THE Q WORD
I made the word “queer” a part of me
right around the time I started college—
back when nothing really made sense
and I needed a place to call home.
I know what it is.
Queer is a word with skeletons in its closet,
a word with a past, queer
is a word with a body count.
And we took it back.
Because queer was the word they threw
along with their fists when they
wanted it to hurt. And we smiled back:
bruised knuckles, clenched teeth,
come and take it.
Queer loved us
when our fathers looked through us
and talked about grandchildren
we didn’t know if we’d
ever be able to have.
Queer loved us when the law said
we didn’t have the right to love each other.
Queer loved us when the townsfolk were
setting their fires and
sharpening their pitchforks.
I won’t ask for a show of hands.
I know it’s not safe for some of us.
But I’ll extend my hand to you;
I use this word to stand for love after
all the years it was used to hate. I use it
because it saved me: a word like
heavy rainfall on a crop dying of thirst.
I made the word queer a part of me
back when no other word seemed to fit right
and it’s still the warm hearth I come home to.
And if that’s not revolution,
I don’t know what is, because to me
Because if queer can save
that lost little kid, then
maybe there’s hope for the ones who are
let down by the their parents,
beat up by their peers.
I have to believe that this word can do better.
Because it’s been causing harm for too many years.
By Ashe Vernon
Ashe Vernon is a produced playwright, an actor, and a poet. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember, but found poetry when she most needed it. She recently graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a degree in theatre and gender studies. Before she hits the job market with her oh-so-impressive fine arts degree, Ashe is spending the summer on tour doing spoken word with her best friend and partner in crime. Her first book of poetry, Belly of the Beast, was published by Words Dance Publishing and her second, Wrong Side of a Fist Fight, will be coming out through Where Are You Press, this July. She spends most of her time writing her way out of dark places, and looking to the stars. Ashe has featured in venues across Texas, such as The Standpipe Coffee House in Lufkin, Nacogdoches Literary Readings, and Love Jonz Spoken Jazz, in Duncanville. She has placed first at WriteAboutNow in Houston and her work has been published in Word Dance Magazine, and volumes one and two of the Literary Sexts anthologies. Ashe has no concept of the term “inside-voice” and spends every waking hour with her giant bear-cub of a cat. She plans on moving to a big city and covering herself with tattoos. It’s going pretty well, so far.