Tuesday, January 29, 2013

That Day When We Went to the MET

I distinctly remember that day when we went to the MET. I was wearing the red strapless dress that I thought was flattering at the time. The one that looked like a rug with its vaguely paisley, somewhat floral pattern. I remember because I had volunteered to teach a kindergarten class in the Bronx for a day, and one of the little girls in the class grabbed the fabric just below my hip and gave it a firm tug, nearly pulling my (almost unfortunately) strapless dress down a lot lower than I was prepared to handle. “I really like your dress!” I remember that I had been in kindergarten that day because as I started to come up on whatever the fuck you put in those pill casings, I was thinking about how fucked up it was that I had spent all day teaching kindergarteners about saving money and family values, and now I was sitting on a park bench with you grinning, as we watched tree bark shift and wiggle along its trunk. For me this was new. For you this was familiar. I couldn’t negotiate that.

We took the pills at the MET because it was air-conditioned and we would wait a while to start coming up. We sat in the open room with the Egyptian temple in the middle, surrounded by wishing fountains. I love that room because it feels both foreign and familiar. It happened slowly. Slow enough to forget what I had swallowed, but you wouldn't forget. “Do my pupils look dilated?” You kept yourself busy, checking the time every few minutes, trying to gauge your physicality in your reflection on a tiny cell phone screen. I sat still.  

It started and we got up. We went outside and walked across Central Park at a pace that was brisk; refreshing but uncontrollable. It wasn’t a whopping 96 and humid anymore; it was perfect outside. We had energy in our bones and a mutual understanding that the city was ours now. We also had nowhere to go. So we headed to your house on 78th Street. Your grand, lonely-looking apartment that I had visited on multiple occasions. No one was home but your parakeet was calling out from its cage in the kitchen, “Don’t forget about me!” We ended up on your couch, watching White Chicks on TV.

Your mom came home fifteen minutes later… half an hour later?… an hour later? I remember she started talking to you and you were eager to answer. I thought about the other times I had been there and you had ignored her completely, or she had ignored you. It was hard to tell. I started to talk and got self-conscious in the middle of a sentence. I was worried she would be able to tell that our conversation was bridging two very different worlds. You were so calm though, I don’t think she noticed. Now I wish that she had. I wish she had screamed at us and kicked me out of her house. But she just turned and walked into the kitchen.

You got us up abruptly and we took to the streets again. We headed uptown towards my house even though I didn’t want us to be there. If I had been alone, I would have moseyed up the street and stayed out until the sun set and the air cooled down, allowing the heat trapped in the sidewalks to rise up all around me.  But you were never one for strolling so we sped up to the taco place between 107th and 108th and Amsterdam. We sat at a tiny table for two and ordered guacamole and chips. We may have sat there for an hour relishing in the refreshing mixture of avocado, onions, and hot peppers.

I don't know where you went after that. I was ready to be alone, I remember that. It was nothing personal, it was just that I needed to sit for a while and appreciate whatever feeling was pulsing through me and the rest of the city and I knew that we were incompatible sometimes (probably most of the time). Wanting to be alone is a strange feeling because it feels like it should be sad when it may not be. But I suppose that wanting to be alone is only sad when there is no other option. And I might not have wanted to part ways so soon if you hadn’t been so lonely. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

"Thursdays with Katie Herman" (excerpt)

Yohana stood square in the doorway, solidly planted to the ground by her large bare feet-the sight of which forced our noses into a defensive curl before the stench even reached our nostrils. We were Isaac’s fourth grade class, shoeless and standing in the hallway in a silent straight line, and it was time for Dalcroze.

We slowly filed into the room, each of us dully dangling a soprano recorder in all of its beige plasticky glory. I held mine loosely between the very tips of my pointer and thumb and silently willed someone to bump into my hand and cause it to slip and crash onto the floor; chipping and cracking it just enough to render it useless and sparing me the discomfort of sitting with my stomach in knots as I waited and desperately hoped not to be called upon to play “Hot Cross Buns” for the entire class.

We all took a seat in a circle on the scuffed-up hardwood floor and placed our recorders gently down in front of us. We sat with our eyes closed at first, “centering ourselves”. Goosebumps slowly popped up on my bare forearms and I could feel the hairs stand up straight and lean longingly towards the warm hallway outside. Yohana never turned on the radiator. Concentrating hard, I tried to mentally block out the cold and after a few minutes, just as my goose bumps had finally eased back down, she had somehow silently stood up. Immediately, a complex clapping pattern erupted above our heads as she skipped around the circle screaming in her heavy Russian accent, “Saltate! Everyone saltate!

One by one we slowly rose to our feet and began to half skip/half leap behind her hopelessly trying to imitate her surprisingly fluid movement. We went around and around in a circle, until she abruptly stopped at her original spot with recorder in hand. Each of us nervously bent down and lifted our recorders from the floor, being sure to watch our fellow classmates and take on a slightly slower rising pace, so as not to be the first one fully standing ready to be called on to play. But someone always had to be the first and it didn’t really matter who looked ready because she was an on-the-spot kind of woman.

All eyes were peeled on her veiny right index finger as it circled above her head, ready to ruin some poor kid’s day. It swirled and twirled and came thundering down like the hand of God upon us. My eyes instinctively closed for a second and when they had opened I found myself staring straight at that veiny finger, and the whole class was staring straight at me. My hands shook as I drew the recorder to my mouth. I took in a shallow, futile breath and slowly I began to play. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Poem.

The city felt empty days ago
I push through every demographic
-- all clad in black.

New Yorkers trudge through the slush
like a swarm of flies
hurtling forward in

I smile at everyone
and no one
in particular.
Disguised in my dark pea coat,
I am a Monarch in fly's clothes.

I am glowing,
like a nightlight in an empty bedroom.

She is finally mine
and she will have me too
and it's the scariest kind of relief
to be mutually in love.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Sunlight captured in a jar of honey
refractions crafting
drops of gold
perfectly browned toast,
Holla at that challah!
French toast
melts in your mouth
and takes your mind with it
for a minute.
Mango coladas take me back
to umbrella toothpicks,
ordering Shirley Temples with a wink
and a plain slice with
"extra cheese, please!"
This is childish sophistication
summed up in unexplained foodie quirks.
Initial contact.
Cream swirls in rich coffee
like waves of molten chocolate.
Decadence in color,
delight in sensation.
Strawberries at their peak in the summer sun
a berry-picking smorgasbord
for kids with juice-stained hands.
Milk moustaches,
grapefruit splatters,
peanut butter and jelly with the
crusts cut off
the middle slice of the banana bread
the center brownie
Striving for high living--
treat yourself to it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I once flew down the street

I once flew down the street. I was on my way to preschool with my mom and my little brother and it was a warm but gray, calm but windy morning. We descended a steep hill down towards Riverside Park, when suddenly the wind picked up. This was no ordinary wind—I could feel it. It approached quietly but suddenly and before I knew it, a canopy of dark clouds loomed over us and violent gusts of wind ushered us down the street like bouncers in a nightclub. Plastic bags and candy wrappers danced and flurried over the sidewalk like a herd of urban tumbleweeds. I gripped my coat tightly inside of my pockets, keeping to myself while my brother held onto my mom’s hand. We slowly walked onward down the hill as the sky howled and grew angrier with each step.

I looked down at the sidewalk which was littered with blackened spots of spat-out chewing gum. There were so many of them there… I wondered which flavors and colors each of them had contained. But before I could begin to contemplate the mouths that had spit those spots out, I felt my body begin to lighten as if I was standing on my tip-toes. My elbows lifted up ever so slightly and I slowly inflated like a balloon preparing to float off, lighter than the sky. And that’s just what I did! A huge gust of wind came barreling down the hill and knocked straight into my back, picking me up from underneath and carrying me down with it towards the bottom of the hill.

Not knowing what else to do, I ran with the air, suspended in an involuntary motion for a few moments until I approached a thick black lamp post. I quickly dislodged my hands from my coat pockets and wrapped my arms around its stable metal body as the wind and I passed by. And I broke free of the wind and twirled around and around the lamp post as my momentum gradually slowed down, until I found myself sitting on the sidewalk with my arms and legs wrapped around it. I sat there for a minute as I waited for my mom and brother. They reached me after a bit and I got up and rejoined the school-bound march. And as we continued to make our way the rest of the way down the hill, I reached out my hand from my coat pocket and slipped it carefully into my mother’s.

Friday, November 25, 2011


The moon is up there
shining right through into my room.

Too bright,
it's glow is the mother of all fluorescent lights.
It's ugly
a pale gray of desolation.
There is no life in it
for it is only aglow with the distant light of the sun.
This ghost will not leave me be.

I check the clock,
five in the morning.
Sirens sound in the streets below me
but they are no longer background noise.
These blares become piercing, alarming
as they should be.

How dulled have I become,
that I hear these alarms,
these announcements of death and despair,
and I can go back to sleep!
or continue to shower
or tune my attention back into the TV

So I lay awake
watching the ceiling grow brighter with the sunrise
The sirens pass into silence
and again I forget to hope
or even wonder
if everything will be okay.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


At attention
in amazement
after the attack
is alleviated
all is above, not around
the aforementioned antics.
Blonde buds
bloom barely
bit by bit
before brandishing
the brightest
beautiful blossoms.
Can I catch
curb chaos,
crunch consequences
of the cold
with only calm considerations?
Don't detract from
their doom,
don't distract
the demons of the day
with a dismal defense
don't delay
daunting darker desires.