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A little boy in Uganda is learning to count
on the ridges of his ribs
as they rise like fingers
from the folds of his ragged
tee shirt.

His heart is beating like a fist
against his sunken chest
against the closet door
gasping for breath
until the day when those ribs
don't cage his lungs
like prison bars

as he paints straight faces
onto the cells of his DNA,
tears dripping onto the canvass
of his skin like ashes.

Heaven is on fire
from all the hatred-kissed
swollen lips of supposed Christians
who preach Godliness
as Jesus cries thou shalt not kill.

These children stuff roses
into their captor's guns
like love can stop bullets
like love can put out fires,
and paint hearts on the dusty floors
of jail cells where gay men and women

stare at the ceiling and imagine stars
while HIV runs through their veins
like pretty red ribbons run
through the hair of preacher's daughters
and senators who wipe their bloody hands
on the sands of Uganda.

Washington's hoarding the water
while bones burn like Bibles
and ashes fall like snow
as children make angels,
happy to eat your angry words

because a stomach full
of hatred is better than nothing.

America, tell me,
does that red ribbon tied to the grave
of every life cut short by AIDS

make the shame taste any better?
Your voice can save these children
whose paintings of heterosexuality
bled in the rain
as it glistened in the red African sun,
tell me, America, could you face

your reflection in the eyes of these children
as they count ribs like prison bars
chest rising with every breath,
each heartbeat a fist knocking on the closet door –
locking them in atop the world's dirty laundry
they are shouting for freedom,
all you have to do is set down your fear
and listen.





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