if i were to write a letter to you

i don't know how you feel. how easy it is for you to forget me. you love easily and you love often. and in fact, you are in love with someone else. maybe we both used each other to get what we needed. to be fed. but now i sit with these memories. 

the marks you left on my body are fading. a small bruise on my left hip. a red dot on my right shoulder. a fingerprint on my ass cheek. a soft semi-circle on my belly. i imagine myself lying on the kitchen table. a thin layer of flour underneath me. i am in that airy black and white dress. you can only touch me with your mouth. and it arrives everywhere, as it always does. you have made everything intensely erotic. the flap of a bird's wing. the wind on my skin. my hands in the garden. your breath beside me. 

we were salty from the ligurian sea, but i know it is only a beautiful island. four days are easy to fill.

è una bella isola.

-n.nigro 2018

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Posted on July 1, 2018 .

i am consumed here.

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fed & eaten       

an eternal loop of desire

thirst

indulgence 

care 

watch me - watch you

giving & taking

here no parts of me are left untouched

i am consumed here.

all skin

all bones

all flesh

peered into & seen

breath: heard, held, taken. i am cradled & cracked. i am eaten from the inside. time ceases to exist. these days are languid, dense & tempestuous. still summer air. taste everything. drink everything. fruit, ripe for the taking.

-n.nigro 2018

Posted on June 25, 2018 .

villanelle

i spin four times and open the door 

     the marks you left are fading

i'm disemboweled and fall to the floor

 

you were never one to keep score

     but i remember you aiding

i spin four times and open the door

 

a small bruise on my core

     your eyes always invading

i'm disemboweled and fall to the floor

 

did we exist before? 

     the laughter still persuading

i spin four times and open the door

 

your mouth like a carnivore

     frenetic desire wading

i'm disemboweled and fall to the floor 

 

watching you watch me implore

     this love forever lading

i spin four times and open the door

i'm disemboweled and fall to the floor

-n.nigro 2018

Posted on June 22, 2018 .

i think i will not see you until the winter. the lightness that comes when i am near you is invisible here. the breathlessness in my bones remains and the thought of your eyes on me is violent longing, so dense i cannot speak. this love will eat all stability. nothing left but meat hanging from bone. and so i am left to dream of your flesh... 

all touch lost.  

-n.nigro 2018

 casina settarte, puglia. 

casina settarte, puglia. 

Posted on June 14, 2018 .

dark coagulation of the coldest kind

Tinsel town is a far way away from Tuscany. Tread lightly dear otter, between you and me. Hide your hiccups in the cages for all to see. Firm hands cradle craniums and lead recklessly - who gets to say when we become free. 

I ate a turnip on a Tuesday and it twisted my tongue until all I could see was what was left inside thee. Sweet and sticky like marshmallow pie, cotton candy that wouldn't dare fuck the sky. When did you become a sloth? Slow moving. Mouth like an anteater. Searching for crumbs. Slack-jawed and suction-cup fingers - simplicity akin to the enemy. Didn't you know we need you to desire we? Apathy has got us weak in the knees. 

Firm Fridays have us standing upright. Our lips tense, straight lines drawn tight, but look at that tree, all gnarled and bent. Full of beasts and burdens and malicious intent. How meaty it would be to reside in thee. Dark coagulation of the coldest kind. Intestines laced and intertwined. The bottom of the ocean filling our minds. 

Familiarity has fucked us incessantly. 

Familiarity has fucked us sideways. 

Familiarity has fucked us five days from Sunday.

-n.nigro 2018

Posted on June 8, 2018 .

death

maybe I can have a funeral for you 

all the parts that pulse and want and sweat and need

all the parts that come alive when he looks at me

maybe I can have a funeral for all the parts that burn

am I resigned to your goodness

to your quiet, caring, faithful love

will I suffocate in my familiarity 

disappear from your gaze 

all of this is because of you

all of this joy

all of this pain

every beautiful vista sits in your palm

and I want to throw it all away for a frenzied hand playing my ribs

 castelfiorentino. maggio 2018.

castelfiorentino. maggio 2018.

the bits that burn and leave you breathless 

they can’t remain forever 

if they lasted they would eat us up

but how much I long for that tender madness 

and to see him is to taste it

with tears streaming down my face

 

I don’t quite know how it all passes and drifts away

time stealing desire from our hearts

our palms

our eyes

familiarity rendering me invisible

- n.nigro 2018

Posted on May 29, 2018 .

for my mama

floating minutes

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i remember watching you make us teriyaki chicken breasts

and pots of chili too spicy for the average tongue

you’d put your entire finger in your mouth

so you could slide off your rings

my knuckles are your knuckles

 

i ran today through fields we've never seen together

and i could hear your voice telling me to “burn out” on the home stretch

the time we spend one on one is pretty effortless

even while hiking to the top tea house with jackets tied around our waists

my legs are your legs

 

the light here is different than the light at home

warm and thick bouncing off of Lela’s eyes

there are stars in your sky right now

and i wonder if you can see the prairies when Louie looks up at you

my pupils are your pupils

 

in the mornings we’d dance to Sonny and Cher

i can feel you grab my hand to guide me close

your ribs would expand with every smile

“i got you, babe”

my lungs are your lungs

 

you once hung a piece of petrified wood on the wall

because it reminded you of my foot

you’d found it on the beach near ‘singing woods'

and you nailed a tiny hole in the middle toe

my feet are your feet

 

it’s been 278 days since i last saw you

i can’t remember what you wore to the airport

we’ve been saying goodbyes for over 20 years

sometimes i still cry when the plane takes off

my tears are your tears

 

i know your love for me has changed your life

made you search for certainty and suspended your minutes

sometimes i cracked your bones and left you empty

i hope i filled you too

with love

and wonder

and awe

 

my heart is your heart

— n.nigro 2018

Posted on May 28, 2018 .

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
     Where knowledge is free;
     Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
     Where words come out from the depth of truth;
     Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
     Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
     Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action—
     Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

-- Rabindranath Tagore

This poem is in the public domain. "Gitanjali 35” was published in Gitanjali (Song Offerings) (Macmillan, 1913).

Posted on December 31, 2017 .

limoni (excerpt)

Small explorations of time, space, stability, and loneliness in Chianti, Italy. Much thanks to Lisa Hayes and La Macina di San Cresci.
Posted on September 18, 2017 .

we witches were the scientists all along

THE MUSHROOM HUNTERS

Science, as you know, my little one, is the study
of the nature and behaviour of the universe.
It’s based on observation, on experiment, and measurement,
and the formulation of laws to describe the facts revealed.

In the old times, they say, the men came already fitted with brains
designed to follow flesh-beasts at a run,
to hurdle blindly into the unknown,
and then to find their way back home when lost
with a slain antelope to carry between them.
Or, on bad hunting days, nothing.

The women, who did not need to run down prey,
had brains that spotted landmarks and made paths between them
left at the thorn bush and across the scree
and look down in the bole of the half-fallen tree,
because sometimes there are mushrooms.

Before the flint club, or flint butcher’s tools,
The first tool of all was a sling for the baby
to keep our hands free
and something to put the berries and the mushrooms in,
the roots and the good leaves, the seeds and the crawlers.
Then a flint pestle to smash, to crush, to grind or break.

And sometimes men chased the beasts
into the deep woods,
and never came back.

Some mushrooms will kill you,
while some will show you gods
and some will feed the hunger in our bellies. Identify.
Others will kill us if we eat them raw,
and kill us again if we cook them once,
but if we boil them up in spring water, and pour the water away,
and then boil them once more, and pour the water away,
only then can we eat them safely. Observe.

Observe childbirth, measure the swell of bellies and the shape of breasts,
and through experience discover how to bring babies safely into the world.

Observe everything.

And the mushroom hunters walk the ways they walk
and watch the world, and see what they observe.
And some of them would thrive and lick their lips,
While others clutched their stomachs and expired.
So laws are made and handed down on what is safe. Formulate.

The tools we make to build our lives:
our clothes, our food, our path home…
all these things we base on observation,
on experiment, on measurement, on truth.

And science, you remember, is the study
of the nature and behaviour of the universe,
based on observation, experiment, and measurement,
and the formulation of laws to describe these facts.

The race continues. An early scientist
drew beasts upon the walls of caves
to show her children, now all fat on mushrooms
and on berries, what would be safe to hunt.

The men go running on after beasts.

The scientists walk more slowly, over to the brow of the hill
and down to the water’s edge and past the place where the red clay runs.
They are carrying their babies in the slings they made,
freeing their hands to pick the mushrooms.

-- n. gaiman

Posted on May 1, 2017 .

Let America Be America Again

Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?Not me?
Surely not me?The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
Posted on January 29, 2017 .

This morning we woke. Not from a bad dream, but from the illusion that we had progressed far enough as a nation that we wouldn’t collectively place our futures in the hands of a racist, ableist, misogynistic, evil-hearted, bullying, sexual predator.

This morning we woke. Not from a nightmare, but from the fantasy that we had outgrown the evils of white supremacy. Of the KKK. Of the intoxicating power of fear-induced extremism.

This morning we woke. Not from the trauma of night terrors but to a reality that feels too traumatic to fathom. 

Now we are left with nothing but the rally cry that wells up within each of us. We are left to join our rally cries so that they become an anthem so loud that they drown out the hate, fear and intolerance that is having its last hurrah. Now we are left with whatever determination we can scrape together to get to work and to not stop. Not for anything.

May we take this opportunity to dedicate every ounce of our energy, talent, ability, magic and more to stand with and for each other.

May we remember the power of art. May we wrap ourselves in it, like a protective shield. May it help us make sense of what we have lost, where we have found ourselves and where we will go next.

May every song that leaves our lips be a song of resilience, protest and protection. May every dance we dance be one that calls on the power of our ancestors, our angels and our guides to help us find our way through this. May every painting help us witness what we are, what we are capable of, what we can become.

May we take the time we need to mourn. To move through the shock, the numbness and the stages of grief that accompany loss. May we take the time to recognize when our PTSD is re-triggered, set-off and ignited. Those of us that have survived rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, racial profiling and any other kind of violence at the hands of a bully with systemic power will know that this presidency is a threat to our personal and national security.

The rest will come to realize it.

May we huddle together to plan our strategic next steps. May we be open to what we don’t know. May this make us want to be better. May our hunger to learn more about our past, our present and our future possibilities become ferocious.

May every white feminist become fiercely intersectional and deeply suspicious of the fact that 53% of white women voted for white-supremacist misogyny. May every white family sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk about how they as a unit benefit from white privilege and how they can leverage their privilege to level the field. May every white person look at their own privilege relentlessly and decide that they’d rather wake up to their humanity than hang on to the illusion that deconstructing racism isn’t their work to do.

May we collectively come together and do everything we can to protect those that are most vulnerable. May our resources go to funding POC, LGBTQ2SI led progressive, grass-roots organizations. May we do everything we can to shift power. May every single form of spiritual practice and every single spiritual practitioner be more invested in equality than in dogma.

May we all remember to go to the meetings, the meet-ups, the prayer circles, the coven gatherings, the community events, the churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and sacred spaces that refuel us and connect us to a generative vision for the world.

May we not give up. Not now, not ever. 

- chani nicholas

Posted on November 12, 2016 .

my first italian haircut...

 a friend appeared (and made me think about old shoes & picture postcards)  a friend disappeared (and I wished he could dance me to the end of love)  i sang hallelujah (but no one came)  donald trump is president (scratchy throat & bloodshot eyes)

a friend appeared (and made me think about old shoes & picture postcards)

a friend disappeared (and I wished he could dance me to the end of love)

i sang hallelujah (but no one came)

donald trump is president (scratchy throat & bloodshot eyes)

Posted on November 12, 2016 .

Good Bones by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Posted on November 9, 2016 .

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” 

-- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Posted on May 19, 2016 .

  “She was the tide, always drifting in and out of the lives of those who loved her, eternally indecisive, unable to discern whether she desired the solidity and safety of land, or the wild freedom of the ocean.”    -- Beau Taplin

“She was the tide, always drifting in and out of the lives of those who loved her, eternally indecisive, unable to discern whether she desired the solidity and safety of land, or the wild freedom of the ocean.”

-- Beau Taplin

Posted on May 17, 2016 .

goodbye again

i want our love to rest in the nooks and crannies of our standing mothers, in the peaks and valleys of the Rockies, in the ebb and flow of the Ligurian Sea, in lavender skies and newborns' smiles, in loss, gain, victory and defeat, in the pines and the redwoods, in deep greens and blues, in the 26 bones of the foot, in holding on and letting go, in magnolia blossoms and stretches of highway.

if we can hold it here now, in the palms of our hands, can we carry it safely to the end of days?

i'm not so sure anymore.

-- n.nigro (2016)

Posted on May 13, 2016 .

In 1943, De Mille was hired to choreograph the musical Oklahoma, which became an overnight sensation and ran for a record-setting 2,212 performances. Feeling that critics and the public had long ignored work into which she had poured her heart and soul, De Mille found herself dispirited by the sense that something she considered “only fairly good” was suddenly hailed as a “flamboyant success.” Shortly after the premiere, she met Graham “in a Schrafft’s restaurant over a soda” for a conversation that put into perspective her gnawing grievance and offered what De Mille considered the greatest thing ever said to her. She recounts the exchange: 

"I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.

Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”

“But,” I said, “when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”

“No artist is pleased.”

“But then there is no satisfaction?”

“No satisfaction whatever at any time,” she cried out passionately. “There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

-- Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham by dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille.

Posted on April 11, 2016 .