What I learned after moving

with gratitude for Rhoda Rae Gutierrez

by Kay Ulanday Barrett

Dear Rhoda
Sometimes I do what you did for me –
Open up my home
give someone keys, let them
raid the fridge. I’ll say
There’s bone broth
Here’s the longanisa
Don’t bother with the dishes
Like a real grown up!

Dear Rhoda,
When I said I left the Midwest for poetry
I meant I was closer to the ocean now
and in all ways, closer to drowning,
but mainly, I just wanted to enter a force
bigger than whatever I grew up with.
What I don’t bother to tell you
is admittedly, I give myself
a slow death every day,
something mundane enough like
not brushing my teeth at night.

Dear Rhoda,
Remember that time we didn’t
even know each other and it was before
big city dreams and off the Redline
Argyle stop? We went to a restaurant,
pointed to a brute of a photo,
and ordered the biggest garlic dungeness crab.
This was before the dead mom,
the frantic burial,
me crying in living room,
your hand pressed on every exhale.
In a mentor, you want someone who
can dig through the cracks,
someone unafraid of splinter,
someone who can find grace
in the pungent, meat under the nails,
still with grin like a sunset.
Well, what is almost as good as that?
I now live in a wave of `people,
up to the ears in emotions,
empathy on the C train
is a thing, therefore
one cries about never
belonging anywhere, which is
what actually makes a true
New Yorker or at least
a tolerable transplant.

Thanks to you,
in a different area code,
when the empty house
becomes pages on the floor,
I cook myself something
from the Atlantic,
to remember us.
that needs both hands,
and I let myself feed,
what could be considered sloppy
I think undulation,
I think don’t be afraid
to let the steam rise,
allow this craving,
the kind of cause that makes
a person want to
lay down and just
live in it.

Read our interview with Kay Ulanday Barrett here.

Kay Ulanday Barrett aka @brownroundboi is a poet, performer, and cultural strategist. Barrett was featured in "9 Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Writers You Should Know" in Vogue in 2018 and was twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry. They are the 2018 Lambda Literary Review Writer-in-Residence for Poetry and 2018 guest faculty for the Poetry Foundation. They received fellowships from VONA, Macondo, and The Home School. Barrett has featured on stages like The Lincoln Center, Princeton University, NYU, UC Berkeley, Chicago Historical Society, and the Brooklyn Museum. Their work has been featured in The Academy of American Poets, The New York Times, PBS NewsHour Poetry, BITCH, Asian American Literary Review, NYLON, and elsewhere. Their first book, When The Chant Comes was published by Topside Press in 2016. Their second collection, More Than Organs, will be published by Sibling Rivalry Press in spring 2020.