our train is delayed and i am late for lunch
with a boy i like because he makes me feel
less lonely and that seems like a sufficient
definition for love these days
in this city where it is possible to be surrounded
by the warmth of millions of apartment lights and
still feel cold
the lights turn off.
and it’s one of those moments
when we are forced to look up from our screens
and remember that we exist outside of them
they tell us that someone jumped in front of the tracks
that he died upon impact
so we just sit there in silence
as they remove his remains.
and some part of us
is happy because this,
this is the first time we have
felt like part of something greater than ourselves in a while
in this city where sometimes it takes
an accident to remember what the purpose of a
body is to begin with.
when the train starts up again
the woman next to me starts complaining
and asking why he didn’t do it at home
how he could have saved us the trouble and time
by taking a bottle of pills before leaving the house
how selfish it is to delay others with your death
and i want to hug her
say: “remind me the purpose of this arm”
want to love her
say: “remind me the purpose of this heart”
but you see this is america
where people scatter on streets like discarded leaves –
only touching accidentally as we
land on these cities we grew up circling on maps
saying “remind me happiness”
and somehow convinced ourselves they did
the same way we believed in the borders between
countries so well that we built a wall around
them: called it ‘mine’
this is america
where pain is a ritual we are required to conduct in private:
an elaborate symphony on mute
call it “he died in his sleep peacefully”
(as if the stroke did not tear him to pieces)
call it “he lived to be eighty six years old”
(as if he didn’t hate himself for at least thirty of them)
call it “accident”
not no healthcare
call it “casualty”
death is a distraction.
it is thirty of us sitting together underground on a subway train
unable to hold each other and weep so instead
we sit in silence and wait until we can move again
back above ground
into the light
and forget how much death must be in the soil
to grow such
i want to text the boy above ground waiting for me, ask:
"have you ever been to a funeral with complete strangers?"
but instead i look at the woman next to me, the one
who told a dead man to die more considerately and
i remember that to live in america is to attend
a funeral with complete strangers:
how many ghosts does it take for a cemetery to call itself a country?
to live in america is to blame the
dead for their own death, not
the country for creating the very
conditions that already killed them
before they caught up and
made things more clear
which is why when i tell the
liberal who wears words like ‘diplomacy’
and ‘democrat’ that i will not pay his taxes
because i do not want my coins to cause carnage
and he calls me a terrorist
which is why when i tell him
that i do believe in monsters who come
out at night, call them ‘men’ for short
and he tells me that i only dress femme because i want to be bashed
which is why when i tell him
that the very women who started our movement
are still being murdered in the same cities where
men are getting married and calling it momentous
and he gasps: “that happens here? in america!”
the ways we have been taught
to apologize for our sadness.
to blame ourselves for the hurt.
to erase the violence.
to numb the pain.
to normalize the death.
to wake up in the morning and
deny that sometimes when the
train crawls into the station that
we may see a pill in its place.
that we may wonder what it
would mean to have people
empathize with our suffering
for once in our goddamn life
what it would feel like
to hold the captive attention
of a funeral of strangers
so i want to embrace to this woman on the train
and say: “i am afraid too”
say: “remind me trust”
say: sometimes this silence feels like the highest pitch of screaming.
say: i understand. say: these past thirty minutes were the first time i have
been forced to publicly grieve death in a long time
and there is something
beautiful about that
say: what if we stopped moving more often,
took a second to
absorb the pain,
let it fill us a little less empty.
but instead i will sit here and wait until the train starts up again.
i will exit the car without saying goodbye to her.
i will walk up the stairs to the boy outside with the smile that makes me feel less lonely.
i will apologize for being late.
i will not have the words for a type of loss that is so distant it is intimate.
after lunch later i will get back on the train.
i will remember.
i will soon forget.
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this is an original poem by alok of returnthegayze.com . please consider supporting the artist