How place names come to mean
Place names come to mean
events. New Orleans, Pompeii,
—come to mean
elements. Water, fire.
Stone, as fire.
New Orleans used to mean Mardi Gras
or a style of music.
Bay of Pigs was a place people lived
and still live.
Normandy, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima.
To many, Orlando used to mean a week a year
of cartooned humans in sweaty costumes.
But to me it meant—Oh Orlando!
androgyne of my heart, oh tour de force through language’s lips,
shape shifter through history’s pageant, you
“China robe of ambiguous gender
among [my] books,”
you were potentiality incarnate, and incarnate again.
(Where on my body
shall I engrave the stone:
“the tsunami reached here
do not build below this point”?)
Stonewall meant a place to stop.
To stop the hiding hatred demanded,
and the hatred hiding commanded.
Orlando, once I read you as Sappho’s daughter
and now you mean hatred’s slaughter.
Let’s take back from that gruesome night
the freedom you meant,