After Pulse


His father said:  he saw two men kissing

in the street, and it made him angry.


I was eighteen the first time I

spent the night with another girl,

walked back to campus with her

the next morning, wanting to hold

her hand, afraid to.


This is what I was afraid of:

that my parents would somehow hear,

that they would stop speaking to me

would cut me off.  That my sisters,

friends, would turn away, repulsed

by thoughts of what two girls might do.


There were incidents on campus.

Gay-bashing, injuries. We wore pink

triangles in solidarity, passed them out

on campus, asked our straight professors –

please.  Stand with us.  Many did.


Matthew Shepard, a student, was tortured

and murdered a few years later, in 1998.


I didn’t think anything would happen

to me.  I reached out and took her hand

or maybe she reached out to me.  Kissed

her goodbye, knowing already that it

was over, not regretting anything.


Later, my friends and I went to the gay

nightclubs and danced, the straight girls

glad to be able to dance as freely and

sexually as they wanted, without fear

of harassment.  I danced on a table, hoping

the gay boys knew, somehow,

that I was one of them.


Twenty years ago; now I’m a wife and mother –

husband, two kids, a dog, and a house

in the suburbs.  Still bi, and poly too, but

living as safe a life as one might wish for,

as parents might hope for their children.


The death toll rises, now up to fifty dead,

the worst mass shooting in American history

the worst mass murder of gay people in America

since 1973, Upstairs Lounge, thirty-two burned.


I took her hand, and later, madly in love, I kissed

my girlfriend in the street, knowing always

that it might make someone passing by

angry.  In love and defiant, knowing enough to worry.


I didn’t know we’d have to worry about this.


– Mary Anne Mohanraj