I wrote this poem a while ago when I wrote this article about a soldier who had been set on fire and burned to death because he was gay. And when I heard that story, I started reading lots of similar stories about people in the queer community who had been tortured or killed that way. Today I was on the subway reading an article about the men — has everybody heard about the men in the Bronx who were beaten and tortured and raped? And it was just fucking horrific. It was just a couple of days ago. Anyway, I wrote this poem thinking about all the people who are set on fire and fucking burned to death and what they might say from where they are now.
The night I was torn from the pages of their Bible and burned alive, my ashes came down like snow, and a girl who had never seen my face saw me falling from the sky and laid down on her back to make an angel in the powder of my bones.
From heaven, I watched her, though my eyes were still flame and my ribs were still blue. “They didn’t win,” I whispered as her arms built my wings. “They didn’t win.”
Look at that moon. It is a pebble in my hand. Tonight, I could skip it across that fog-drunk sea until their lashes accordion in the night and all they know of hate is that it couldn’t beat the love out of me; that when they dropped me to the grave, I fell like a bucket in to a well and came up full, carving my lover’s name in to the skin of a weeping willow that had spent its entire life laughing at the rain.
Hold me like a lantern; staircase my spine. When they bring the children to my funeral to scream “faggot” at my dust, tell them I was born into this casket but I wouldn’t pull the splinters from my heart any more than Christ would pull the thorns from his crimson head.
They can come a thousand times with their burning match and their gasoline, with their hungry laws and their empty mouths full of prayers to that God who greeted me at His gates with His throat full of trumpets and His tears full of shame as His trembling palms collected the cinder of His children’s crime.
I know what Holy is. I know that the soul is shaped like a bowl; I know the lies we try to fill it with and we spill too often the orchards inside. But my lover’s shoes were tied with guitar strings, and when I walked beside, there was a silo in my chest; there was a field full of sun; there was a river full of gold that we left to pick our sweet hearts from the trees that kept uprooting tombstones so the names of the dead would crumble into poems.
Write me down like this. Say my ashes never made the news; say the jury was full of shotguns. Then say the snow that fell on the tip of your tongue refused to melt away. Say this to the kids hiding their heart beats from their father’s fists. I planted the garden of my kiss. I opened the night with my teeth. I loved so hard that when they pressed their ear to the track, the train they hear coming will still be my chest — a rumbling harpoon; a sky they can not bury.
Look at that moon. I am a pebble in her hand, a harmonica held to the mouth of the river where