Word Perv
(noun): One who takes delight & is skilled at constructing, writing or saying naughty phrases or dialogue.

While riding the metro to work recently I spotted a woman carrying a bag that had the sentence “I wanna wake up in a city I don’t sleep in” written on the side of it. This sentence rolled around in my head, churning a bit, and I knew I would use it in a poem. Here’s the result:

I Wanna Wake Up in a City I Don’t Sleep In
I wanna wake up in a city I don’t sleep in.
I wanna walk the streets that hum and sing at midnight.
I wanna feel the pulse beneath my skin and
the pounding beneath my feet.
I wanna sip champagne and toast the night sky.
I wanna eat caviar when the sun comes up.
I wanna dance with strangers to the throbbing beat.
I wanna fall asleep when the world starts stirring.
I wanna wake up in a city I don’t sleep in.

This isn’t the first time I’ve spotted something on the metro that inspired a poem. It might seem like a strange place to find inspiration but inspiration is everywhere and I try to be open enough to seize it. According to this article on Huffington Post, it’s no surprise I find inspiration in random places.

The following two poems were written in October 2012 – both were inspired by someone I saw on the metro on my morning commute. My amazing sister, Kirsten, drew the illustration that goes with these poems.

Illustration by Kirsten Birst

Illustration by Kirsten Birst

We Hide From Things

I was reading, absorbed in my book
and I only looked up
when the train lurched to a stop.
“We hide from things…”
her tattoo began, the remaining words
hidden by the sleeve of her blouse.
I craned my neck,
trying to read the words that curved down her arm.
A pause in movement,
and then,
the mad crush of people
pushing to exit.
She moved off the train and
I followed her,
crossing the tracks to the other side
she stayed a step ahead.
Before I could reach her
she stepped onto another train
and the doors closed,
sealing our separation.
I sighed, dejected,
realizing I’d never know
the words that graced her skin.
I boarded the next train,
pondered what they might have been,
and wrote this poem.

Follow the White Rabbit

I saw her again,
the girl with the tattoo.
I spotted the spade inked
on the back of her arm
and realized it was the
same woman I’d followed
only days prior.
Today the train was crowded,
strangers pressed against
one another in an
awkward introduction.
She faced the door,
the ink that had entranced
me turned away.
When the train doors opened
and she exited
I moved slowly,
suddenly reluctant to learn
the words that had given
me such chase,
afraid of the disappointment
they may contain.



Hey Girl

This week is National Library Week, but due to a crammed schedule, I won’t be able to fully appreciate or celebrate it. Yes, yes, I know I’m a huge nerd because I’m talking about celebrating National Library Week but I don’t care – I love reading and books so much that it’s worthy of celebrating!

My mother is directly responsible for my love affair with books and libraries. But really, isn’t it always my mother’s fault. ;) As a child my mother took my younger sister and I to the library weekly. I remember sitting in the corner of the children’s section, a stack of books at my side as I pulled more from the shelves while my mom searched for her own books to take home. Even now my love affair with the library hasn’t abated, I get all of my kindle books from the library and considering I read at a pace of 6 books a month (yes, that’s more than a book a week, I’m aware of how stupid-fast I read), I’m constantly on the library’s website, checking out or returning books. Oh yes, I love the library.

Because of this love affair with the library I know exactly how I want to celebrate, even if that celebration will happen a few weeks after National Library Week: I’m going to tour the Library of Congress. I hate to admit that despite living in the DC area for 6 years (and the east coast for 15 years) I’ve yet to visit the Library of Congress. But it’s penciled onto my calendar for a Saturday in the near future and you can be certain I’ll share pictures and thoughts with you, my dear readers.

But until I’m able to peruse the collections at the Library of Congress I thought I’d share a poem with you – something that honors both books and National Poetry Month.


It was the first extra-curricular project we tackled upon moving in.

Already we’d peeled tendrils of wallpaper from walls,

scrubbed floors,

sealed holes in window frames,

and slapped up paint.

Now it was time for something more.


I had a vision and you – foolishly? – indulged me.

When the carpenter came I saw him glancing at you,

looking at the man of the house to weigh in,

to provide direction,

or at least to curtail my wild notion.

You stood back and let me talk,

knowing this project was my baby and not yours.


A month later they were hauled in,

beautiful, custom-made, solid oak bookshelves

that ran from floor to ceiling, window to wall.

Their glossy surface gleamed and I hovered behind them as

they pushed them into place and bolted them in.


The workers walked out, my check in their hand and

I ran my fingers along the smooth surface,

caressing my new lover.

I leaned over and smelled the wood,

inhaling deeply as I tried to memorize the scent.

You stood watching me, intrigued by my reaction.

We made love on the floor in front of them.


I filled them,

made random stops at used bookstores and yard sales,

hunting for rare finds and dollar treasures.

I loved how they looked,

books stacked in artistic dishevel,

grouped in a way that only made sense to me.


Before I moved out I stood in front of those naked shelves,

tears streaming down my skin.

Choosing the books I’d keep had been a tedious task but I’d

pared it down to only two boxes.

I was leaving them behind.

I was leaving you behind.

I miss those bookshelves still.


Side note: If I ever win the lottery I’ll be donating a handsome sum to my local library. I want a room or a wing or the whole damn thing named after me. The Courtney Birst is Fucking Awesome Library. That has a nice ring to it, don’t ya think? ;)

As I’ve already told you, April is National Poetry Month and I’m celebrating as much as I can – writing poems and going to poetry readings, serving as a Poet in Residence during Poetry on Demand at my local library, reading poems to keep good sentences in my ears. Yes, I’m doing what I can to support National Poetry Month, but it turns out April is also National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. These two are obviously much heavier and serious topics than poetry but they’re worth talking about and taking note of.

Unfortunately many women I know, myself included, have been sexually assaulted. It can be a terrifying, troubling, and emotional experience. My assault occurred in another country, when a man shoved his hand down my pants,  inside my underwear, and touched me. This happened in public, in a store, in a relatively nice area of the city I was in. I shoved the man back and yelled, “What the fuck are you doing?!” He responded, “I’m sorry, an accident,” and held up his hands in mock surrender. I turned around and immediately left the store, shaken but more angry than scared. Perhaps I should have reported it to the local authorities but I just wanted to get the hell out of there. I was lucky – my assault was mild compared to others and I was able to escape the situation before it escalated.

While at Split This Rock Poetry Festival at the end of March, I attended a workshop called Speaking the Unspeakable: Finding Voice for Trauma through Poetry. It was an excellent workshop and while I thankfully haven’t experienced anything as traumatic as others have experienced, I still found the concept of using poetry to heal very appealing.

A friend of mine was raped by a family member for most of her teenage years. It only stopped when she left for college. This is a poem inspired by her experiences. I’ll warn you – it’s not an easy poem to read. I brought it to my poetry workshop, Poets Asylum, and the group helped me edit the poem. It prompted a lot of passionate discussion, which is why I’m posting it here, on my blog. Those who’ve been abused need to know they can tell someone and that there are people out there who will believe them and will help them. My friend didn’t think there was anyone she could turn to and for years she suffered in silence. No one should have to do that. No one.

Don’t Tell

He comes into her room,

painted pale pink –

she’s not old enough

to think it childish.

At 12 she’s still willing to play

with dolls

while she laughs with other

pre-pubescent girls.


He doesn’t think of any of this

as he quietly opens the door and

sits on the edge of her

ruffled bed.

Places his hand on her

still-plump arm,

feels her heat beneath his skin.

He caresses her lightly,

feels his pulse quicken,

feels his desire rise.


He brushes back her hair,

notices how she resembles

her mother,

pulls the blanket down

exposes the not yet womanly,

the still childish form of her.

Hovers his hand over

the heat of her body,


but not yet touching.


Ragged breath inhaled

he touches himself,

watches her chest rise and fall

as he brings himself to climax.


he touches his finger

to her sleeping lips,

whispers, “Don’t tell.”

Every once in a while I’m going to do a post about stuff I’ve found, or things friends have sent me, from the interwebs. Some of this stuff is too good not to share. =)

For those of us who don’t want children, they’ve created a new drug, the “NOT HAVING KIDS” drug. I can’t wait till it hits the market!

Have you talked to your doctor? Maybe you should:


Funny and sad at the same time: How a European imagines Americans have breakfast.

Remember when I wished for a unicorn? Well I didn’t know they were tasty and delicious. I’ll take a side of wishes, medium.


An amazing and frightening pictorial of why they can’t find Malaysia Flight 370.


Happy Friday everyone!


April 10, 2014

Head Case

Written by Posted in Random Babblings Comments 0

The first time it happened I was in college. Pain blistering from temple to temple across my forehead, like someone was jamming a hot dagger though my temples, from the time I woke up till the time I went to bed. I suffered through this near-daily pain for eight months. Yes, eight painfully long months. I was a broke 21-year old whose crappy college insurance didn’t cover specialists without a steep co-pay and I couldn’t afford it at the time. Eventually those headaches went away and I forgot all about them.

Five years ago, the summer of my 30th year, they came back with a vengeance. The pain was the same, the characteristics were the same, but this time I was gainfully employed with quality insurance and I could afford to see a specialist. A few appointments with a neurologist, a series of tests, an MRI, and I had the answer: I suffered from Atypical Tension Headaches. They don’t know much about these headaches only that they’re more common in men than women, and I’ll suffer from them on and off for the rest of my life. Gee, thanks doc, that’s really great.

While the lifelong diagnosis isn’t wonderful, the treatment for these killer headaches is remarkably easy – the doctor put me on blood pressure medication. My blood pressure is already incredibly low (90/60), probably due to all the running, but I wasn’t on it for its ability to lower my blood pressure – BP medication has a strange side effect of knocking these headaches out. I was on the medication for about 8 weeks – I had to stay on it till I was 4 weeks headache-free and then begin weaning myself off it. I was initially reluctant to take the drug because it was a twice-daily pill I was popping but within just a few days I changed my tune because that’s how quickly I found relief from the headaches that plague me. Once I was headache free I happily went on with my life, shelving the pain and memories away.

By now you probably know where I’m going with this… Yup, they’re back.

It started a few weeks ago and initially I wasn’t sure if they were really back. I mean, everyone suffers from a headache now and then. But when ibuprofen wasn’t able to do more than take the edge off I knew they had likely re-emerged. The day I attended Split This Rock Poetry Festival I knew for certain they’d taken hold as my headache built and built throughout the day. After a long day filled with awesome poetry, I was home and in bed by 9pm, exhausted and my head screaming. At 4am my headache woke me up. I stumbled blurry eyed to the bathroom where I popped a couple of ibuprofen. When I woke up at 7am the next day the headache was still there, teasing me behind my forehead. That Monday I called the neurologist.

My appointment is next Friday and until then I’m struggling through it. I’m concerned because I’m going to a new neurologist (my former one left the area) and so I’m hopeful when I tell her what’s going on and my history and she reviews my records (I’ve requested they be sent) she’ll just put me back on BP medicine. I don’t want to have to go through everything all over again – I’ve had the MRI, I don’t have a tumor (“IT’S NOT A TUMOR!!” said in your best Arnold voice). It’s not migraines. It’s not stress. It’s not my diet. I’ve done all these things and gone through them before. So please, just put me on the BP meds so my head can stop screaming every single goddamn day. Please?