August 3, 2016

LGBTQ Poets Respond to the Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Alexis Smithers

A Nightmare After Pulse

After recess one day we have to go around the room and say what we wanna be when we grow
up and all the kids say they wanna be firemen and doctors and mechanics and golden retrievers

and I say I want to be loved
and my teacher takes me very seriously so
she helps me peel back my skin and
slide bulletproof pads all over my bones
double pad them around my heart
(cause it beat the wrong way when Grace came near)
and fluffs them up around my brain
(cause there are voices that snuck up in here and we cannot let them
and stitch the skin back up super tight.

and I say I want to be loved
and she straightens my hair so it don't reach for the sun no more
and smears this burning itchy stuff into my skin so I look more Full House than Family Matters

and I say I want to be loved
but I don't say anything else cause she sews my mouth shut.

and I fall in love but she looks different from what they told me he would

and I'm in love so I
rip the bulletproof pads from my skin
(because I couldn't feel her holding right)
and wash the chemicals out of my hair
(because her fingers tangle better with my kinks)
and sit in the sun, darken again
(because she says my eyes look beautiful when they hold light)
and pull the stitches out of my lips
(because she wants a chance to fall in love with my voice too)

and I go back to my teacher and say I am loved
in all my anguish and in all my glory
so I want to change my answer.

I say when I grow up, I want to be alive.

And the smile slips off of her face
smushes itself between the sidewalk cracks.

My teacher's voice sounds like
a broken pulse
her eyes take in my free skin
and unchained hair
and open mouth
and her eyes
remind me
why they named her

She says,

"Oh, honey.
I thought you knew.

You can be anything
— anything —
but that."

Alexis Smithers is queer black writer from Maryland. They work at Winter Tangerine Review, Voicemail Poems, Tandem Reader Awards, and Words Dance. Their work can be found in BE ABOUT IT Zine, Rising Phoenix Press, and Freezeray Poetry among others. They will attend the LAMBDA Literary Retreat for Emerging Writers this summer as a Young Adult Fiction Fellow. They tweet at @Dangerlove12.

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