Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind

Pulse (for our loved ones in Orlando that we never got to meet)

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by Alexis Pauline Gumbs


for the 49 and beyond


i was going to see you

i was going to dance

in the same place with you someday

i was going to pretend not to notice

how you and your friends smiled

when you saw me and my partner

trying to cumbia to bachata

but i was going to feel more free anyway

because you were smiling

and we were together

and you had your stomach out

and you felt beautiful in your sweat


i was going to smile when i walked by

i was going to hug you the first time

a friend of a friend introduced us

i was going to compliment your shoes

instead of writing you a love poem

i was going to smile every time i saw you

and struggle to remember your name


we were going to sing together

we were going to belt out Selena

i was going to mispronounce everything

except for amor

and ay ay ay

i was going to covet your confidence and your bracelet

i was going to be grateful for the sight of you

i was going scream YES!!! at nothing in particular

at everything especially

meaning you

meaning you beyond who i knew you to be


i was going to see you in hallways

and be too shy to say hello

you were going to come to the workshop

you were going to sign up for the workshop and not come

you were going to translate the webinar

even though my politics seemed out there


we were going to sign up for creating change the same day

and be reluctant about it for completely different reasons

we were going to watch the keynotes

and laugh at completely different times


i was going to hold your hand in a big activity

about the intimacy of strangers

about the strangeness of needing prayer

we were going to get the same automated voice message

when we complained that it was not what it should have been


we were going to be standing in the same line

for various overpriced drinks

during a shift change

i was going to breathe loudly so you would notice me

you were going to compliment my hair


it isn’t fair

because we were going to work

to beyonce and rihanna

and the rihanna’s and beyonce’s to come

and the beyonce’s and rihanna’s after that


we were going to not drink enough water

and stay out later than our immune systems could handle

we were going to sit in traffic in each others blindspots

listening to top 40 songs that trigger queer memories

just outside the scope of marketing predictions


we were going to get old and i was going to wonder

about the hint of a tattoo i could see under your sleeve

i was going to blink and just miss

the fought-for laughter lines around your liner-loved eyes


i was going to go out for my birthday

but i didn’t

and you did


we were going to be elders

just because we were still around

and i was going to listen to you on a panel

we didn’t feel qualified for

and hear you talk about your guilt

for still being alive

when so many of your friends were taken

by suicide


by racist police

and jealous ex-lovers

and poverty

and no access to healthcare

and how you had a stable job

you suffered at until the weekend

how you avoided the drama

and only went to the club at pride

and so here you were with no one to dance with anymore


i was going to see you and forget you

and only remember you in my hips

and how my smile came easier than clenching my teeth eventually

and how i finally learned whatever it is i still haven’t learned yet

i was going to hear you laugh and not know why

and not care


our ancestors fought for a future

and we were both going to be there

until we weren’t


and i don’t know if it would hurt more

to lose you later after knowing you

i don’t know if it would hurt more

to know you died on your own day

by your own hands

or any of the other systems

that stalk you and me and ours forever


i only know the pain that i am having

and that you are not here to share it

you are not here to bear it

you were going to pass me a candle at the next vigil


but now i am pulse

and you


are flame.


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