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Lament to Iowa

Poem by Dakota Parks

Published by Troubadour, 2021

Surrounded by cow shit
Immolated meth labs and Midwest machinery
Corn stalks swallowing all visible light,
The scratchy tassels morphing a mirage
of early morning farmhand decapitation
On the backroad intersection
Dust billowing behind the car
A barrier to clanking beer bottles and marijuana
seeping into the upholstery
Punk music deafening sounds of summertime cicadas
La Dispute
Our safe place:
Cruising the backroads—
an adolescent homage
with no destination.
In the front seat, yelling over the radio
Talking radical politics
Stone Butch Blues
Driving to Chicago to live in a
Boystown shoebox and never coming back
Someone mentions the Village People
the leather daddy dancing on a U.S. Navy ship
Someone compares the gravel road to a free vibrator
as the wheels drift dangerously close to the ditch
I wonder if they knew how gay culture would adopt
the YMCA anthem—
saunas and bathhouses
discos, drag balls
—the dangers that came with cruising in parks and alleys
unknowing who or what might meet you
steel toed boots, pipe wrenches
a mouth and fist of slurs
The night we drove past the alley
Walnut and 4th Street
March 2016
On our regular 2am cruise
We were stone-cold sober
Chain smoking a pack of Marlboro Red’s
When they found your body
A blood-stained bra
Pink trash bag handle tied around your throat
like the wrong gender marker
Wind rolled off the frozen Mississippi River
Choking itself against the floorboards
At the port of Burlington,
We cried until our tear ducts gave out
Grieving another one of our own
Dehydration mind numbing
Throats burning
Like the bleach forced into your mouth
In court, it took a 300-page document
to describe how they tortured you
Calling you a faggot in a police interview
And still, Iowa statute could not rule it a hate crime
Kedarie Johnson,
You were just two years younger than us
We only knew you like
we knew any queer teenagers—
fearing for your body and safety
Only a mere 16 years old when
Two men followed you home,
Catcalling profanities
Staking a claim to a body you had barely
just discovered as your own
The name Kandicee omitted from gravestone.
How desperately I wish we could have shielded you
Shown you our bruises and broken ribs
The word “dike” carved into my car door
Spelt like a river dike
The sand from the levee clumping in my throat
Contemplating suicide by the water
How those late-night drives saved us
The community we built mile by mile
Carpooling through Midwestern hate
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