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The 8th of May: A Vow Made for the 7th of May

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, courtrooms, 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 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 plea for help from the other side, only to be robbed
then stabbed to death with his own kitchen knife
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 the Carolina oak who might just remember
the night we kissed in the first bands of rain
from a hurricane just making landfall.

Daniel Nathan Terry, a former landscaper and horticulturist, is the author of Capturing the Dead (NFSPS 2008), which won The Stevens Prize, and a chapbook, Days of Dark Miracles (Seven Kitchens Press 2011). His second full-length book, Waxwings, is forthcoming from Lethe Press in July of 2012. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in journals and anthologies including New South, Poet Lore, Chautauqua, and Collective Brightness. He teaches English at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and Cape Fear Community college, and he serves on the advisory board of One Pause Poetry.

Note: This poem will also appear in the October issue of r.kv.r.y.

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Christopher Phelps studied physics and philosophy before he re-quested into words. His poems appear or are forthcoming in periodicals including Artifice, Field, Interrobang?!, The Kenyon Review, The New Republic, Washington Square, and in the anthology Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality. He lives in Venice, Florida.

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  • Izzyzgumbo May 4, 2012, 10:18 am

    absolutely beautiful, heartfelt writing… a delight to encounter. 

  • Alex Grant May 4, 2012, 10:31 pm

    Beautiful poem.

  • Joseph Ross May 5, 2012, 8:40 am

    Wonderful. Thank you, Daniel.

  • Ben M R 1988 May 8, 2012, 6:07 pm

    I love this poem.  Thanks for writing it


  • 'Nene' May 9, 2012, 10:48 am

     Love trees and their wisdom. I’ve written much under them, observing and appreciating their personal nostalgia, becoming ‘one’ with them. You have captured this well. Gracias

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