see before. I am here because I want to be; I already made it this close. To wait this long to say anything means it isn’t anything at all.

Needle Boy

oh   hello
i was just
thinking of you
your lumpy face

your blood dance
the way you
chirp chirp all night
at my feet 

it’s okay
i’m not embarrassed
lots of losers wanna know

what it’s like
being a needle boy
on the wall
& forever

some people think
the great thing
about a needle body is

your enemy can
all the time
be shoving pins in
your sackbelly or

mourning their
dead mommy &
you will not hurt

Not so!

you feel every thing
every grammar
between us

did you know
this isn’t even
my real body?

if you feel
a breeze or
did someone

say my name?
in a crowd
it was me

riding the spectrum
between the legible &
your sweaty brow

proboscis clop-clopping
in the air     as if
it were the first time

did you know
you were a poem too
speaking from
the phenomenal world?

Poem for 7/20/2017 (New York)

Loving the feeling of leaving my body
Feeling this fitted tee printed with:
            Don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee
Laughing all the way to the bank to withdraw twenty bucks
            because the taco truck is cash only
Clenching my guts cause I don’t have fixed income
Feeling every transaction like an amputation
Trying to live my life in the moment
Arranging several plans with no real commitment
Taking the train in the wrong direction
Making it look like I know what I’m doing
Knowing that nobody is watching
Sweating too much to start dancing
Going back and forth, how I feel about you