August 3, 2016

LGBTQ Poets Respond to the Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Katlyn Kurtz

Island Beat

Pulse: the setting on a blender at the bar Pulse: the steady beat of Latin music I woke up to a text from my lioness saying our PRIDE had been damaged just twenty-four hours after we talked about displaying affection and the need to feel safe above the need to feel loved publicly. Pulse: the monument in Orlando to the power of love My lioness said it could have been her dancing less than two hours away at a club in a city called GaYBOR Pulse: the last thing the EMT checks before closing our eyes I cannot continue to be silent. Again. There are always tears. Separate little streams filled with our latest deep regret, latest outrage. We use these waters, charged with particles of unfulfilled emotion, to erode the cracks between us even more deeply and to become islands. Surrounded. By water on all sides. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School studied them in their geography classes. The students at Umpqua Community College told them that life changes on isolated islands. That predators cause insular dwarfism and that's why there have been nine hundred ninety-eight shootings in the last three years and seven months with promises of Thoughts and Prayers from the survivors. We forced ourselves to reduce the size of the impact of these predators. On an island, smaller size is an advantage. Pulse: the pounding sensation of my heart in my throat I feel myself bleeding against the splinters on my closet door, left over from where I tried to claw my way out. And I think of my siblings outed by gunshots. Of their families who might have accepted them if they only knew how little time they had left to celebrate. Pulse: the shockwave agitating the waters we've grown so fond of This weekend, we learned we do not have to fear the water between us. The sailors at Washington Navy Yard said vis per mare. This weekend, we reached out our arms and held each other’s hands. We pulled our islands back together and helped each other step onto a continent of solidarity. We broke the silence. Pulse: the sound of life beating inside a plastic bag — from half of us This weekend we learned that we are not yet done. That the closet is a revolving door we have to push our way through as we come out, go in, get stuck. Pulse: the thump in my chest as anxiety sweeps through my veins My lioness said we are straight until proven "strayed," that she would give anything to stray forever farther with me. I said I didn't know why it was so hard to say three little words, but that until "I am gay" no longer means "it gets worse," it is hard to believe that it could get better. Pulse: the understanding that each heartbeat is confirmation that it will be better

"In the midst of tragedy, I often turn to poetry as my voice. Somehow, piecing words together helps me begin to understand the senseless acts of tragedy we are so accustomed to. When I heard about the attack at Pulse, I lost my words for a few days. I felt unable to comment, not just because it was yet another instance of watching our elected officials go through the motions of advocating for change while fearing for their political lives, but because it was an attack on my community. I felt ashamed; publicly, this was not my community. And yet I bled with these people, I cried with them, and I — for the first time — belonged with them. That was where I found my voice. In the exposed crack of a revolving closet door that had gotten stuck as it tried to push me back inside."

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