"-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"> Frigg | Spring/Summer 2023 | Waking at My Parents' House While a Gunman Kills Nightclub Goers in Orlando | Genevieve Creedon
artwork for Genevieve Creedon's poem Waking at My Parents' House While a Gunman KillsNightclub Goers in Orlando

Waking at My Parents’ House While a Gunman Kills Nightclub Goers in Orlando
Genevieve Creedon

A door slams in the hallway of 5 a.m.
Watchless, I check my phone—too early to get up,
too late to go back to sleep, the sun cresting over

the horizon. The screen flashes breaking news
in flourescent light, and I swipe it away, another
of the media’s daily terrors, circling my head

in a constant mosquito-like buzz. The balcony outside
my parents’ guest room is made of ridged tiles and iron;
this morning I am afraid it will fall off the house

if I step on it. The Long Island Sound beyond the window
echoes through the house, the town, the room in my soul
that keeps my feet grounded, my heart on the cusp

of bursting. Sometimes, what we don’t know can still
hurt. Shivering, I put my sweatshirt on. My father wakes
to his television malfunctioning, and the news

finally hits me as I run around the house plugging
and unplugging cables and HDMI wires that have seemingly
short-circuited overnight. On the one functioning

grainy screen the size of my palm, the headlines broadcast
the gloomy shadows pulsing through the streets,
the rumbles of reporters reporting the wreckage.

Cell phone cameras capture too much and too little,
bullets both treacherously precise and incomprehensibly
haphazard, taking a mother towards the blackest river

while leaving her son, dancing shoes dyed irreversibly
red. It is almost a year to the day that my parents
reluctantly agreed to utter my partner’s name.

It is a week before Father’s Day, and I am here
to eat turkey and play cards and listen to my father’s
allegiances to Donald Trump. No words will be uttered

about Orlando. I will only overhear my mother
telling a friend on the phone that nothing can ever
be as bad as 9/11: airplanes careening into towers

in the city that never sleeps, twenty miles away,
fear charring suburban NY nostrils
with the enduring shudder of too close to home.

I don’t drink and have never set foot in a nightclub,
and I rarely wake at dawn. In my own bedroom,
blackout curtains preserve my morning sleep.

But here, daylight bleeds through the translucent
white of seashell curtains that barely meet
across the face of sliding glass doors that open

onto a usually serene waterfront. The screen door
grumbles open and closed; breaking waves
and blundering birds wake sand and rocks

and human ears, collapsing the dreadful distance
between here and there, now and then—
a breath, breathing out of the night.

Genevieve Creedon’s Comments

This poem began as a response to a prompt from a generative workshop in 2016 with the poet Baron Wormser. We read Margaret Gibson’s “Cooking Supper While My Sister Dies” and spent half a day drafting our own “two-reality poems.” Innumerable simultaneous realities constitute the world and any one person’s everyday realities. Which ones careen into high relief—when and why? In the summer of 2016, the Pulse nightclub massacre was very distant geographically and experientially from my own reality, yet as this poem explores, that tragedy and the context in which I learned of it became interwoven and echoed both subtle and blatant forms of violence in my own privileged, suburban experience of family, sexuality, and acceptance.

Table of Contents

Frigg: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 61 | Spring/Summer 2023