Toma. Educator. Artist. Writer. Director. Beach-goer. Farm girl.


There is a tire floating in the Hudson. And
my grandfather, the young man who reels it in
with a knob of driftwood, is lean with horn-rimmed glasses.
His father was a mechanic. I imagine him stealing away
from the shop to follow the prints of hooves in the Pleasant
Valley mud; he never told me how he left to become a dairy
farmer. I imagine him at the table with his father, silent
as he chewed through liver and onions, his fingers crusted
with grease and rotten wood chips.

His first cow must have been an ivory chalice; a
half-blooded affair with knobbed knees. His first barn
a nest for raccoons and scrubbed whitewash. He must
have sighed as he dragged bales of hay alone—one day
he would have children for this. He can longer eat fish
from the pond—his cattle have caused it to become congealed
with algae. But the lights in his house are yellow and warm.

His new wife wraps rough cotton around wounds
from a cow who gave him trouble while milking.
The rain is a comfort: it brings corn.
The moon is a beacon: it means raccoons can be treed.
He stays away from liquor: it ruins the work ethic.
Now he would tell anyone that his way of living was
good. Good nights and good, early mornings—
entrenched with bitter coffee and mixing bowls
of cereal. The beat of the hooves in the barn is
a song, and the radio is never off—it comforts them.

I imagine nights when a cow gave birth: the lantern
in his hand, marking time with the bony legs of
a newborn calf. Always a sigh of relief when it is a
girl. Always a thumb outstretched to be sucked on.
Always hot milk waiting when he returned. A surge
of excited children waiting to hear the stories
of all the things they let themselves imagine.


"after Felix Pollak"

She dreamed of an ex boyfriend.
There was a gap in his teeth.

You should get married, said her
boyfriend’s father.

It means you are still thinking about him,
said her mother.

You answered the phone when he called
after you broke up, said her mentor.

You took advantage of him and his quiet
nature, she thought to herself.

(she didn’t tell her boyfriend, so he
didn’t have anything to say)

I don’t think you ever loved him, said
her best friend.


my mother once gave me  sage relationship advice:
take whatever annoys you about him and multiply it
by 100. that is how you’ll feel about it in ten years.
according to this calculation, i will be fervently angry
when he doesn’t argue back at me when we fight.
i will loathe insufferably the fact that he never washes
the french press when he does dishes. i will boil when
he is quiet in a room full of people. i will dramatically
proclaim about how he leaves his watch in a myriad of
unpredictable places. i will seethe and fume, but he will
tumble on to the couch and spread out his arms, waiting
for me, and we will together divide 100 by itself.


"You see, a man fights for far more than the mere hope of winning. Better, far better, to know the fight is totally, irreparably, incorrigibly in vain." -Cyrano de Bergerac

"We are a way for the cosmos to know itself." -Carl Sagan

There is a scene in a play. A man who has loved a beautiful, willowy woman his whole life is dying. And he sits in a yard, leaning like a thirsty animal into a ladder-backed chair, and watches her. And in this movie or play, he is bleeding from his abdomen in great surges, and he valiantly wrenches himself upright in the chair so this woman doesn’t see his weakness. And, reciting poetry, he spills himself to her as his body spills onto the underbrush in the darkening autumn. His fingers are peeling paint which has lost its grip. His lips are the bank of a stream which has flooded. And the sad and human thing of it all is that this woman never notices. She sits like an ancient and gentle constellation on a rusting bench, glancing up from her lap from time to time. And she is admired and studied from telescopes both grand and expensive, but there is something too far away about her. Her chest never dares to take in his words. They would be too much for her corset. Too boiling for her red cheeks. Too many lightyears away for warmth to reach her in this lifetime.

But he recites his opus to her cold cheekbones. And the leaves are falling all around them; one alights in her hair. He leans slowly, a boat heaving with the tide, his mast struggles to brush it from the strands. I do not know whether or not he is successful, but she doesn’t notice anyway. And the whole play has been like this. Every audience member is tired of hearing his incessant voice. It is as if we don’t want to see the stars come out every single night. As if, when we got tired of them, we could pull the blankets over our heads and relish in the blank chalkboard darkness. Their voices are never ending to us in our brief, gasping stretch of time. And as I sit and watch, I know that I think I am beyond this love. He croons at her—leans in her direction. Comments on the rosiness of her cheeks. Quivers his eyebrows at the sound of her voice. And everyone is tired of watching. The leaves fall down; afterwards they are picked up and bagged and we forget their rustling for a few months. The man dies; his friends cry for him, and he returns to the stars.

I wonder how to stop this. To take her chin in my hands and careen her face towards his. To make them scream together, in unison, at the trees. How dare you die now. How dare you. This futile revolving. This “almost touching.” This space between pine box and cold hand.  Shovel and dirt. Earth and stone. How dare it not stop for us and force us to taste it. To gag on it. To die while choking on it. This is science. Blood. Tragedy. This is why we torture ourselves with quiet and unmoving. How dare it let us be our own masters—ignoring and waiting and celibately pursing our lips, feeding our delicate skin to the ground like a leaf drips after a light rain: pore
by pore
by star
by star.


What time do you come home in the morning?
What time do you think about removing your socks?
What time does the sun rise? Do you know?
What time does your mother wake up to ask you
for cigarettes?
What time do you get on the subway?
What time does the J train come?
What time does first period start?
What time do you start drifting in and out?
What time do you lose consciousness?
What time do you ask the teacher for a pencil?
What time do you give up on your late assignment?
What time do you spend on homework at night?
What time do you think you are going to college?
Are you going to college? Do you know how to
get to college?
What time does the clock say in your bedroom?
Or is it broken? Winding itself back and forth
the lullaby of the moving earthen crust.


The first day of sunlight in New York

We grabbed a dirty blanket and grapefruits. 
Sat next to the blonde girls sunning their bread loaf thighs with red cheeks
Ate apples and the sun baked at our backs
The first day of sunlight in New York
The trash began to pile up at the corners 
The subway is filled with beach dresses
The man makes margaritas in the meadow 
For sweaty patrons 
The first day of sunlight in New York 
I remember photosynthesis 
Place my house plants on the back steps
My forearms are thirsty—the grass makes marks on my bare feet. 


"Mary Anne"

hey, get some snapping morning bustelo
smear it into the glass

her hair tumbles, acrobatic, she
picks it out like that

bring me a loose shirt to sleep in please
something from the bed i can wrap in

her mouth sizzles with red pepper and
the sharp sound of cucumber

i only need the couch, the wifi password
your dog will curl up next to me, wet-nosed

her ipad makes her face glow when i pass through
on the way to the bathroom, her fingers quiet

i folded your bedsheets, pushed the used cups
to the side. i just need to get my jewelry

she opens her bag, shoves her whole stomach
inside—berries for breakfast, she smiles

i always smile, she says, turning her nose ring
with a delicate swipe. and thank you for letting me stay

always, she stays. always, i hear her breath, like
raspy love, in the other room. she is coming tonight.



After The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David

Behold! The beginner’s mind—
an iron pan with no grease.
A cat at the moment a rodent
appears. The rim of glow around
the halo.The tide of black
around a blue eye.

Today—I noticed his eyes, how 
question marks are embedded in them,
and as I am made to handle the goblet 
he says to me: I have known you.
I think of the water well where I first 
saw him—baking his marble white skin
in the sun—and there is this thing about
philosophers—he held in the corners of 
his eyes a youth fit for a child. The wrinkles 
at the sides stretched tightly as scrolls. 

He nodded in my direction
and he pointed at the stars.

The stars aren’t here anymore. They do not
listen to the screams of men. How many bricks
in this basement have seen blood and recoiled 
from it? How many men have been asked
to administer death? Is this great man crying in 
his mind? Why doesn’t he ask this to stop?

In this basement there are chains and he requires
none of them to rebel. He is a shackle of men.

The only prison he bangs his head against
is the stars.


-After Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth

The boy in the house has black eyes.
The boy in the house holds a fistful of
bolts. A mouth full of brown water.

A face full of the nickels I slung
at him after I caught his hands
slithering down my shirt.

When I ran, the rolls of coins from
the drawer emptied from my hands
onto his face. He screamed like a
dying fox—his contagious
sickness rotting through his fingernails
like the pages of a book in a bonfire.

And I backed away from him—
nothing but a white-tailed deer—
a sickmaid.

When I climbed down the ladder
he shoveled his hand into my hair,
hanging out the window, starved
for some stringy kind of warmth.
His legs then folded beneath him like
paper and I jumped to the
stubble of grass at the side of the barn.

The white in my knuckles grinned at me.
The blood in my knees spilled onto the
barbs of the fence. My hands are bobbing
closer to the dirt. My vision is closing
like the beam of a lighthouse. My ankles rip
away from me and I am falling.

I look back at the house. All I can picture
is his hand—thin as a day-old newspaper.
Spinning wet, grotesque webs down my



He hops on the subway

Pockets full of M&Ms
Offers one to the lady sitting next to him
She wears headphones 
Can’t hear
Shoves away his hand, afraid 
He chews quietly 
She hops on the subway 
Pocketed iPod 
Downward glances at scuffed booted lad
He is careful now
Doesn’t dare look
She chances a smirk and a flash of stiletto, brazen 
She gives up 


My hair is browning cornsilk
dipped in cardamom seed—
pickled beet—
acorn cap.

It is perm grown out—
chopped off—
it is lying flat
as reed.

Swamp of fragrance—
coconut oil & day-old shine.
Lather of conditioner and
finding foreign-colored strands
on the bathroom sink.

Bangs cut myself crooked
in the mirror
with a youtube tutorial,
little hairs stuck to my cheeks.

The back of it is starving
for the collars of my shirts and
the front of it is gulping
my eyebrows.

A lesson in the feminine.
A pocket full of glances
missed by the men on the street.
A fist full of the times I woke
to fix the bedhead before he saw it.

I am standing and waiting
in front of the mirror.
A lioness returned from the hunt

with a kill

confused as to why she
hasn’t grown a mane yet.



He is cut from the chiseled block
of Michelangelo; as if the edges
were slightly forgotten—ruffled.
The jaw line is off-kilter—billowing.
His locks of hair are fat Italian branches
heavy with olives. I am climbing a ladder
to him—every word I hear him say, I wonder
what book it is from. His bookshelf looms
like a trail-marking cairn in the apartment;
I must pass by it, but I have no idea
how delicately it has all been put



"Things other than the Great Wall of China which are Visible From Space"

1. the piles of plastic Arizona bottles lying somewhere after being thrown away in corner trash bins in Brooklyn
2. the lit-up screen on my iPhone the night I fell asleep with it on my Brooklyn rooftop
3. my mother’s backyard and the circular garden she always said she wanted to convert into an in-ground pool
4. the runways of the airports I’ve left from
5. the droop of your neck after you lost the weight
6. the distance between you and her
7. the distance between us
8. the Mississippi River
9. the Grand Canyon

10. that one long road I drove through the red sand in New Mexico

11. the tree stump where I buried my best friend’s worry dolls after I stole them in first grade
12. the keyboard where the oils from my fingers betrayed the keys I typed the most
13. the ache the rain leaves
14. the footsteps on the wet sidewalk
15. the exorbitant amount of lights lit up in New York City at night
16. your window lit up at night
17. the night
18. your face


"When I pass by the shrine in the park."

Is it the gum wrappers in the drain?
The melting paper the rain breaks 

down. The drooping branches I
hear in April calling to their lovers—

the wind-swift branches of the stiffer
autumn winds. Do the trees remember

the hurricane? Do they get offended
when spring shies away from them?

Is it the people? How they decorated
the trunks with long candles in memory

of some fallen brother? Was it lonely
to spend the nights with brushed gold frames

housing fuzzy photographs of a fallen
uncle at the trunk? (A former tree-climber) Is this

the spring that the Giving Tree has taken?
Did the leaves cover his mustached photograph

slippery, with dirt-encrusted rain,
by accident? Or with purpose.



"Then I fill the tub up halfway, then ride it with my surfboard—surfboard. Graining on that wood." —Beyonce

I hook my fingers beneath the door, then
pull. Spiderwebs and old cut grass alight, and I
push it above my head. The gas can clinks when I fill
the lawnmower, my maroon Nike dunks from 9th grade slide as I push it, the
lawnmower my dad used on the morning of my brother’s fourth birthday, the tub
of garden hoses reeks of grass never emptied. Up-
stairs in this rotting garage, halfway
buried, there is a croquet set we played on Cape Cod, then
brought it back here when my grandfather died, I remember the ride
home in this Jeep Grand Cherokee, the tires leaning it
into the cement. The day I knew I wouldn’t dance with
him again. And I’m pulling the cord and my
bike is leaning against the pop-up camper and my surfboard—
the one I got in California because all I wanted in 2003 was a surfboard,
and the lawnmower sputters so I pull again and I’m graining
the metal, because being stuck here on
this cold cement in a garage filled with things that
got forgotten in this time, this sickness, scared me. I can feel it in the wood.


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