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Portrait of Sanctuary in Six Stanzas

my dead friends have halos no matter what the Christians say about their queer bodies. I burn scented candles in their memory: candy, citrus, lemon bitter.

we infiltrate a dome of prayer. I bend the prayer off the hands, lick the sweat from my best friend’s arm & he shivers in ecstasy or bewilderment. either way the crucifix around his neck remains, dangling its every worry & threat.

my friends did not get proper burials. I see them in my dreams. I stopped crying for them, the fever of grief imbalanced.

brown boy elects to be called by his white name. he loses his tongue after his mother has his sister. he loses his image. he loses his identity. he loses & he loses.

brown boy is not a boy, but society tossed him into a binary. boy fears to be anything but what society commanded. society commandeers his growing up. they silence anguish over the dead queer friends. after the violence in a church, the church of Christ, god hollow is thy name.

we built new homes from ash & tears. we built homes from brick & fire. & glass & glitter & oil & blood. & semen & sweat. we glint like the gold in our mouths, between our teeth, in our veins, which is why they kill us, so we hide. we protect in this new space. a home. carve our initials in the space.

                                                                                                                                                                        —Mateo Lara

Mateo Lara is queer & latinx, originally from Bakersfield, California. He received his B.A. in English at CSU Bakersfield. He is currently working on his M.F.A. in Poetry at Randolph College in Lynchburg, VA. His poems have been featured in Orpheus, EOAGH, Empty Mirror, and The New Engagement. He is an editor for RabidOak online literary journal & Zoetic Press.