What an Interesting Time

The year I was born

Was the same year Matthew Shepard was murdered

The same year blood filled our televisions

And anger burned our throats

The year I was born was when everything changed

I was too young to remember it

To young to grasp the consequences

And how they might mold me

The same year of the first AIDS walks in Albany NY

Merely 8 miles from where I write this

But I was asleep

Not even sensing the danger

It wouldn’t wake me for over a decade

Many years before I realized

That I wasn’t a majority

That I loved someone I shouldn’t love

That I didn’t kiss who I was supposed to kiss

I do not remember my first kiss

Which perhaps isn’t ideal

But my brain has fogged over those memories

Those memories of earlier kisses

Of my earlier adventures

It’s hard to say what was consensual

Or what was intentional

Or what was a mistake

But that is for another poem

It was 2016 that I had my first real love

My first explosive emotions

My first remembered consent

Holding a boy in a yellow fiat

Kissing his neck all summer

The summer of the pulse

Fearing my parents like the apocalypse

Fearing my church like the angry mob

And fearing the world who would shoot me dead

That was the summer I learned about hate

And how I would learn to recognize it

How it would always follow me home

The summer I was learning not to hate myself

Was the same summer they told me I had to

The summer I heard of those who had died

Those who were killed

And those who were lucky

Like me.

Perhaps it might not seem that way

To those I loved

Or those who claim to love me

But I was alive

I kissed behind closet doors

Held hands while hiding

But I was learning.

I was in college when I befriended fear

Merely 10 miles from where I had slept

A man was beaten for being like me

Beaten with a bat and people watched

People like you perhaps

I was 19 years old when I realized that I could be next

That it could be my head

Beaten and bloodied

It was the same year of the neonazi rally near my hometown

The white supremacy parade

From where I grew up

From where I learned hate

From where I left handprints in the soil

And realized who I’d become

Who I could have become

If I wasn’t gay.

This is a poem for those who weren’t gay

Those who watched the television

Or stood by the parades

Or did nothing at all

Because what if it was you?

What if you were the one catching baseball bats or bullets?

And what if no one was there to save you?

What an interesting time that would have been.

 

This poem is about: 
Me
My community
My country

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