Can it be that

Which sets us free
is what we fear most?

We demand the right to do
as we please, no matter if
it pleases no one else.

To ridicule deformed bodies;
invent our own reality
when facts are inconvenient;
tell the world
to fuck off if it dare claim
we should be concerned
with anything
but our own skin,
our own pocketbook.

And we think that is freedom.

It doesn’t matter if
anyone else can do
as they please.
In fact, we won’t allow that.

Women’s bodies
must be controlled.
Who shares a man’s bedroom
must be regulated –
never another man.

And we cannot let a body
with / without a penis
call herself / himself
a woman / man.
We will tell them who they are.

And we think that is freedom.

But the joke is on us.
We know who we are
and the shame of it
prevents us from picking
at the knots of fear
pulled tight around our hearts.

We fear that the mantis
will bite off our head
if we become too intimate;
befriend the woman
who slips into the last pew
after first hymn
and disappears before final amen;
if we ask the refugee
to live on our street;
invite the lesbian couple
who moved next door
to Saturday night dinner.

Because that would set us free.

We fear who we might yet become
if we admit the truth of our fear;
if we composed a poem,
wrote the novel
we always dreamed of
but never started
because no one told us
we were good enough.

We fear who we might yet become
if we go in search of the diamond
hidden deep underground,
discover the authentic
loving self that hides
behind the facade.

Because that would set us free.


Note: The first line of this poem (italicized above) is the final line of the poem “Touched by an Angel” by Maya Angelou.

©2023 Kenneth W. Arthur