where i left off

where i left off

june 17, 2004


sakia silenced me…

a year after her death

and the poems

still don’t dance

as they did before

we sang and chanted

and gathered in her name

we marched because

she was all of us

that night

when she was

walking home

from the one place

where her love and desire were respected

she walking home

with friends

she was almost home…

and we marched

in the rain

then sang and read poetry

in the sunset

in the one place

where our hurt and fear and rage

would be respected

the pier…

i can still see

all those young faces

holding each other

as i spoke words

of freedom and justice

i dreamt out loud for them

i dreamt of a time

when grown men

would not stab little girls

for rejecting their manhood

and i still dream

but part of me

went down

with the sun that day

words scattered like ashes

and the poems

no longer dance

like they did before


i think of sakia

in the winter

when my client says

her father beats her

because she has a girlfriend

and he does not understand

so she runs away

stays with friends or nowhere at all

sometimes she stays

with her girlfriend’s mom

but her father knows to look there

so she just runs and runs and runs

to nowhere at all


in the spring,

another girl

who has a smile

just like my niece

explains to me the charm

she wears around her neck

it is a broken key,

piercing half a heart

she says that her wifey

wears the other half of the key

and holds the other half of her heart

she smiles (just like my niece)

at how corny this is

but they have been in love

she says, for two years

and it is real enough

to be corny over…


my client’s father

has her arrested

and brought to court

he tells me and the judge

and all who will listen

how he has struggled and fought

to make her a good girl

but she insists on “doing things”

that offend his house

he does not say

that he punctuates

words like dyke and bulldagger with his fists

or that has tried to force her to date

the sons of his friends

he wants her placed

in foster care

somewhere structured

where she will be forced to behave

and be exposed to positive influences

the judge and i and all who listen

think that is a good idea

because my client

does not want to go home

and who ever said no to positive influences

i enjoy

the look on his face

when the judge agrees

with my request

to have her placed

in a lesbian foster home

in Brooklyn


the poems

do not want to dance

or entertain

they do not want to be content

or satisfied with theoretical freedom

they do not want to be pretty

or well accepted

they do not want to slam

they want to riot

to mourn and lament

they want sakia and steen and teena

and matthew and my clients and me

they want newark and jamaica and street corners

and locker rooms and high school hallways

and pulpits and the vatican

and the white house and the military

they want cures

the poems do not want to be

tragically homosexual

or queer eyes for straight guys

the poems want to love and fight

and break up and love some more

and vote and cry and dream

and come home at night

they want to gather names

and remember

always remember

the poems

will not dance for me

like they did before we marched

in the rain

for a 15 year old girl

and chanted her memory

to the sunset

but they are no longer lost

like ashes scattered to the wind

they come like summer storms

violent and awesome

essential and natural

inspiring stillness and prayer and change…

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