This afternoon I got an email from writer Roy Guzmán about a poem he published in Public Pool about the Orlando Massacre. I emailed Roy to ask him if could republish this poem and he said yes, as long as we linked back to Public Pool. Here is Roy’s poem:


Seconds before the shooter sprays bullets on my brothers & sisters’
bodies / the DJ stops the record from spinning / & I am interested

in that brief dazzle of pink light / how it spreads on iron-pressed
shirts until they turn purple / how a gun is a heart that has forgotten

to sing. The rapture in a stranger’s eyes / a candid take on resurrection.
You visit Orlando to fantasize about the childhood you didn’t have /

even though I grew up in Florida the trip was a luxury because I grew
up poor & when I finally could afford it I took my parents to Universal

Studios / this is the first time I ever saw my mother get on a rollercoaster
because she’s always been ashamed of her weight & we ended up

buying a timeshare by mistake / not really by mistake / but by my illusion
that my parents worked themselves sick in the U.S. so they needed

vacations / & the debt collectors still call us after all these years to remind
us of the Great Recession where my mother lost her job & my father

had to go into early retirement. Our mothers gave us names
so we would know what goes at the head of a tombstone / bare précis /

& our duty is to feel the isolation that any alignment of letters can trigger
when they’re carved out of grief / since most of us were born or bloomed

out of sorrow like swans always bent on pond water or unpaid bills /
as though we are fishing for clues about our graves / or where we’ll stop

to mislay our moisture on others’ necks. & just the night before I went
out for Drag Night at Lush with four other poets / one reason to escape

my schedule & relive my adolescence / I am afraid of attending places
that celebrate our bodies because that’s also where our bodies

have been cancelled / when you’re brown & gay you’re always dying
twice / I got to see thirteen performances by amateurs / a few special guests /

one queen who happened to make a stop in Minneapolis / she’s a national
sensation / & the MC sang a raspy but virtuosic version of “When You’re

Good to Mama” & the boys & girls & fems lined up with their dollar bills /
which the queens scarfed down with their perfect bosoms & their teeth

& I turned to Danez & said the whole performance reminded me
of receiving communion as a child / how for me a church is a roof

that’s always collapsing / though I might have been talking about
lovers paying their condolences / so often we forget that what kills us now

once believed in our survival / that a pistol & a rifle pulled apart
can be the shape of your arms as you pull a lover closer / that when his

teeth are black it means you picked the right bottle of Sauvignon /
that in our video games one can ride a bullet toward eternity.


My partner is asked to sing at the vigil in Loring Park. His choir
has commissioned an hour-long piece inspired by David Levithan’s

Two Boys Kissing / in which a pair of teenagers participate in a kissing
marathon to set a new Guinness World Record. A Greek chorus of souls /

who won’t be vanquished by the epidemic / find comfort narrating the tragic
but true events. How can I sing for an entire hour about that much grief

without breaking down during the performance? my partner asks me
as I scroll through the news. On the phone / my mother says the shooter’s

hatred sprung from watching two men kiss in Bayside Marketplace in
the heart of Miami / & I am imagining how my mother might never approve

of me pressing my lips against another man’s without that man being
my father or a mistranslation of him / because even our fathers have prayed

at least once for us to be gone / No eres mi hijo maricón. In Bayside
I held an old lover’s hand before I moved away to college / the moon upon

the water like a wound that wouldn’t heal / & he dumped me soon after /
said he couldn’t bear the pain of me parting / which when you’re older

you rank as necessary pain that trained you when to open up & shut
like a house with only hurricanes moving through it / or hasty promises.

Orlando like an orange / now green with mold / but still edible for some.
The evening of the shootings / after dinner with friends who grieve

by not dying / I come home to touch my partner’s sweltering body /
a humid June evening without AC in Minnesota / far from the carnage

but still close to feel it / & we produce baby noises / an uhn for witness /
an uhn for hope / as we give shape to the carefree child of vulnerability

that runs between us every evening / safe but somehow lost / until my lover
falls asleep & I stay awake out of need & continue to whisper their names

as they are added to the list / like faces from a river of baptism. I forgive
the earth for not turning its neck further / for not allowing those pink lights

to keep flashing / for the cackles to remain intact no matter how boisterous.
In those seconds when their skin has never beamed so bright / so self-

assured / the bartender is shaking a piña colada / goose bumps flower
on someone’s arms / the streets are humming from delight / a pair of lovers

walks in / another eagerly awaits the last call of the evening. It would seem
the record wants to keep spinning while we wipe their blood from the floor.

For them we learn to touch again. For them we walk home / & we are safe.

3 thoughts on “Restored Mural for Orlando: A Poem by Roy Guzmán

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