Making a list and checking it twice

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
– Psalm 22

Listing reasons to die, lounging upstairs
after church, beer in hand, should not appear
unless one lives in a world of nightmares
as it was one night for thirty two queer

men in muggy New Orleans in nineteen
seventy three. Fire bomb at the front door
of the Upstairs Lounge traps them all between
locked exits and inferno. Macabre décor,

the good Reverend Bill Larson’s charred corpse
still hangs in the barred window hours later,
shrine to apathy that ten years on marks
queeny uncles and nelly sons greater

threats than plague. In a decade nothing much
changes. Purplish sores are the new scarlet
letter, pervert badges, warnings not to touch,
but best they die unseen, not to darken

family histories with depictions
of inconvenient love. Whether quick thrill
in wooded Meat Rack or the addictions
of life-long devotion, love can’t instill

compassion in the hearts of the righteous
blind to those who don’t fit the uniform
of propriety like poor young lifeless
Matthew, scarecrow on a fence left to warn

gay youth in ninety eight not to fly near
delicate masculine egos. Beaten
bloody and crucified: a cold draft beer,
game of pool, friendly smile and warm greeting

apparently all good reasons to die
in the Wyoming countryside. Today,
after little more than two years gone by
since forty nine more dancing queers at play,

seeking sanctuary to soar truly
in Orlando’s summer heat, were gunned down,
infestation of dump-rats newly
offending the self-righteous, bishops frown

and tally sins like good bookkeepers
checking twice that the meek faithful comply
while their insecure god, the Grim Reaper,
lounges upstairs, listing reasons to die.

©2019 Kenneth W. Arthur