August 3, 2016
LGBTQ Poets Respond to the Pulse Nightclub Shooting
Requiem for Orlando
— for those departed and surviving in Orlando and everywhere
I am struggling now to comprehend my pulse, how I still have one,
after all the opportunities I've had to die with my hands
at the wheel after too many drinks in bars as I waited
to become my uncloseted self. And now I have nothing to do but pulse
with crackling rage as I raise an empty glass,
mourning the fact that you, Orlando, lost so many hearts
and hips and hands, all wanting to give themselves over to the other hearts
beating like hell on the dance floor before the clock strikes one.
You. Alive. You. Raising your luminous drinks to the glassy
air. You. Raising your brown Orlando hands
to the heavens in the heat of your last dance at Pulse.
And, of course, you don’t know this. Don’t know that death waits
around the corner like a drunk in a car. You are just waiting
for last call, for your early morning heart
to drum faster, to keep perfect time with its perfect pulse
as it moves closer to each slick body on the electric floor, to the one
you will leave this world with tonight, with your hands
pressing each other's calloused palms in prayer, your glassy
eyes looking forward to the next time you raise each other like glasses,
clutched in the grace of everything that the body waits
to release when it releases its tenuous grip of hands
in the act. And doesn't your Orlando always resemble the heart —
resilient, restless, eager to demonstrate how it is one
with the divine, how it yearns to live from within its own pulse?
And now I am pondering the woman who sat next to me pulsing
on my porch steps before we kissed then shuffled our crazy hearts
back into the deck to hide in the shadows of the one
true thing that I know I have been waiting
to discover with another. And now all the pulverized bar glasses
resemble diamonds on the dance floor, and a pair of smeared sunglasses
sleeps in the massacre's aftermath, inside and outside of Pulse.
Orlando, the world will wake Sunday morning with news of your hearts
murdered, and in the fifth stanza I've dropped a line in shock. My hands
go cold with grief. I don't know if I can spare the time to wait
for the one who could be the one while everyone in Orlando is one
heart beat away from shattering like blown glass
floats that once held precious the blower's labor, waiting
for love to pulse. Yes, pulse. And still, I have one.
"I am humbled by the response I've received to "Requiem" especially because it is a poem never wanted to have to write. I've since shared different incarnations of "Requiem" on my Facebook page and at open mics in Olympia, at the Rainbow Center in Tacoma, WA, and in Cobh and Limerick, Ireland, where I met a woman who is a mental health counselor and was a first responder to the tragedy as well as a dancer at Pulse the night before the shootings. A resident of Orlando who lives and works near Pulse is the daughter of a college friend also contacted me to inquire whether she could share the poem with people in her immediate Orlando community. My poetry and book reviews have appeared nationally in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Gay and Lesbian Review (Worldwide), Women's Review of Books, Calyx, Lambda Book Report, and Weave, among others. Currently, I am a Member of the Faculty and direct the Writing Center at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. I am honored to have this poem included with so many other voices responding in grief and hope for the souls lost and injured."
Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published weekly by Glass Poetry Press.
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