The 8th of May: A Vow
Upon seeing a video of a man in North Carolina firing his rifle
into a sign asking citizens to Vote Against NC Amendment One.
There are oaks that remember
what we would forget--the burn of the rope,
how a body takes on more weight
the moment it breathes its last, how
the earth below shoeless feet grows
hungry for the slaughtered. There are rooms
where paint has been rolled over
blood, where the body's salt has been
vacuumed into bags of dust, where the veneer
of a nightstand still bears the imprint
of a living hand's last message. Ghosts
of children and men and women hang
from fences, linger in the corners
of dorm rooms, of courtrooms, of churches.
This is how we deal with it around here, he said,
after emptying his gun into a plea for equality, and some people
were shocked by his quivering pride. I will try
not to think of him when I stand in a room
in DC and vow to continue to love the man
I have loved for 16 years. I will try not to remember
that 17 years ago, a friend of mine opened his door
to a cry for help from the other side, only to be robbed
then stabbed to death with his own kitchen knives
because the thief felt threatened that my friend--
while begging for his life--revealed that he was gay.
I will even try not to think of my grandfather
who cannot forgive me for loving the man
who held me steady as I purchased the dress my grandmother
was to be buried in. I will try not to think of the memory
of these oaks, of those fences, of some rooms. I will say I will
and mean carry on loving you until death. I will
think of the dorm room where we first made love,
I will think of the fence around our house
and its roses that change color in the heat. I will
think of Carolina oak who might remember
the night we kissed in the first bands of rain
from a hurricane just making landfall.
-Daniel Nathan Terry
Used by permission.
Daniel Nathan Terry, a former landscaper and horticulturist, is the author of three books of poetry: Waxwings (2012); Capturing the Dead, which won The 2007 Stevens Prize; and a chapbook, Days of Dark Miracles (2011). His poems and short stories have appeared, or are forthcoming, in numerous publications, including Cimarron Review, The Greensboro Review, New South, Poet Lore, and Southeast Review. He serves on the advisory board of One Pause Poetry and lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with his husband, painter and printmaker, Benjamin Billingsley.
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