I offer one of my poems in their memory and also in memory of all of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people who died as well of disease and violence.  This poem, which is included in my book “Pink Zinnia,” was written in response to the hanging execution of two adolescents in Iran for homosexuality and to the ongoing genocide being practiced by religious extremists in Iraq.

The writers I reference are the great lesbian poet of antiquity Sappho, the Sufi poet of the 14th century Rumi, Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, the lesbian African American poet Audre Lorde and the great Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Michelangelo is the Renaissance sculptor and painter. Bessie Smith was an early blues singer. All are believed to be queer.

 

You Cannot Kill Me

 

I am not only I

but a multiplicity of souls

I have always been here

i will always be back

I was your uncle, your 5th grade teracher, your cousin

I will be your grandson, your niece, the boy next door

you can erase my words

and a new Sappho, Eumi, Whitman, Stein, Lorde, Lorca

will emerge and write what I wrote

even more beautifully

you can shatter my statues

and a new Michelangelo

with a sharper chisel and a stronger arm

will make grander statues

you can silence my singing

and a new Bessie Smith

will sound a bluer note

I have always been here

indivisible, essential

to the human spirit

firebird I am

feathered serpent

in every opposition

I am the tender collapse

that always happens

before a song

rises up

to heaven

you see

I cannot die

you cannot

kill me

 

Franklin Abbott

c 2009

 

Editor’s note: Abbott also read the poem on Friday at the keynote event for the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival. The video also includes AQLF keynote speakers. You can view it here.

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