14.06.2016 Orlando Pulse Poem

So I wrote this poem half-an-hour ago, and I didn’t know if I wanted to post it at all. I don’t usually put poetry on here, or really talk about much that isn’t books. However, I have also been feeling upset and sad and helpless and I wanted to do something (and the rainbow ribbons weren’t quite feeling like enough). I could do a lot of talking here, about sexuality and safe-spaces and how most of the time, public space isn’t a safe space if you’re anything other than straight and on and on and on and on. But I don’t want to, and I don’t have the energy. So here’s a poem. It’s meant in solidarity, from someone who lives on a different continent from the shootings. It may well be an awful poem, but I hope it will be read in the light that it’s meant. If anyone wants to put it elsewhere, please ask first.

Half-way round the world,
someone walked into a club armed to the teeth and the shock travelled –
beneath my clothes I’m trembling with grief that I don’t know how to express.
The rest of us watch,
open-mouthed,
as the news unfolds:
49 dead, 53 injured.
Do we become inured to this torrent of pain?
Do we become numb?
No.
There is a feeling here,
in the recess of my chest where my heart flutters like a bird –
I’ve never heard a gunshot for real.
I’m alive, and I can still feel.

Half-way round the world,
49 people went out on Saturday night and never came home.
49 people abruptly hurled into the unknown,
and we don’t yet know all their names.

And there’s all kinds of things we can blame:
we can blame god and guns and mental health,
we can blame the unfair distribution of wealth,
and the violence in computer games.
We can blame the internet
and we can hate hate hate until we’re sick to our guts,
suspecting everyone we know and driving ourselves nuts.
We can play that game.

Except that 49 people went out on Saturday night to have fun.
To dance and laugh until the sun rose –
they didn’t expect to have to run from a man wielding hate and a gun.
Who knows what he was thinking?
And the feeling pummels against my ribs like a beast from the deeps,
howling its wounds to the sky, demanding a why –
‘Why did those people die?
Why can’t we be safe?
Why do people fear who we love?
Why?’

Half-way round the world a man walks into a bar
and it is not a joke,
and in that moment he’s not a man;
he’s a red-hot poker trying to stoke up hatred,
trying to bind us with this yoke of blood
to a narrative that ends in nihilism on all sides
but we do not have to be captive to his story,
we can stand and say with pride:
That love is stronger.
That love lasts longer.
That between clouds and blue skies there are rainbows
and we know that he was only a man –
he does not represent a nation or a culture.
That we are not going to feed the vultures
who are already trying to exploit this tragedy
and use it to make us so angry that all we see are lies.
Love is stronger.

And if we hold each other up
then we can rise out of the darkness;
and if we hold each other up
then it becomes ‘us’ not ‘I’;
and if we hold each other up
then we’ve all got someplace safe to cry.
And maybe we will never understand the ‘why’
of people who hate us because of who we love,
but we can remember and rise above
and grieve and dare to believe that with every straining step and heave
we can build a world where nobody leaves on a Saturday night
to dance and strut their stuff
and finishes up on a Sunday morning
locked in the toilets, snuffed.

Love is stronger. Love lasts longer.
We’re not going to forget
but hate divides, sets us apart,
and love, real love, mends broken hearts.

©Meredith Debonnaire

 

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