I don’t care who you pretend you are.

I don’t care so much who you
pretend you are
when you’re well fed,
well dressed,
well slept,
put together, prepared,
And so called ready…

When the polish is fresh and the face
newly painted, airbrushed layers
covering freckles, pock-marked skin
with storied layers hidden;
the script locked on papers in hand,
it’s less interesting, this version.

No, see, I care who you are when you’re
tired, worn out, beleaguered, scared,
underfed, miserable,

I want to know
who you are when you’re not
caught up in the throngs or masses
styling yourself around other idols or dreams,
chasing a relentless reality of productivity in some Western idea of
what is Good.

No, I care you you are
when your soul flutters a bit and smiles,
when it sparks at the strange language of tender raindrops on dewy skin,
shivery hairs erect in the water’s spotlight, goosebumps
whispering hello to the wind.
When your feet fight to do the darndest, weirdest things, those
“silly dreams” and things no one else thought of; and
you almost don’t let yourself think them either,
because they’re strange, different, or seem
too obvious to you.

I care who you are when the world isn’t watching,
when the lights are down and
your hair is a scattered mess and
sweat stains pool in your armpit creases and
the sour smell of unwashed skin is the forgotten leftover of
your ambition’s messy chase towards your project, the thing at hand.

I want you (you want you)
crazy, tender, raw,
different, unique, silly, strange,
whatever you-ness is you, under
all that posture, pose and pretend;

My eyes flicker with green fragments of light against the roaring
C train’s metallic brakes squeal to a grunted stop
when I see the tendrils of humanity stream
uncannily in and out of subways, trains of thought
departing from each mind into the stuffy underground air,
mixed with kiosks filled with sugar and chips and
magazines of big-bottomed ladies tantalizing the sexual fantasies of thousands,
a cesspool of potential ideas, waiting,
for ignition, for permission,
a start that begins within.

In this, this messy
pursuit and nonlinear pattern-chase of never-ending arrival,
things fall down and apart,
logic feels lost and you feel so messy that you wonder,
is this it, am I doing it right,
am I doing it right?

Because who you are then —
when the worst conspires against you —
or the doldrums of daily commuting monotony threatens to close your creativity
when you’re lost, confused, meandering, processing, contemplating, cultivating,
this, this, is the essence of your humanity.

Show me who you are
when the ladder slips, when
you miss the subway by a moment, when
your face cracks, painted black smears blurring clarity tears
on makeup-caked cheeks, showing the beneath, when
your friends leave, departed for otherworlds
or better promises, when
your project busts, your pants rip down the center seam,
your mind breaks against the weariness of repetition,
and you breathe it in anyways, and
find a smile to give the departing train, and
hug your friend a tearful departure, and
laugh at the failed pants debacle and somehow,
you pour out gratitude and kindness and
showcase the kind of humanity that
is built from resilience,

If you can do it then,
if you do it when
it’s not easy, –hah! easy
when it’s difficult,
my eyes shine and spark with fierce
love for you, my sisters,
my brothers,
my partners,
my fellow humans,
working in the thick of it all
to find compassion, to showcase fierce grace,
to find the love deep
in the center of it all, to be
full of life.

If you can do it when
it’s a struggle, a hustle,
you can do it any time.

there is power, grace, and love buried inside
of the fiercest form of grace;
swimming taught me this—
when you’re tired, scared, unsure, insecure, and think you can’t:

do it anyways,
do it because you have no right,
because the odds are stacked against you;
because your mind plays tricks
and tenacity builds your soul

because adversity shouts You Can’t, You Can’t,
yet you still fucking can,
why not,
do it anyways.

And then
go on,
do it better than the rest of them,
knowing that if you do it now,
through this,
in spite of this,

then you can do anything.

do something.