By Seth Kushner

Caits Meissner and Tishon are two emerging writers living in New York City.  Their vibrant collection of poems, The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You,  marks their first collaborative book. Though the writers speak different tongues, they’ve managed to put together a collection that’s resonant and harmonious, mingling classic themes of love and war with pointed ruminations on mix-tapes and growing up with The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Presented here are two poems each from Caits and Tishon.

For Lucille Clifton, in thanks for The Lost Baby Poem
Caits Meissner

Because fourteen was a cruel, desperate year
I shore my hair to scalp and strapped on steel-toed
boots to look bad, blistered healed, bent on dreaming
Because I was feminist, revisiting mom’s old magazines
from the 70s and Our Bodies, Ourselves and pictures of
vaginas, real vaginas where they were called vaginas
that looked like clams and other small animals uncaged
and curious and I taught myself guitar, proud callused fingers
and folk music, angry music, angry women who were fed
up with the patriarchy!

Because hair sprouted from my arm pits, raised like tiny fists
and I scorned any girl who put a razor to her perfect prickly skin,
those traitors, those pretty faced devil girls who would ask me
for advice about their yeast infections because I was wise,
a pink haired sage who hated them and secretly envied them
for their dumb careless mess, because the stars meant nothing
to me, the sky, an empty void that magnified my loneliness ten fold
so exaggerated in my chosen difference, the clouds whispered
no one here cares.

Because I was lonely, so lonely, I was lonely but didn’t know
how to spell it. I needed to know there was someone
who understood there was something beyond this
small town, the cheerleaders and their boyfriends
the tractors and horses, this country landscape, what a
good gone joke, these women who lusted after mannequins
while my best friend from summer camp had an abortion at thirteen
and tried to commit suicide that year and was on heroin and
wrote me long aching letters, and I was in love with

Because I was angry because someone needed to tell the world
about what it is like to be a real woman, a real woman with
poverty and black and mistakes and hurt and sex and slaughter
and love and guilt and forgiveness, and something different
from what I was in, from what I was, because I needed someone
to say this is ok, you can be forgiven, I needed someone to
teach me about forgiveness, to teach me to forgive.

 

The Sinner Lady to the Black Saint (For The Jazz)
Caits Meissner

Sunrise, I write a letter
down your spine.
Here, in the blue,
when the world lay dying,
we are without light.
Without stories.
Without songs we love
or favorite colors
or yesterday at the market
or tomorrow.
Sometimes I wish
to crawl inside you
& look at the world this way.
Go through your day,
your closet
try on your pants
brush your teeth
cook up breakfast.
Ordinary rituals.
Your solitude.
Black & white films
on silent with Mingus
plucking an odd collage.
What you scrawl
in your secret notebook.
Who you think about
when you shower
or before you nap,
upon waking.

 

If You Leave Now You’ll Get There Eventually
Tishon

Your lover lives on another planet.

That’s at least how far it would be,
according to your response when
she asks the distance between
New York and California.

Geography was never your strong suit,
but these things you know for sure:

Keep her in easy to reach places.
Say, “When I think of you,
I hold myself here, here,
and here.”

Tell her how you’ve spent hours
learning the chords to a song
you’re almost certain
only the two of you like.

Make her a mixtape with that
same song playing over and over
and over again.

Make sure it has the words
“I love” and “you”
somewhere in the liner notes.

 

Roosevelt Island
Tishon

four smoke stacks descending
like rifles against a barrack
each in its own way
resembling
a mother, a father,
a son, a son

–Roosevelt Island photo by: Gmpicket

–Caits & Tishon portraits by Seth Kushner

Caits Meissner, winner of the OneWorld Poetry Contest, attended the 2008 inaugural Pan-African Literary Forum in Accra, Ghana where she studied under Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Komunyakaa and other luminaries from the literary African diaspora. In addition to her own self-released work, she has been published in various literary journals. She is also an arts educator and designer.

Tishon is a designer, writer and poet who has read his work at Bowery Poetry Club, LouderARTS Reading Series, La Mama and other venues in New York and New Jersey. In August 2011, Tishon founded Well&Often. He is also a founding member of BBOXradio.com. Tishon lives in Brooklyn.

Purchase the The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You by Caits & Tishon