How place names come to mean

How place names come to mean


Place names come to mean

events. New Orleans, Pompeii,
Atlantis, Alexandria,
—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.


Now death.


(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,
dear Orlando.




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