or (a Letter to My Brother I Wrote, Ripped, and Retaped)
Real men should be afraid of nothing,
especially not of other men.
But what of those they don’t consider to be real men?
What about the fear of even touching their blood
because it probably has AIDS?
The fear that makes every son a blessing;
every gay son a curse:
a death in the family,
a non-existent thing,
A faggot for allowing your heart to decide.
Faggot for letting your back arch
like a dog in heat for another man to make you his.
Faggot for breaking your mother’s heart,
and her father’s father’s,
and his Father who is in heaven:
hallowed be His name;
hollowed was yours on her lips
when she used to ring your wrists
until your 6-year-old hands went numb,
yelling into your big brown eyes,
wishing that you were more like me.
Your place in the afterlife hijacked
by one who loves women
just like he’s supposed to,
and takes it without complaining:
because prayer can fix anything—
like Vicks VapoRub—
because Don’t worry it’ll pass
will also pass, and you will be judged
by people who call themselves family,
who hate you because you’re not what they
think a man should be:
what your Creator made you as
when He made you the way He made you.
He loves you, along with all the angels
in eternity who are cheering for you
to grab your piece of heaven by force.
The hell I tortured you with
when I joined in because I didn’t know any better,
because I’d rather be wrong than be your brother,
because protecting you meant making myself weak.
Back when I wasn’t strong enough to be strong for you;
when you were stronger for the both of us,
and all of those that needed to form a mob
in order to be strong against you.
When I wanted to protect you from yourself
and all the evil in your veins—
the meth in your madness—
after you told me you had HIV.
How I wished for you to be 6 again
so I could finally be stronger than you,
and wrap you in my arms against your will
until you cried yourself to sleep.
I’d carry you to your room
and heal your wounds
with my kisses.
But even in your weakened state,
you wouldn’t have needed my help
the way the phoenix doesn’t
need a firefighter to aid it
as its heart burns to ash,
or a sculptor to fashion
its feathers anew from cinder.
There will always be men
who will hate you to feel like men,
preaching the Gospel of Jesus, love incarnate,
hiding behind His cross their fear of faggots—
killing Abel, the world’s first gay man and martyr,
time and time again
out of jealousy
because God loved him more
Jose Oseguera is an LA-based writer of poetry, short fiction and literary nonfiction. Having grown up in a primarily immigrant, urban environment, Jose has always been interested in the people and places around him, and the stories that each of these has to share. His writing has been featured in The Esthetic Apostle, McNeese Review, and The Main Street Rag. His work has also been nominated for the “Best of the Net” award (2018 and 2019) and the “Pushcart Prize.” He is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection “The Milk of Your Blood.”