August 3, 2016

LGBTQ Poets Respond to the Pulse Nightclub Shooting

David B. Prather

One Nation

Death is in America tonight. And god(s) help us, it is the first day of summer. Fireflies light up my neighbor's water maple with ballistic retorts. Another young black man falls bleeding in the street — and another — and another. Orlando now bears the title of mass murder capital. All my gay brothers and sisters will remember this hatred with their blood and with their bones. Don't think they won't. (Their blood.) Don't think they won't. (Their bones.) Sometimes I fucking hate America — every rifle, every handgun, every bullet, every clip. All of us line up for the firing squad — line up in our driveways, and our theaters, and our schools. There's enough to kill us all. Everyone shooting everyone, and everyone sending love and prayers. But love and prayers are debris — crumpled notes suffering in the streets, fast food refuse decaying in parking lots, newsprint ranting in breeze after breeze. Death is an American tonight, and I don't know if I ever want to sleep again. I'll turn on the tv and watch gore splatter the screen while I hold my breath, while my eyes turn to salt. It is the first day of summer, and fireflies fight wars in my back yard. Sometimes I hate America. Sometimes I hate the dead. They keep telling the same old story — again and again and again and again and again. Breathe, damn it, breathe. This is America. This is your right.

David B. Prather received his MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College. His poetry has appeared in many journals, including Colorado Review, Seneca Review, Prairie Schooner, American Literary Review, Poet Lore, ONTHEBUS, and others. His work was also selected for one of Naomi Shihab Nye's anthologies, "what have you lost?" Currently, David spends his time as an actor and a director at the Actors Guild of Parkersburg in Parkersburg, WV. "In response to the horror of the Orlando massacre, my mind raced with thoughts of loss, thoughts of terror, thoughts of safety, and thoughts of gun control. As a gay man who has lived relatively safely in a small city in West Virginia, I have not, perhaps, experienced the same prejudice and hatred as so many others have in more religio-political areas. Yes, I cried for the victims and for their families and communities. They cannot be that different from my own. But, as I hope my poem clearly suggests, words may take us to the precipice of decision, but now we have to jump. We have to act. We have to make sure every life lost to gun violence meant something more than a simple statistic. These people were part of my cultural family. Though we never met, I feel their loss deeply, as though we'd been a part of each other that can never be torn apart."

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