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
Reading rhis article was helpful for me today, as Mother’s Day has always been a day of mixed emotions for me.
In other news, I received the final piece in my commission to become a Florida notary public this past Thursday; my commission stamp finally arrived in the mail!
As you might imagine, I am excited to begin to work as a notary public, as it’s another great addition to my skill-set.
But while I was out with my kid at the grocery store yesterday (Friday), I experienced a strange coincidence.
This guy had walked up to us, asking for money. He claimed to be homeless, and he launched into a story about how he needed $17 for food, and $50 for – I kid you not – notary public fees.
He then admitted that he’d already gotten $4 of the amount that he needed by pulling the four one dollar bills from his wallet as if to show us proof of his honesty.
Now, since I have recently become a notary public – my commission is marked as beginning on 3rd February 2021 as a matter of fact! – I thought that $50 sounded like a huge amount for notary fees.
Because, according to the state of Florida, “a notary may charge up to $10 in notary fees for any notarial act… If you charge a higher fee than prescribed by law, the Governor may suspend your commission.”
So I was wondering what in the world this guy needed notarized that required *five* notarial acts to be performed to be considered legal.
I mean, barring the solemnization of a marriage, or signing for a mortgage on a house (which can require, on average, two stamped notarizations) I cannot fathom why he’d need $50 just for notary fees.
It definitely struck me as the oddest part of his story – his insistence on needing money for notary fees!
So, between us, my son and I gave him a grand total of $13, for which this man was grateful – but for some reason, it did not occur to me to offer him my newly minted notary services.
But it amuses me to think now that I could have!
What a weird little coincidence, I could have said to him, I just became a notary public as of last week…!