Friday, June 17, 2016

The Living Dead

This time, our heading refers not to the poet but those who inspired the poem:

Last Dance
By Leigh Spencer

Some of my best friends are queer

I don’t mean
“Look at me, I’m tolerant – here’s proof!”

I mean
when the death toll sinks in,
it’s not Orlando

It’s Tucson
it’s my backyard
my cellphone, a nuisance
ringing and ringing
in the dead pocket of someone I love

My fat white ass
dances in my kitchen now

But 20 years ago?
Oh, baby!

Prime fag hag
your wingwoman
making pancakes for you
and the boy(s) you brought home

Fending off
suggestions from luscious lips and
chestnut-shining hair
that maybe I also liked girls

We were fringe, it seemed
Out and Open
behind closed doors only


Now equality, it seems
makes for a nice target
Out and Open


But maybe that’s not it

Comfort your gay, brown heads


Some of my best friends
are nerds who like superhero movies

Some of my best friends
have mental health issues

Some of my best friends
are white, middle class children

And they all still ended up dead
with an average of eight bullet holes

Who are the infamous Other

We’re searching the wrong end
of the barrel

does anyone need firepower enough
to kill fifty people in a matter of minutes
to feel validated as an American?

does any compromise
automatically translate to
“They’re coming for our guns!”?

does each mass shooting
shoot down solution conversations
and lead to more nothing being done?

Human life becomes as valuable
as politician condolences

The same ones who didn’t care before
still don’t

Our “funny uncle” Sam
(the one you don’t leave alone with your kids)

Loves guns
Loves Jesus (with a hard “J")
Loves the Constitution and the Bill of Rights

more than the people they were written to protect


We once were
the melting pot

Our prize recipe -
religious freedom

Which ingredient is Other

Dance with me –
Spin faster!
Blur the lines between us
until we all matter

takes up the target

and the bullets’ familiar beat
becomes the music

I do like to give you a variety of poets to enjoy, and have treated you to Leigh twice already in 'I Wish I'd Written This' – but, no apologies. For me she just nails it in this one. I didn't want to wait another week before sharing it, and I do think these dead must be kept alive in our hearts and minds, highlighting the need for change.

I sometimes post things on facebook which are critical of some aspects of life in the USA – particularly that 'right to bear arms' thing which is very hard for Australians, with our very different history, to understand. I have sometimes been seen as US-bashing, ignoring the many good things about that country and culture. This isn't so, but I understand how it could seem that way, and could be upsetting to the sensitive. I think it's important that, in this instance it's an American poet articulating, in great pain, ideas with which I'm in sympathy. (And yes, I do know that many, many others feel the same way.)

Of course, easy access to horrendously powerful guns is only part of the problem. The attempt to eliminate hate is even more crucial, and the poem addresses that too. 

All hatred, all murders, are terrible. The 'gay hatred' which sparked this particular crime is of course not confined to the USA but is still widespread across the world, including my own country. Leigh's poem is not only passionate in its sorrow and outrage, it is also full of that love which we know must be the foundation for the changes we need.

Click on Leigh's name in the left-hand sidebar to find previous posts featuring her. Her book, Tequila and Cookies, is available from Amazon, in both paper and Kindle.

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright). 


  1. Leigh's poem expresses the range of emotions we all feel. Thank you Leigh.
    Rosemary your criticism of the US's obsession with guns is definitely valid. Many of us cannot understand this senseless passion. Thank you for posting this sensitive and sensible poem.

  2. Yes, she definitely nails it here!! Excellent and timely post, Rosemary. Powerfully penned, Leigh. Why does anyone need such a lot of fire powder indeed? Why does anyone need a semi-automatic? Why is nothing done after each one of these incidents? Why is the NRA so strong? When will this country learn! The ending two lines of this poem remind me of the fact that some of the people in the nightclub thought at first that the shots were PART of the music, that the sound of shots were the beat. I hope maybe this time Congress will decide to DO something to deal with the gun problem, but I have the feeling that my hope will be in vain.

    1. Mary, the NRA will only power, when people realize that the Republican Party and NRA are selling a culture of fear and lawlessness, to the American voters, regardless, what the stats are saying. Just like the "get tough on crime" mentality that saw California bankrupt itself, by building all of these expensive jails to hold people, with the 3 strikes and your out policy.

    2. Mary,

      Thank you so much for your very kind words. I also have hope beyond what is reasonable that SOMETHING will change. People will get outraged enough and recognize that we belong to each other and it is our own people who are being lost.

      Yes, when I read the preliminary article, that line about thinking the bullets were part of the music immediately brought me to tears. That atrociously sad fact inspired the end of the poem, written first, and the rest sort of wrote itself.

      Thank you again for reading!


  3. Oh, WOW! I am applauding. This is the best response to what has happened that I have read. Leigh, you are amazing, and right on target. Rosemary, my favourite feature of yours ever. At the very least, assault weapons should not be available to the public. They are weapons of war. If we could even get that much accomplished, it would be a start. Leigh, I love "Blur the lines between us until we all matter." You nailed it. Fantastic writing!

    1. Thank you so much, Sherry!

      I am so honored by your support and enthusiasm.

      Being featured by Rosemary again (A MILLION THANKS - your commentary is breath-taking. Still awed it's about something I wrote. THANK YOU, my friend and mentor.) and seeing your responses has me weeping all over again.

      There are so many rational, kind people among us. Why can't that seep to the lawmakers?

      MUCH love,

  4. those who are in support of carrying arms said guns don't kill people, it's people who kill people. maybe it's true, in a way, but if access to firearms is so easy, then it makes it so much easier to kill with guns.
    i come from a country with very strict gun control, even draconian, in most people's views. i may not agree with what all my government do, but this policy keeps our streets safe, our homes safe. there is hardly a crime committed with a firearm.
    hey Leigh, i really like your poem, it's honest and hard-hitting, it brings out a wave of numbness all over again, and i cannot forget the last 2 lines. are the firing of bullets the next new music for this crazed world?

  5. Gun culture breeds MONEY. So I don't think this will ever end in a country so obsessed with firearms. It's a business. I may sound pessimistic but it is the Truth. Amidst this chaos when a voice as strong as this is heard I feel hope still lingers. Thanks Rosemary for featuring Leigh's poem. Very timely.

  6. Political arguments tend to polarize people. In a world where darkness and light are in balance, hating the views of the other side only adds to the dark. Somewhere there is a wisdom that allows conversation rather than condemnation, even when there is no chance of consensus. Within such, honest respectful, conversation there is the possibility of understanding. It is unreasonable to expect a hug from the person on whom you continue to cast stones.

    1. I do not hate the views of the other side. Because, guess what? Some of my best friends are responsible gun owners. But I do hate the corruption, empty concern, senseless violence, and loss of life from irresponsible gun use and the culture that allows it to flourish.

      My heart breaks over and over every time there is a ridiculous loss of innocent life like this and the FIRST response of ANYONE is to say "Oh, now those liberals are going to get all flustered and try to use this to take our guns away." No. Most of us liberals are in devastated shock and mourning and clutching at straws for any kind of solution before the next shooting hits even closer to home. For what it's worth, I ALSO bristle at those liberals who immediately jump on the "I told you so" bandwagon, like sharks to chum, to use the newest casualties to further their own agendas.

      Saying that criminals will break laws and get guns anyway is like saying what's the point of having rules for anything if they're just going to get broken.

      I do not propose that there is ANY easy answer to this. But I don't even see a way for a meaningful conversation to happen. And the nothing that continues to be done is devastating. That can't be the answer. We're better than that.

      Baby steps - can't we just agree that civilians don't need access to military grade weapons that can shoot 50 people in 3 minutes? Can't we just agree that if you land on the no fly list as a suspected terrorist, you can't legally get a gun? How about if you have a history of domestic violence? How about more thorough background checks and waiting periods? If you drive drunk, you lose your license. Why is the right to bear arms precious above all else?

      I am not casting stones. And I am not an extremist. I understand gun culture is an American reality and I'm not ready to be Canadian just yet. I am passionately advocating for change.

      And also? I DO expect a hug, several, actually, at Thanksgiving. So there.

      I love you dad. Period.


    2. Once again, dear Leigh, you demonstrate both your passion for life and humanity, and your powerful command of language.

      As I say, it is difficult for Australians to understand, because of our different history, both past and recent. Many of my American friends have explained to me the historical background of 'the right to bear arms'. It is obviously very deep-seated. It still puzzles me that it dictates present policy, so long later. (Really, if your Government were to turn on you now, do you think your military rifles would be effective in maintaining your freedom?) It is not all guns we're talking about anyway. In my country, criminals tend to kill each other with guns, rather than innocent civilians, and they tend to use hand guns. It is the terrorists and insane mass murderers who choose the assault weapons and aim them at the general public.

      However, I posted this poem as an expression of the grief and horror we all feel at the shootings, and as a plea for love above all

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this collection of our own thoughts and feelings, sometimes difficult to articulate in speech.

  8. As a gay woman I am deeply offended that you chose to use the occasion of a terrorist attack against my community to go on a political rant against guns. If you don't like guns, don't buy one. But in a world full of violent people with bombs, knives, garrotes and, yes, guns, I want the right to defend myself.
    But on the good side, this rant of yours saves me the trouble of participating in Poetry Pantry as I had planned. I think I shall spend the time writing about vulnerable LGBT people and their guns.

    1. It is not about guns in general, so much as how freely available certain kinds of guns are. Does anyone need to mow down dozens at a time in self-defence? I sincerely hope not. We all wish the Orlando victims, and the so many others, could have been defended instead of killed. Poets United does not promulgate any particular political stance. But this staff member does like to respond to current issues when that seems warranted. I post what I'm moved by, and always make clear my personal take on it, as a personal take.

      Secondly, we do love it when poets join us, but we are not evangelising here. If you dislike what we're up to and choose not to participate further, that is your right and privilege.


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