Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

Thoughts on not having thoughts: an almost-poem about Orlando and Pulse

This poem will stay unfinished. I started writing it Monday, June 13th as I tried to process my anger and sadness over the murders at Orlando's gay nightclub Pulse. A place meant as a safe space for people who are gay, or somewhere on the non-straight spectrum; meant as a safe space for people who are Latinx, in other words part of the queer Latino community; meant as a safe space for a lot of people with enormously different life experiences than mine. And I tried to acknowledge that I am not good at speaking towards that. Here's how far I got, with the tentative title "After the Pulse":

It's easy for me to say:
I've thought like this before.
It'd be easy for me to bray:
To be thoughtless, dense, a boar.
It's easy for me to not understand:
To not listen, or reach to connect
It's easy to have the easiest thoughts
When mine's not the life that's been wrecked.

The dozens of pops, the dozens of lives
That were silenced through violence's noise
The horror, the shock; the sadness arrives

After a few days of thinking and minor fiddling, I realized: what am I trying to say here? Would it add to the conversation? Would it ease the pain of anyone who's hit far closer to home by this attack than I was hit? Likely no and likely no. I ran the risk of making it All About Me, and I am very aware that's the wrong response. I'm straight, white, Christian-raised (and never rejected by any church, either); I'm not used to using the term "cis," which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as "Denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender," but it applies: I have the body of a man and feel I should have the body of a man. The most recently that my family members have immigrated to the United States was over a hundred years ago on my mom's side; the family on my dad's side was here in the States well before that.

Which is why I wrote it was easy for me to respond as I did, as just me reacting to horrible news, when that horrible news says to a lot of other people Too many others want you dead for how you are, for who you love, for how you express your you-ness and how you express that love. I know people who identify as queer, I know people who are transitioning or have transitioned their gender identity, I know people with Puerto Rican roots; I know so many of them are hurting a heart-deep hurt. I can't know the depths of that hurt. I can do my best to empathize, but: did I go to any of the vigils? No. Have I memorialized anyone? No.

Sometimes I stop something because I realize it won't add anything. I also realized: I am at least working harder to listen, to pick up specifics of why this pains so many. An acquaintance who has transitioned in the time I've known him made this point on Tuesday: "I'm reluctant to share the list of those murdered in Orlando only because it's being said that some of them were transgender, and I don't trust the media (or even the families, sadly) to use their preferred names." I hadn't thought of that until he pointed it out, but I should have; I try to be very careful and respectful of chosen names. It's a good habit. (It became my habit in college when a South Korean dorm mate told me I was the only person he knew on campus who consistently said his name right.) His name is different now, closer to his true self; some of those killed in Orlando may not have their preferred names being used anymore. Maybe. And that's another form of death: an erasing form of death.

How would a poem by this guy over here help the people over there? Me paying attention to the people most hurt by this is what could help. Maybe. I hope. I can always be a better listener. I can always be more empathetic. I can always help more.
Tags: poetical, politics

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