Six Thirteen Sixteen

Cate McLaughlin

on learning of the Orlando shooting, 6-13-2016

Do you prefer waiting to
listening do you see shapes
loitering in the periphery have
you noticed an increase in
movement behind
the bedroom walls? How much
do you enjoy your sleep? Your
body is a soft animal dangling
in time either way, and if that
doesn’t scare you then you
haven’t been watching the feed
that scrolls between your eyes
and the face you wear if
you’re not afraid you have
never sunk your hand into your
lover and found another pulse
far from the altar of control this
is a visitation from surrender
and if that doesn’t scare you
then what could stop you now?
Have you ever seen a dance floor
as a school of writhing strangers,
the way they move as one bright event
in the darkness can you fathom
the sound of their heaving
breath? What would it take to
please or police you? if the term force
means any influence that causes
an object to undergo a change,
fundamental or otherwise, then
what of the stem-twist motion
of her neck, the impressions
your mouth left on her body,
the man who followed you both
home from the subway the night
you put down the dog? If
you are afraid try not looking
down and shaking off your
name try bending questions
into prayers become familiar
with the dead ask them to
recite their names and listen
for your own but don’t let it get
you down if you didn’t want to
die here then where would you
have gone to hear the music?

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