it’s been 14 years
I miss you
By Jameson Fitzpatrick
Last night, I went to a gay bar
with a man I love a little.
After dinner, we had a drink.
We sat in the far-back of the big backyard
and he asked, What will we do when this place closes?
I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon, I said,
though the crowd was slow for a Saturday,
and he said—Yes, but one day. Where will we go?
He walked me the half-block home
and kissed me goodnight on my stoop—
properly: not too quick, close enough
our stomachs pressed together
in a second sort of kiss.
I live next to a bar that’s not a gay bar
—we just call those bars, I guess—
and because it is popular
and because I live on a busy street,
there are always people who aren’t queer people
on the sidewalk on weekend nights.
Just people, I guess.
They were there last night.
As I kissed this man I was aware of them watching
and of myself wondering whether or not they were just.
But I didn’t let myself feel scared, I kissed him
exactly as I wanted to, as I would have without an audience,
because I decided many years ago to refuse this fear—
an act of resistance. I left
the idea of hate out on the stoop and went inside,
to sleep, early and drunk and happy.
While I slept, a man went to a gay club
with two guns and killed forty-nine people.
Today in an interview, his father said he had been disturbed
recently by the sight of two men kissing.
What a strange power to be cursed with:
for the proof of men’s desire to move men to violence.
What’s a single kiss? I’ve had kisses
no one has ever known about, so many
kisses without consequence—
but there is a place you can’t outrun,
whoever you are.
There will be a time when.
It might be a bullet, suddenly.
The sound of it. Many.
One man, two guns, fifty dead—
Two men kissing. Last night
I can’t get away from, imagining it, them,
the people there to dance and laugh and drink,
who didn’t believe they’d die, who couldn’t have.
How else can you have a good time?
How else can you live?
There must have been two men kissing
for the first time last night, and for the last,
and two women, too, and two people who were neither.
Brown people, which cannot be a coincidence in this country
which is a racist country, which is gun country.
Today I’m thinking of the Bernie Boston photograph
Flower Power, of the Vietnam protestor placing carnations
in the rifles of the National Guard,
and wishing for a gesture as queer and simple.
The protester in the photo was gay, you know,
he went by Hibiscus and died of AIDS,
which I am also thinking about today because
(the government’s response to) AIDS was a hate crime.
Now we have a president who names us,
the big and imperfectly lettered us, and here we are
getting kissed on stoops, getting married some of us,
some of us getting killed.
We must love one another whether or not we die.
Love can’t block a bullet
but neither can it be shot down,
and love is, for the most part, what makes us—
in Orlando and in Brooklyn and in Kabul.
We will be everywhere, always;
there’s nowhere else for us, or you, to go.
Anywhere you run in this world, love will be there to greet you.
Around any corner, there might be two men.
5 years ago today, many people were killed or wounded in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida. It was one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
Jameson Fitzpatrick, “A Poem for Pulse” from Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence. Copyright © 2017 by Jameson Fitzpatrick.
2021 Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation 61 W. Superior Street Chicago, IL 60654 USA
(otherwise known as ‘On Loki and Odin: A Personal Perspective’)
I’ve come to realize that Odin and Loki are much more alike than they are different.
…and yet if you are in any way familiar with my journey, you may recall that I spent at least four years of the last eight of my devotional practice
Perhaps my reaction was borne of listening to hype/gossip of others – including some Odinspeople themselves – who painted Odin as a stern taskmaster, a grumpy Old Man, a mystical instructor who is impossible to please much less work with…and yes, I believed all those things about Odin.
(Perhaps, in that regard, I was rejecting many aspects of the Work with a capital W.)
But I soon realized that I rejected Odin with the same hypocrisy that some Asatruar reject Loki:
He is untrustworthy.
He is impossible.
He is a monster who is out for the ruin/destruction of the order of my life.
He exists to cause (me) pain.
And thus, I did not call upon Him…. ever.
But He showed up anyway.
Much like Loki, Odin didn’t seem to take to being banished or ignored.
(Perhaps it may have energized Him even more to haunt me….who knows?)
Sometimes I have wondered if He fed upon my rage and anger.
It definitely seemed as if He enjoyed my stubborn reluctance to engage Him.
One particular Odins-man remarked to me that
perhaps the reason why Odin seemed so relentless
was due to His nature as the consummate Huntsman:
How could I expect that He would not hunger for the thrill of the chase?
You see, I dreamt of Odin consistently beginning in 2011 or so.
He was at the center of many a nightmare I’d had of being pursued through the darkness.
Whether I had dreamt of the unease of walking home alone, only to be followed by a shadowy stranger
to the feeling that I was being actively hunted as frightened prey,
I dreamt of this…terrifying being.
During one particularly repetitive nightmare, I dreamt that I was a child again, playing hide and seek in the New England woods outside my childhood home.
Though in this situation, there was this sly aggressive adult stranger who was ‘It’, and somehow he could always convince the others in the dream to help him find me.
And what always followed was a pulse-pounding chase – with the help of my own childhood companions! – and whenever he would come upon my hiding-place, he would make it abundantly clear that he sought to kill me.
He would then order me to run for my life, and so I would run…. night after night.
At one point, I realized I must have had this dream nearly a dozen times.
Though one night, I did something different:
As usual, I was in the midst of the usual terrifying nightmare spent running in terror…and I felt exhausted.
Tired of running. Tired of hiding. Tired of trying to outwit and outmaneuver him throughout various terrifying situations.
I felt resigned to my death.
I begged him to finish me quickly.
Just get it over with, I’d muttered.
However, in response, he spat on me, before he strode away.
And thankfully soon after, those nightmares stopped.
Though something strange happened next.
A Being whom I’d wanted to assume was Loki began to appear in my dreams with many different faces and guises.
I dreamt of a clever Doctor.
Twice, I dreamt of a ferryman.
An unfamiliar but graciously attentive bridegroom.
A laughing farmer who labored in the fields,
who would not enter my house unless I intentionally invited him inside.
A young blond man with eyes that appeared to be made of glass
who wanted to talk to me about runes!
Perhaps I had been foolish
enough to have convinced myself that
if this or that face was not Loki’s
then the face of that stranger had to have belonged to Freyr,
or even Baldur.
Who was that laughing blond gentlemen with the courtly demeanor, with those strange blurry eyes, and a voice like honeyed silk?
I never dared assume that that Being could be Odin.
And what’s more, whenever Loki would come to me in dreams and meditative visions
to ask me if I could bring myself to engage with Odin – I would immediately and emphatically refuse.
Perhaps you already have, He’d chuckle, even though the concept of engaging with Odin horrified me.
I was certain that if I had engaged with Odin, I would have known it.
(After all, I was confident that all those years of nightmares had taught me that Odin’s presence had always been signified by that familiar onrush of fear and the rise of nausea in my body.)
Until I started to wonder…..
And six years later, here we are.
On June 11th, 2016, my husband and I went to see Frank Turner at the Beacham, a very small local club in Downtown Orlando:
As I recall, we had stopped for dinner before the show, and thus, we had parked a good walk from the Beacham itself.
But it was a nice night, not too humid, good for walking, so we did not mind.
And as we were walking down the sidewalk, we happened to pass by another local nightclub.
I remember looking at the nondescript black and white sign with its simple logo – a large letter P – and I remember that my husband and I joked that here was another tiny nightclub whose sign looked larger than its building.
We wondered if that night club was as small a club as the Beacham was, and then we kept walking toward the Beacham, which my phone’s GPS had calculated was about 1.7 miles from there.
As you can see above, The Beacham’s lineup that night featured Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, followed by Gogol Bordello. (There was also an opening act at 6 pm, that isn’t listed there: Walter Screifels – I thought his set was surprisingly mellow and acoustic for a musician listed as being a ‘hardcore alternative/punk musician’)
Though we arrived in time to see Walter Screifels’ set, and definitely enjoyed Frank Turner’s performance, Frank and his band had done the last encore by 8:50 PM*
(*i.e; by punk standards, that was still rather early on a Saturday night!)
I remember being unsure if we were going to stay to see Gogol Bordello, who were slated to be onstage by 9:00PM.
But my husband had had a tough work-week of long hours and a very long day already, as a late Friday night server meltdown had bled into his working earlier into that afternoon.
So when we walked out into the tiny lobby to see that even more people had arrived, cramming themselves into an already overcrowded front room, my husband sighed
….and we decided right then, that we weren’t going to stay to see Gogol Bordello.
So we went home and went to bed.
And when I woke up on the morning of June 12th, the first news I heard was that there’d been a shooting at a local Orlando nightclub…
And 50 people were injured, perhaps dead….
That same little nightclub that we’d joked had a sign bigger than its building – at 1912 South Orange Ave:
And the first thing I thought was – if we had stayed to see Gogol Bordello…
We would have walked right past there, on the way to our car…
Likely either during… or just after the shooting.
And that is why my cell was blown up with calls.
People wondered if we were all right. People were worried.
We were heartbroken that morning two years ago.
And still breaks my heart even now, to think of that morning.
But a friend of mine – Brandon – wrote this morning:
“But even as I did begin to rise and start my day, I remind myself that although we are another year separated from that morning, those of us that can remember that morning only do so because we have been given the gift of another morning ourselves. We remember the lives that were cut short, and live our lives to honor those that were ended too soon. We heal, but we keep the scars as reminders of what happened. The world may dwell in hate, but love will always win. Let your actions be guided by love and wear your scars proudly for the world to see.
You are here at the start of a moment.
It is my sincere hope, my prayer, that in our lifetimes there will be a generation that does not know hate, only love. And it will be our responsibility to show them why that love is so important and to never take it for granted. Never take love for granted.”
And then this past Sunday, I had the wonderful opportunity to see Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls perform again:
Like Brandon, and like Frank…
I hope that we could all learn to be a little more kind.