Shaki Peters, 32, Amite City, July 1
She was full of laughter and an abundance of life.
Shaki, there’s a plant that grows here, where I live,
called Shadbush—it’s also known as Service Berry—
but it’s the genus I thought of yesterday, seeking shade
on the hillside, carrying you with me in the heat of day.
How it gives shade, gives fruit, dark purple, seeded,
Your face, Shaki, in the one photo
I can find, is round and open, dark and sweet. Your eyes
seem to tip up a bit at the outer corners. Your lips
are full, plush as pillows. I keep waiting for some story
to explain your murder. I don’t know how much
that matters in the long run, but it might fill the gap
around your death. I keep thinking about the name Amite
City. from the French for friendship.
Like my hometown,
Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love. Likewise,
no friend to trans women. I spent a month in Louisiana
in 1984. It was hot and humid and I loved the way sweat
soaked me, sticking clothes to skin. I used to move
from shade to shade, the shadows of buildings,
banana trees, and one very large fig tree in the yard
of the house I rented, hand-shaped leaves the size of fans.
In 1984, Shaki, you weren’t even born yet. It was a heyday
for being Queer if you don’t count AIDS. We were all
trying on gender like a wig or a dress or suit and tie.
I used to go to a drag bar in Philly where I had a crush
on a zaftig redhead I now know to have been trans.
She was very kind to me, taking my face in her soft hands,
fragrant and styled like the mother of a childhood friend
I had to share a bed with one weekend. I clung all night
to the far edge in fear that I would accidentally touch her.
There was a ripeness in her, sweet, nourishing, a kind
of femme that makes my heart ache, that I’ve never known
or been. There are many kinds of shadow, Shaki, many kinds
of shade. I think of you now inhabiting that: luscious, lush, safe.
Brayla Stone, 17, Little Rock, June 25
You gotta forgive me if u feel I’m too much
Brayla, there was a lot of you to reckon with for only 17.
Your Facebook page is full of photos of you in pinup
pose, your tongue stuck out, these interspersed
frequently with the faith that God got my back.
The paradox gives me whiplash. I feel very old
and very white swimming up from your social media sites.
The wigs of many colors, the clothes likewise,
and eyelashes the size of butterfly wings. I feel
your fight, your will to not just live but to thrive.
Seventeen in Little Rock, Arkansas, and someone
paid five thousand dollars to have you killed
by another teenager who already once beat
a murder charge.
You had humor and pride
and grit and some source of cash that kept you
in brand name flash and bought a car
for your momma.
Your body was left in a car
on a walking path in a suburb called Sherwood,
which is ironic in a sad way, with its innocent
suggestions of Robin Hood and Maid Marian.
The cops say there’s no indication of a hate crime,
Arkansas being one of four states in which they don’t exist.
Forgive us, Brayla, for not being enough for you.
Merci Mack Richey, 22, Dallas, June 30
This man TEASED my bestie for being gay in middle school whole time he really had a crush on her.
Merci, I try to imagine your fear, being chased
and shot by Angelo Walker who bullied you
in middle school. Only you two know what happened
in the days before your death, the video you planned
Once again, a man has killed
a trans woman because he couldn’t live with his desire.
It started in your teens, his teasing, taunting,
then as adults?
To shoot you while you ran,
to stand over your fallen, your small body and shoot
Merci, you know the fear
that festers to killing disgust. You could prove
what Angelo Walker was, what he is still,
even with your death on his hands. Killing you
does not kill the part of him that wanted you.
Subhaga Crystal Bacon the author of two volumes of poetry, Blue Hunger, 2020 from Methow Press, and Elegy with a Glass of Whisky, BOA Editions, 2004. A cis-gender, Queer identified woman, she lives, writes, and teaches on the east slope of the North Cascade Mountains, in Twisp, WA, USA.