August 3, 2016

LGBTQ Poets Respond to the Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Kathryn Mueller

Brittle Stars

"I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance" — e e cummings, "You shall above all things be glad and young …"

I do not have a skin thick enough for this.

We have learned how to cloak ourselves in thick skins
like blankets piled on in January cold snaps
to insulate our selves from this world.

To turn back shouted slurs of fag or dyke,
the threats of real men, real dicks;
to wade through the mud of damnation and abomination and disgust
and words that reduce the songs of our hearts to preferences and lifestyle choices.

But this.
I do not have a skin thick enough for this.
Nothing will drown out the sound of orphaned cell phones
crying into the night like cicadas.
Nothing will end the guilty relief that my friends
my former lovers my dear hearts weren't there that night.

Because they were: my brothers, my sisters.
We were there.

Instead of thick and sturdy and solid and stolid
I feel brittle.
Fragile as an eggshell as these protections are, these defenses,
these "safe" spaces where we can just be.
I want to pull us all into my bed, cuddling up to tell fairy tales,
where we only need ooh and ahh over hypothetical villains,
and we can get fat
on the safety of belonging.

I taste, for the first time, the bitter iron blood
of my mother's fear of what could happen to me
just because of whose hand I hold
who sleeps next to me
who makes my heart sing.

I want to talk about inalienable rights & forefathers & being created equal.
But my mouth cannot find those words, it is so full of this bitter blood,
And every word on the page feels so much less than this hurt.

I am brittle, now. Snap me into a million tiny pieces. Carry me with you,
for I cannot make anything thick enough to make this okay.
And maybe that is the point.
If I am to be gunned down, let me be gunned down being real.
Maybe, for once, we get to feel all of this,
we have no choice but instead to say:
This is who we are.

Carry me, and let us dance.

Let us dance
until we are neither thick nor heavy
until this club slick with blood cannot contain us,
these laws and bathroom policies cannot contain us
until we ride the very air
and never stop dancing.

Kathryn Mueller is a wanderer and hiker who’s bounced through a number of careers. She is currently the Director of Product Development at a small software company, where she does her best to herd cowboy engineers. She has an M.A. in English from Northern Michigan University and an M.S. in Information Management from Syracuse University. She lost her writing voice for years; rediscovering it feels like the most important work she's ever done. This is her first published poem in over a decade.

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