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A Poem for Brandon Teena

when i was 5
i knew i wanted to grow up to be a madman
a wild eyed reflection of white crazy hair
where we all drive behind time jumping wheels requiring 1.21 gigawatts
to get us anywhere

but by the age of 10
i’d learned better
i knew i was supposed to be a gangster
a Goodfella
a Joe Pesci hard ass case of,
“how am i funny?”

and it’s funny
the things we’re trained to think are possible
even glamorous
movies telling us stories
fabricating actual events because we’re trained to think they’re boring
but here’s something true
the movie never told you

it was December 31st, 1993
winter colored and freezing
when my 12 year-old queer Nebraska eyes
were reading horror stories of Brandon Teena

and i swear
i could hear his last tears
hovering in the fog of my breath
see his screams pleading for mercy
behind the screens of closet doors
90% of ignorance slams shut

and i would stare at the sky
and wonder
what it’s like to cry
beneath the brutal body of a madman
a man
who doesn’t understand the hand that feeds him,
“God doesn’t live here”
are the words i would etch on his grave
while replaying the pain of Brandon’s ghost

how his bones
were left broken and shivering
in 90 degrees opposite humanity
how his cheeks
were beaten fresh meat for the wolves
wearing the evil of sheep’s clothing

and i swear
knowing what people are made of
doesn’t always make us wiser
it turns some into killers
others into prey
while the rest of us
only know how to hit “play”
and hold our breath until the next commercial break

wasn’t just a boy who cried
he was a boy who cried wolf
but never lied about the hunt

and they say
some predators like to play with their prey before they pounce
but an ounce of human blood weighs 1/16th of a pound
and Brandon’s death
was the cost of men in pints
that night
the world shut down
sacrificed its mother’s skin
because she didn’t want to be responsible for holding this
she turned eyelids into curtains
uncertain of the outcome
but she did it anyway
for all the world to pull the rope open
hoping they’d see
that predators don’t belong here
gangsters are only funny in movies
proving evil isn’t always made of fiction
sometimes it’s born from men

and i swear
there are still days
i can feel the weight of Brandon’s death around my neck
his burning body bag ashes
wrapping my clavicle in apologies
for those last few breaths he wept from not knowing
that death would be a release from this hell

and his fear
has turned tears into the water source of wells
the same wells we all make wishes on
turning pennies into possible
and pray
that we never meet a predator

but Brandon
died crying
and there’s nothing funny about his last breath
beneath the brutal body of a madman

and i’m glad
that i learned better
because maybe this means
others will, too
and nobody else will ever again ignore
a boy who cries,

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