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After Orlando, 1,439 Years Of Life Still Echo

We can never let them go silent.

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When I was seventeen I held my girlfriends hand the way my grandmother holds her rosary beads- so close. Moments later, three men walked by screaming “faggots" so loud you could hear my shame echo off the hot summer tar. She punched six holes in the wall that night.

I stayed soft, numb. Quick retraction like a child who puts his hand on a stove or gets his mouth washed with soap. My mouth has tasted bitter ever since.

I think heaven is coming down in Orlando. It falls like sweet southern rain and sits on my skin. Candles shed light on dark crime scenes. Everything is quiet. Forty-nine people have died. Some of them look just like me. Each of them love just like me.

After my back became a cutting board for homophobia, my girlfriend’s hand turned sharper. My breath laid still in my chest- a graveyard of what I couldn't say. I closed my lips like a bible.

Held her hand tighter

Walked a bit closer

Watched a bit harder

Loved a bit softer-

so as not to be too heavy for the world’s broken knees.

When shots rained down on Sunday in Orlando, I felt my her hand again- this time around my neck, squeezing the words out.

My mouth became a dulled kitchen knife, afraid of chewing words that would condemn me. Afraid of holding hands that would condemn me. Not knowing that just living could condemn me.

Fear lives in the soles of my shoes. I walk off of high places, wishing to feel the crush of my bones. Wanting to see if I could still hold my heavy shame on top of a broken body- if the world could hold it’s heavy shame on top of a broken body.

I used to think words were a loaded gun until i realized I might actually face one.

The safety on the trigger has replaced actual safety. Warm bed and unpacked suitcase, safety. Don’t have to worry about being shot, safety. I worry my sexuality is sewn into my skin.

If you add the ages of each innocent person killed at the Pulse Night Club, you get 1,439 years. 1,439 years shot down with discrimination and fear-cased bullets.

1,439 years of words, of words, of words.

The tongue is the strongest muscle in the body. Built to break brick like bombs cannot. Cut skin like guns cannot. Words can’t be extinguished when the flame goes out- the oven in my throat still burns.

There are 1,439 years living under my tongue. My voice shakes, not from fear, but from gravity. The gravity of bullet wounds caused by words that couldn't heal quickly enough. I couldn't heal quickly enough.

My girlfriend told me to keep walking and not look fear in the eye. I think I have to look at it to know it was really there.

1,439 years of life were really there. They are still speaking to me.

They will never be silenced.

They live in the mouths of everyone who has ever kept quiet, ever made themselves soft, ever feared that their love was too heavy.

We all know how to hide behind who we are not. We hide each time we choose to be silent in the face of something so loud. Hate is something so loud.

We all know how to die and come back to life, we will always come back to life.

One day we will swell and not break. Bend and not buckle. One day the world will hold us up without making us feel small. One day we will sing songs with hope as the chorus.

1,439 years of life still echo the walls of my mouth, begging me to speak. When I scream they enter the world again. I will never stop screaming. We will never stop screaming.

Leah Juliett is a poet, LGBTQ rights activist, musical theatre performer, and intersectional feminist. She puts pen to paper discussing politics, culture, mental health, the arts, and diversity & thrives on sarcasam and sololoquies.

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