August 3, 2016

LGBTQ Poets Respond to the Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Joanna Hoffman

After Orlando

Fear turns a kiss to a step into traffic: if I am struck down, of course it was my fault. I dared to love a woman outside of a locked room. I felt the burning through the door with the back of my hand but opened it anyway because everyone I could see was immune to fire and I wanted to see if I was too. Every time I kiss my girlfriend outside, I keep my ears open and ready: a deer frozen on an empty highway, waiting. And the hate is always a surprise, even when he whispers so low I can't tell a threat from a dream. "Is this where I end?" I've asked so many times when the footsteps kept coming closer, and yet, just enough times to realize how few they actually are, because this skin has gifted me stolen safety I did not earn and somewhere in this great country, someone is watching the gun in their hand as it becomes a mirror twisting their own broken face and still Congress won't fund research on gun violence as if by not speaking the names aloud, deaths become sanitized. There are no safe spaces. Just men's fear and the distance some can afford from it. America's legacy is a room slowly filling with sand or a mouth slowly filling with blood or a river with a hundred mouths or the sand that graveyards the river's ghost or the way my heart keeps breaking and breaking or the names of the dead etched into stone, if stone is a wall, if the names are every name, if the wall promises to hold them, if it even can.

Joanna Hoffman is a poet and teaching artist based in Brooklyn, NY. She is a 15 year veteran of slam, or competitive performance poetry, who has competed on 5 National Poetry Slam teams, ranked 4th at the 2012 Women of the World Poetry Slam and was the 2012 champion of Capturing Fire, an international LGBTQ poetry competition. Her full-length book of poetry, Running for Trap Doors (Sibling Rivalry Press) was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and featured in the American Library Association's list of recommended LGBT reading for 2014. She was recently named a White House Champion of Change for LGBT advocacy through art. Her work has appeared on Upworthy and Buzzfeed, and in literary journals and publications including Winter Tangerine, decomP, PANK, Union Station Magazine, The Legendary, Sinister Wisdom and in the Write Bloody Publishing anthologies We Will be Shelter and Multiverse.

Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published weekly by Glass Poetry Press. All contents © the author.