“When I Kiss You, A Casket Opens” begins its first line in the middle of a response that has no discernible ending— “this is not terrorism/this is toxic masculinity”— it is a reaction, a refusal, a riot against the mass media that twists its angles for the right endorsement and against the culture that twists itself so as not to recognize our culture’s own many failings.
The poem occurs in the context of the days following June 12, 2016, the day of the Pulse Night Club shooting in Orlando, Florida. Pulse served as a safe space for predominatelyqueer people of color, but this is not information ozer makes explicit. If the reader wants to enter this poem, the reader must prepossess or form their own connections to this event. ozer, in fact, does not allow space for the shooting, but for what happens after. The fear and grief for those who died is there, but how does fear impact a person that is “sure that my death/is going to happen/at the hand of someone else”? This resignation does not create distance in the poem between the reader and poet. Rather, ozer unravels intimate moments with their lover and places the reader at the receiving end, where all beauty becomes marred by others’ insistence to deny the speaker’s right to exist.
The speaker knows all the ways they can be ruined. We sense this in the lines “because when a man looks at us/i already know/what he is going to do,” but still they move forward in their own life, “so tired of being scared/so tired of ignoring your kiss”. Even at the end of the poem when death comes for them, they refute it, and feel joy before the bullet, before the ground.
beyza ozer is a queer/trans/Muslim person living in Chicago. beyza’s work has appeared in & is forthcoming from The Offing, Vinyl, & the anthologiesSubject To Change: Trans Poetry & Conversation (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017) & Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019). beyza is the author of FAIL BETTER (fog machine press, 2017) & they are a recipient of the Windy City Times 30 Under 30 Award. beyza is deputy director of social media of YesYes Books & works at The Poetry Foundation.
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