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Poem for Matthew Shepard
* * *
In the final moments
when the station wagon
pulled away, I shivered
and was thankful to feel something.
Blood glued my eyes.
I thought: the last thing
I want to remember
is not the look of hatred
in their eyes.
I breathed in the smell
of the grass that grew
before winter set in;
I heard the song
of nocturnal birds.
In my mind's eye
I saw shooting stars
the waning harvest moon
the light of dawn.
The wind swept over the plain
yanking the matorral,
a coyote howled—
perhaps a wolf ...
a field mouse scurried
in the dark.
Later, I imagined
the birds lifting off
after the planets, rising
in the silvery skies.
As the warmth of day neared
I didn't dare hope
I'd be rescued.
Then my soul began
its upward ascent
a sigh traveling to
the arms of God
where I'd find
a peace I'd never known on earth.
* * *
out of work
We deliver Coors
left us here
In the moments before dawn,
Matthew hears a coyote cry
* * *
Is that a coyote call?
It must be late.
If I could see, I'd lift my head, but
the blood has frozen my eyes shut.
The sound always frightened me before,
the wild yelp that marries a cry
before its dying fall.
Tonight I find it more
like a song
than a howl.
It won't be long.
I'll never last
our here where
Aaron and Russell beat me
for loving men.
The coyotes know I'm going to die
They seem to care.
They know that presence is comforting;
I, too, made the usual human mistake:
full of anger or sadness, maybe hate,
I slandered them, more for being outcast
than for their reasonable appetite.
I should have loved their bark,
my canine sisters, brothers ... twins.
The snow is so white
except for the red. And the black
into a run before disappearing
into the dark.
Once again, the predator wins
I'll never be kissed
or held close to a heartbeat.
True carnivores hunt on two feet
and carry a fang in each fist.
What really kills is not
the difference between you and me,
but the difference between what
a man is and who he is told he ought
by people who profit from
The bludgeon, like the Bible, is only a prop.
Someday they'll be caught
Perhaps I'll be missed.
I want to be.
Is it the alpha female calling
the charges in her pack?—
Afraid the men have done to them
what they have done to me:
roped me to a fence
and left me alone
Nothing in nature would believe why
even if we had the language to explain our sins
or the will to atone.
I wish I could answer back.
She seems so overwrought,
as if she needs relief.
At least I'm part of something here,
an icy moment before dawn.
Soon the sun will rise and
I can sleep.
I hope they find me alive—
I've already been devoured by those who
and my mother, weeping, will want at least
to touch the thing that was her son.
I wish she didn't need to see
what the lies have done.
If only the pain would stop,
I could die in peace.
If only the lies would stop,
we could live there, too.
2 January 1999
NO TEARS FOR QUEERS / NO FAGS IN HEAVEN
* * *
The speakers throbbed with red music.
He will fill your mouth with laughter,
and your lips with shouts of joy.
"What do you want? Where can we take you?"
He did not create a chaos.
They gunned the engine, wind
whipped black as they sped,
And ask for the ancient paths where
the good way lies, and walk in it ...
passing corn and wheat and barley fields
to a threshing floor:
fists pummeled his frame, fists hammered
a pistol butt into his skull,
jeers stabbed the icy air,
his face collapsing on their rage.
O prosper the works of your hands.
Arms roped cruciform to a rail,
legs, spread-eagled, he torqued, fell
limp. While the pupil-dark sky loomed
in witness, the light of his body dimmed.
And all of us, with unveiled eyes, seeing
the glory of the Lord
as though reflected in a mirror
are being transformed into the same image ...
Breath wheezed through swollen nostrils
and lips, all identity crushed
but his name.
Protect them, O Lord, in your name....
The title refers to slogans carried outside the church where Matthew
Shepard's funeral service was held.
* * *
We're using every bit of your death.
We're making a vise of your mouth's clenching and loosening,
an engine of your labored breathing,
a furnace of your wide-open eyes.
We've reduced you to stock, fed you to the crowd,
banked the pearl of your last anger,
stored the honey of your last smile.
Nothing's left in your mirror,
nothing's floating on your high ceiling.
We're combing pockets, turning sleeves,
shaking out bone and ash,
stripping you down to desire.
Your beloved has folded your house into his—
I'm wading the swift river, balancing on stones.
ELEGY FOR ST. MATTHEW SHEPARD
* * *
(1976-1998, martyred by criminal bigots blinded by hate)
Matthew, dear brother, sweet kid, a slip of a lad, 5'2", effeminate youth,
your parents loved you and knew you were gay and were born that way
like children all over the world in all countries, all times, barely visible
in a child though predestined in puberty. Jesus never condemned you.
But the Church hasn't heard the Good News: love is no crime. It's a force
of attraction beyond choice or will. For this you were killed, lashed
to a fence like a scarecrow, stripped, savagely beaten and left to die.
Crucified like Jesus who also looked like a scarecrow nailed to a cross, who
most likely was not blue-eyed and pink-skinned with Breck-shampooed hair,
who was also perhaps 5'2"—but awesome and wondrously gentle and holy.
Jesus Christ didn't wear a white collar, preach sermons for hate crimes
of violence versus the innocent. Perhaps he was always high on the
mindblowing sacred mushroom in his saintly Essene youth. He did
not get uptight about sex. He preached charity, decency, love.
A poor Jew born in a manger, a stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem, he taught
that each life was sacred, more precious than gold; and although he may have
had dirty feet, long hair, hippie sandals, he made the ultimate sacrifice for
his merciful teachings that conquered the pagan religion of Rome. O false
Christians, you do not love Jesus, you love to exploit him, to sell him
for profit, get rich in his name. "No queers or dykes welcome in church!"
You laugh and you mock as you murder Jesus, Matthew and Dr. King.
|Scott Gibson Introduction||xi|
|George Albon A Circle Lighter Than Air||3|
|John Ashbery At The Inn||5|
|Susan Baran Gravity||6|
|V. Barnhart Sonnet: For Matthew||8|
|Mark Bibbins||as true of martyrs||10|
|Robin Blaser In Remembrance of Matthew Shepard||13|
|Lee Ann Brown Political Funeral in Black & White, What Can I|
|Reed Bye In Memoriam Matthew Shepard||16|
|Rafael Campo Recognition||17|
|Tom Carey How It Is||19|
|Abigail Child Resistance||20|
|John Chinworth two poems: snow & french horn||23|
|Toria Angelyn Clark Allow Yourself To Be Touched||25|
|Marc Cohen Poem||27|
|Norma Cole By gray dampy weather||28|
|Alfred Corn And Then I Saw||30|
|Rikki Ducornet Anatomy||32|
|kari edwards Matthew||33|
|Beatrix Gates Seeking Tenderness||35|
|Scott Gibson Unchosen Roads||41|
|Peter Gizzi Caption||43|
|Robert Glück The Guilt of Hercules||44|
|John Greyson Clean Spot||45|
|Lauren Gudath Peter Grimes: Opera||46|
|Marilyn Hacker Sheltered by womanhood and middle age||48|
|Rachel Hadas The Fence||51|
|Griffin Hansbury A More Empty Wyoming or Ad astra, thinking|
|of Matthew Shepard||53|
|Paul Heiner Vigilante||56|
|Gerrit Henry Lament for Matthew Shepard||57|
|Walter Holland Laramie, Wyoming, 1998||58|
|Anselm Hollo from rue Wilson Monday||59|
|Yuri Hospodar Todd, Matthew; Matthew, Todd||60|
|Kathe Izzo Baby||62|
|Lisa Jarnot Requiem||63|
|Patricia Spears Jones My Matthew Shepard Poem||65|
|Michaela Wolf Kahn (Next) Time||67|
|Meg Kavanagh Spread Eagle Ghazal||69|
|Kevin Killian The Phantom of the Opera||70|
|Dean Kostos No Tears for Queers / No Fags in Heaven||74|
|Joanne Kyger Matthew Shepard, Election Day||75|
|Joan Larkin Waste Not||76|
|Michael Lassell In the moments before dawn, Matthew hears a|
|Tony Leuzzi Sonnets to Matthew Shepard||80|
|Ali Liebegott from The Beautifully Worthless||81|
|Jaime Manrique Poem for Matthew Shepard||84|
|Patrick Martin Where rain comes from||86|
|Bernadette Mayer This Is Not A Metaphor||88|
|Josie McKee For Matthew Shepard||89|
|W.S. Merwin The Fence||90|
|Laura Moriarty from Nude Memoir||91|
|Eileen Myles Taxicabs||94|
|Maggie Nelson For Matthew Shepard||96|
|Harold Norse Elegy for St. Matthew Shepard||97|
|Akilah Oliver dear matthew shepard||99|
|Kristin Prevallet No Safe City||102|
|Eugene Richie Like a Shell, a Flame||104|
|Jocelyn Saidenberg & Edmund Berrigan My Winter Coat Before|
|Andrew Schelling For Matthew Shepard||106|
|Paul Schmidt Matthew Shepard||107|
|Maureen Seaton & Denise Duhamel Missing||109|
|Eleni Sikelianos Note: On Personal Freedoms||112|
|Linda Smukler Stations||114|
|Juliana Spahr blood (blows)||120|
|David Trinidad Pavane||122|
|Steve Turtell Queer||123|
|Jean Valentine Two Poems for Matthew Shepard||124|
|Anne Waldman In Memory Of His Muse||126|
|Rosanne Wasserman Holes in the Plot||128|
|Elizabeth Willis Book of Matthew||129|
|Carolyne Wright Leaving the Conservatory||130|
|Emanuel Xavier Oyá/St. Therese||132|
|About the Poets||135|