US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera on a year of gun violence

The Takeaway
For Orlando, a service and a memory

A hand is raised in worship at the Metropolitan Community Church one week after the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando, Florida, June 19, 2016. 

Carlo Allegri/Reuters

As the nation mourns the massacre in Orlando, Florida, America is taking a moment to remember another tragedy: One year ago today, nine people were murdered in a mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. 

Grief is something that Juan Felipe Herrera knows well. He was named United States Poet Laureate last June— the first Latino to hold the position — and he's been credited with capturing the consciousness of America with his writings on immigrants and gun violence.

A year after the shooting at Emanuel AME and on the heels of the Orlando massacre, Herrera explores tragedy, grief, and how as poet laureate, he uses language to help gain understanding of these moments in American history.  

Herrera writes that this poem is "for all our 49 LGBTQ brothers and sisters massacred at the Pulse Dance Club, Orlando, Florida, RIP, and their families and all the 53 injured and their families, for all seeking the end of homophobia and mad gun machines— for Orlando, Florida. 6-2016." Listen to Herrera read his poem, "i Will Lov U 4Ever, Orlando," below. 

i Will Lov U 4Ever, Orlando. 

“Please come get us.”  Someone said — from below

“Bullets as big as this…”

talking about that angular jeweled thing tearing through

the soft-petaled arm as if in search     of more death.

 

Another voice:

 

            from above —  “It is heroic to save others lives.”

(O yes it is - if you can love)

through the dark

 

            in the mist in the blood through the glass jagged & split.

Another voice (from above): “It could have lasted  a whole song.”

 

Listen:  Lissen —                                  

49 are — no longer

they have multiplied into our voices         your voices

if you let them burn & unfold inside of     U   — they make us

 

speak somehow  ( i

was going about my poetry business — just returned

from giving a keynote at OSU

the next morning - 49 gone 53 hit).

                                                                        The morning itself has lost

something mornings wear

the fanciness of clouds the romantic clock by the curtains.

 

                                                Listen again:

1000 voices in ricochet & another 1000 calling

 the trauma unit —  OR # 1

 

                                                OR # 2

                                                OR # 3  & OR again & again.

 

 

Surgeons flow their hands across soapy bodies nurses nurses —

“Am I going to live”  — one asks

            “Am I going to live”

                        “Here comes another patient”

                                    “Here comes

                                                 another            patient” — 

 

Text Twitter

            video news statement text twitter last video                    

                        last very last tex    t —

 

Night at the Pulse Orlando at the Pulse U @ the Pulse

 

             Holes in the walls

            Gun pointing down the stalls

            Holes in the walls

            Gun pointing down the stalls  —

 

            “I was prepared,” says Angel Colón  — (up above)

            about his friend in red floating toward the roof

 

                                                2 in the morning

                                                            2:15 in the morning

            LGBTQ

                                                            LGBTQ & U

LGBTQ & U     the names the names & the sirens

“My son is missing,” after he count  — says his mother from above

                                                                                    to CNN

 

(i thought we had taken care of the issues - U & me -

straight - gay - LGBTQ

freedom - equality -                              w/o violence

Stonewall Gay Pride Parade — of course

it was not enough   what is enuf what is              missing

is it freedom what kind of freedom)

                                                                        Just U

& the shredded wind that crashes in from the ocean & 

scarring tender heat from nowhere

the sleeveless that belonged to her …

                                                                        no longer there

just this ache

            in everything (even though i am writing   you are reading

it is impossible to read now   or to lissen)

just this ache everywhere &

                        this hate             at each end of the shores

this body wrapped in white                   

tied at the feet

            knotted at the breast

                        then a knife-black

blanket

then an ambulance any color                 then gone

 

                                                               just this absence

in search of an impossible touch how can it be so 

in this big sexy life the one that covers us all no matter our letters

LGBTQLGBTQQQLLBBGGBBTTQQ U      UU    danced

 

for a moment the pulse danced with U — yes

with the universe this celestial dancer that cannot

be described only danced danced

 

merengue

            mambo

                        guaracha de Puerto Rico & El Caribe y una canción de amor

 

something free free like that

Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love   dance 
Love Love Love Love Love Love Love            Love

 

                        Kiss his lips that are gone

                                    Kiss her lips that are gone

                                                Kiss his thighs that are gone

                                                            Kiss her thighs that are gone

                                                                        Kiss the small of

                        his back that still dervishes

            somewhere over there  —

     Kiss the small of her back that

               still magnetizes somewhere                 over here

 

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer in whatever order you want

                        Gay Lesbian  Bisexual Trans Queer Wait

we have not (i have not)

mentioned the guns                   the tiny-jacket—man-guns the guns that do not

want to be guns the guns forced into the hands the ones jammed through the door

into our identity into our kindness.

                        Let us go let us go                                 it is time now

from here to there & become                            all

from polished hate to raw love &                        love all

from lips to lips from love                                              to love

 

— in full freedom libertad tuyamía yoursmine   in bongó & bolero

Orlando present presente para siempre 4Ever Orlando  in conga & timbales

 

lift her body in all color in red in yellow in white in black in brown in red

cuerpo de ella en color total en rojo en amarillo en blanco en negro en café en rojo

                                                                                                     how i love U

lift his body holy in brown in red in white in yellow in black

levanta su cuerpo bendito en café en rojo en blanco en amarillo en negro

                                                            como te quiero quiero con maraca y chékere

 

in blur in blur to blur

entre uno en medio entre otra nace uno sale otra

como te quiero quiero  in rhythm eternal ritmo

 

                                    No hate no shoot no flames no screams on screams

                        No shoot no night inferno night of crimson-blue & apart

                             4EverNight

 

It could have lasted a whole song

It could have lasted w/ U & me going round & round —

 

Who is going to brush my arms up against the sky hermanito

who is going to shake my hips against the wavy light  hermanita

who is going to leap rounder than these tumbler bullets striking tu y yo

who is going with the woman flying out the narrow crystals you & me

                                    toward the flooded yellow-green exit

who is going to kiss kiss her shrapnel wounds sharpening

& catch her body twist & face down

at the Pulse — lov

 

loving life is that a crime (i ask you from here)

loving live is that a crime this time next time

 

                        we shall not forget U Orlando

                        (we shall march for U — Orlando)

 

            i will lovU 4Ever