Tornado Alley ¹
for everyone we’ve lost
Last night I dreamt about my teeth again
the borders of my body bruised
the bloodstains on the shoulders of all my shirts
and all my bedding.
with my finger slowly I scrawl your name
And if touch were bearable…or memory…or the voice of…
I stayed down when they pushed
me down I stayed on the bottom
The old couple threw fried chicken at us
when we kissed A proclamation to the world.
My tongue tasted salt, iron, the same
taste as barbed wire used to bind
A boy or a girl is only a boy or a girl
until someone tells them otherwise.
Endorsing these lifestyles to the young
of tender ages confuses them and causes violence. ²
These were the longest years of our lives.
Carry a roll of quarters
Carry the rape flashlight, advertised to blind
your persecutor I stopped wearing anything but black
to die It would’ve been the 33rd
gay suicide that year I let all my tattoos burn
Thanks be to God, who is mighty in battle.
Did something happen to your arm?
Is that paint? Are you bleeding?
¹ The area of the US in which tornadoes frequently occur, because of the absence of mountains in the middle of the continent. Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri.
² From America Forever anti-gay PAC pamphlet
Valerie Wetlaufer is a birth doula, poet, Poetry Editor of Quarterly West, and a doctoral fellow at the University of Utah. She holds an MFA from Florida State University and an MAT from Bennington College. In 2010, she was a Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Writers Fellow. She has published two chapbooks, Scent of Shatter (Grey Book Press 2010), and Bad Wife Spankings (Gertrude Press 2011). For more info, visit valeriewetlaufer.com.