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Poems and Essays

Matt as I'd have drawn him in the summer of 2001
(C) Alopex, 2001

In April 2000, someone wrote in the guestbook at Matthew's Place (http://www.matthewsplace.org/) that we should accept that Matt is gone, and we should get on with our lives. What follows here is adapted from my response:

Yes, Matthew is dead, and we do accept it. Some, like me, expect to experience his hug in the afterlife.
But that is not the reason for Matthew's Place.  The site is about the ideal of accepting others for who they are. It has a subtle theme: By making others feel good, we feel good ourselves.
Matt's physical appearance is an anchor. The human mind finds it difficult to understand abstractions, because language has existed only for about five thousand years. So we visualize this ideal of accepting others as they are with the aid of Matt's pictures.
Although there are others just as worthy of representing this ideal, it was Matt who became our prince of tolerance. The fact that this little blond guy is dead does not mean the ideal is dead. 
In fact, that was the meaning of a statement by Matt's father, Dennis Shepard, during his address to the court  (http://www.matthewsplace.com/dennis2.htm) at the sentencing phase for Matt's murderer, Aaron McKinney.  Matt's dad turned to him and said, "You screwed up, Mr. McKinney." Aaron McKinney killed Matt, but he did not kill the ideal. In fact, if anything, he helped to advance it.
For instance, how many murders of gays did not occur because people had heard of Matt's suffering? True, their knowledge did not stop the murder of Billy Jack Gaither, but it probably did stop a few others. In essence, many people stood up and said, "This is NOT acceptable!" Futhermore, Billy Jack's killers -- like Matt's killers, McKinney and his accomplice, Russell Henderson -- were prosecuted, convicted, and sent to prison for life. 
McKinney tried to thwart justice by presenting a "gay panic" defense, in which he contented that Matt had touched him.  Henderson denied it ever happened, but McKinney then argued that this "touch" brought him back to a homosexual trauma he'd experienced in childhood, which caused him to beat Matt to death.  Obviously, the jury saw through it.

As John Patrick Day, whom I met through Matthew's Place, has said, "Matt does capture our imaginations and does not let go easily." My own website is an example of this. I think one of the reasons Matt captures our imaginations is that he was so small and vulnerable. His azure eyes were quite attractive, in addition to his ability to light up a room. His death shattered popular stereotypes of gayness, much as Ryan White's life changed popular perceptions of AIDS victims. I believe both Matt and Ryan are enjoying deserved bliss in the afterlife.

One of the reasons that Matt will not let go of us -- and that we will not let go of Matt -- is the relevance of his story to the present. I have a master's degree in history, and one of the greatest benefits of studying history is how much I have learned from the mistakes of past figures. These figures are also dead; yet I have learned from them -- and am still learning. Our entire civilization evolved from the ideals of the past. These ideals  give us guidance for how we should behave in the present. We have tested these ideals and, through trial and error, have adopted the better ones.

Matt at McDonald's in April 1998 in Casper WY
@C Vanity Fair from March 1999

LET'S  CLARIFY WHY WE LOVE MATT and his ideal by looking at duality, the first stage of a book on wisdom. Duality involves looking at the other side of the coin, because that other side is always there.

Adolf Schickelgruber Hiedler -- better known to the world as Adolf Hitler -- is dead (get over it). However, his evil ideals still exist, and they manifested themselves yet again in 1999 at the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado.
Corporal Schickelgruber still has his followers, who celebrate his birthday every 20 April -- AND HE STILL IS DEAD! Some of his ideals don't even make sense. He stated, for instance, that tall, blond Germans were the "Master Race." Yet Hitler himself was not tall, not blond, and not German but, in fact, Austrian. Why should an inferior Austrian be the one to lead the Master Race?
 Does this strange contradicton help make it clear why we love Matt Shepard?

Matt, who happened to be gay, felt that he should be able to live his life openly and honestly.  His death not only changed my behavior towards gays, but it also helped to show me the real meaning of friendship.
Here's an example of such friendship from someone who knew Matt.  It's a piece of artwork which Phil LaBrie drew, depicting the fence where Matt's murderers had left him.  Phil and Tina LaBrie were very close to Matt. Note that Phil wrote in the lower right corner, "For Matt" Copyright (C) 1998 by Phil LaBrie.

Phil LaBrie's painting for Matt Shepard

Back in the summer of 1998, when Matt was alive, Philadelphia experienced a strike against SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority).  I had to walk to and from work, which took about two and a half hours.  I listened on my Walkman to a program called "How To Have Power and Confidence with People."  Despite learning how to be a friend and a colleague, I never put it into practice.  I needed Matt to show me the way.  His example is difficult for me to follow, but I am trying.
I have a long way to go to get over my fear of rejection by others.  It is why I come to Matthew's Place for ideas -- and why I honor Matt.  His ideal did not end with his death.  His spirit will carry on, at least in my life.
One day I will meet Matt in the afterlife. I will thank him for allowing me to see the light, to look closer at my own questions about sexuality and to realize that I am responsible for my thoughts and actions. One day the majority of the public will grow up and stop blaming everyone else for their own failures. It is not a zero-sum game. It never has been. I am responsible for myself and the significance of what I bring to what happens to me.
Until that day, little, blond buddy....

Listen to my heartbeat, little blond buddy!
(C) Alopex 2002

I often wonder whether Matt would rather have posthumous fame. I don't think my spirit would accept such a short life and violent end. Matt's spirit did, and we're all better for it. Fortunately, it was not my turn in 1976, for I already had my present life. Vive ton esprit toujours, mon petit copain blond! (May thy spirit live forever, my little blond buddy!)



Erwin Ward wrote this poem on Matthew's Place Guestbook.
He gave me permission to place it on my site.

I wish I had known you,
I wish I had been there to protect you,
To love you,
And to hold you,
To protect you from the hatred,
Of their angry hearts.

It's so much more,
The things they have been done,
You were the victim,
Of ignorance and hatred,
They set you free,
Such a respected son.

You live in us, Matt, each day,
Things are gonna change, I tell you,
I promise you,
You didn't die in vain,
These social mores are so jaded,
I wish I had known you,
Your life has not faded,
Tomorrow is gonna be a brand new day.

My good buddy, Matt Wilson, has permitted me to place a poem here about coming out. I've known Matt only through the internet since February 2000. Anyone who rejects him solely upon orientation is not worthy of his friendship anyway, nor mine!


Honesty and Love

You may say that I have been lying to you all along.
You may even say that I am immoral and evil, maybe a pervert?
I assure you, however, that I am the same person you knew before.
I can't answer why I didn't tell you, not definitively anyway.
I can say one factor -- it was out of fear.
Fear that I might lose the bond that we have achieved.
It may have been wrong for me to conceal it from you, but I did out of fear.
A fear I shouldn't have to face, but sadly I do...
I have lost friends over this,
And probably will lose more friends as life goes on.
I don't want to lose you.
I chose to tell you now because I felt the need to be completely honest with you.
Include you in an important part of my life.
I know what it's like to be called "faggot" and "queer".
I know that some people wonder what my intentions are.
I assure you I have no hidden agenda.
You may be the first person that I have come out to,
You may be just aonther one added to a long list
Either way, it is because of my feelings of true friendship and love
No matter how many times a person comes out to someone, it never gets any easier.
There is always danger of losing a friend or a family member.
I hope we can still be friends...
I know that you may have questions.
I will do my best to answer them for you.
As I said though, I told you because I love you.
Because I need you
Because I can't lie anymore...
(C)2001 Matthew J Wilson

I'd often wondered what it was like to be Matthew Shepard. Back in late 1999, when I learned of the little, blond guy, I think he let me have a taste of it. I had drifted into alpha state, the border between consciousness and unconsciousness. I had this feeling of being tied to that fence and watching McKinney hit me on the head.

Months later I believe that Matt's spirit let me know that he is fine and happy in his current state. I felt a warm hug between his spirit and mine while I lay physically on a floor. It did make me realize that there is an afterlife.

Painting of property marker

Matt's Nightmare

I am sitting in a bar
Just smoking and drinking
Two guys approach from afar
The booze clouds my thinking

They tell me they are gay
Would I like a ride home?
I give them my okay
I don't want to walk alone

They squeeze me between them
They demand my money
I give my wallet to them
They look at me funny

One whips me with a PAN!
I do not have enough pluck
I am a small, blond man
They drag me out of the truck

I can see the hatred in his eyes
The moonlight shines behind him
He raises the gunbutt to the skies
The blows make my blue eyes dim

The bonds bite into my wrists
I struggle with them behind me
I push the fence with my fists
As I feel the impacts grind me

I rapidly lose consciousness
As I hear my skull crack
I am in semiconsciousness
They resume the attack

I drift into alpha state
While I feel them burn me
They kick my groin with such hate
But it can't concern me

The pain in my head is intense
Please, God, please make it stop!
I'm losing the last of my sense
My head's a bloody mop

My legs buckle under me
I sit on the cold ground
My face plunges under me
I hang from wrists still bound

The Wyoming wind whistles around
I think of my family and wonder
I cannot utter a single sound
Where are my father and mother?

The air is freezing as I sit
I'm shoeless, full of fears
Where next my body will they hit?
My eyes wash blood with tears

I awake with a start
A dream had myth me
Matt, I had played thy part
Please, escape with me!

Hating others because they are different
Is a primitive form of ignorance
The projecting prejudice flows afferent
Blindly we practice too much forbearance

Oh, Matt, I felt the fear!
From death I could not thee protect
Buddy, I vow this year
Homophobia I reject.

(c) Alopex 2001

basket at the property marker

John Denver wrote a beautiful song in tribute to his maternal uncle. I've always liked the song, since about 1976, when Matthew Shepard was born. Given that Henry John Deutschendorf is dead, I cannot ask him permission to rewrite the lyrics in tribute to my little blond buddy.

Therefore, here are my lyrics to the tune of "Matthew" by John Denver on the "Back Home Again" album.
The original "Matthew" plays on this page.

Have a buddy named Matthew
Living on the internet
Born out west in Casper, Wy'ming
For his life we're all in debt.

Yes, and love was just the way he was reared on
Tol'rence just the way to live and die
Gold is just a windy Wy'ming prairie
Blue is just a Wy'ming summer sky

All the stories of his short life
That I've read while on the net
All the suff'ring that he went through
All the triumphs that he met

Growing up an engineer's son
Life was mostly having fun
Camping out with his dad and granddad
On the prairie beneath the sun


Well, I guess there were some hard times
And he fought for his dignity
He told them he was gay in '95
He'd thought honesty would set him free

He lost his cash
He lost his fam'ly
He lost his sense
He lost his life
But we found him at the fencepost
And lifted him above the strife.


So he came to live in cyb'rspace
And he came came to spread his worth
He came to comfort those in sorrow
And he came to be my friend.

So I wrote this down for Matthew
It's for him this song is sung
Camping out with his dad and brother
On the prairie beneath the sun



Gentle souls
Often take time to help
--and eager to please--
Hurting words and actions
Often rain down the rainbows
Of their loving spirit.

"I am here, my friend!"
The smile holds the key to love
With hugging, warm arms
I can feel his heart
So caring, so giving
Telling me that
Love is really the greatest!

Sorry to say
That I didn't know you
But I feel that
In spirit I do.
Even more sorry to say
That I wasn't with you
On that night, my friend
Out of danger
Out of sorrow
And to a warm, loving light.

"Can I drive you home, buddy?"
Would have been the
Few simple words
To break the cold
Of that night.
And wipe the tears
From your eyes
And to save such a
Precious, loving human being
From such a horrible plight.

I can't help but feel
That I failed you
Even though I know!
You are in heaven
And are now at peace
And helping us here below.

You are showing us
How to fight with love!
Instead of the same hate
That took you
Too soon, my friend!

I just hope
I can keep your fire burning
As bright as the sun's state
Because love never has an end!

"I'd just like to say--
That I will always love you
My dear, sweet friend!
My dear, sweet Matthew!"

(Thanks to Matt Wilson for his inspiration in helping me write this poem.)
Darren Romitti, Friday, 28 April (c) 2000

(in memory of Robbie Kirkland)

There are many met
Who never grow
Even up to know
What their full potential
Would have been

But I know a boy
That surpassed all men
In what they could have been
Even with their full spirit employed.

His name was Robbie
And his smile was that
Of love
From all around and from
All above.
For his made his greatest
Gift his hobby.

And that greatest gift
Never faulters in its wake.
It lent words for Robbie
To take.
And write his poetry
For good or bad;
But always to uplift!

(C)2000 Darren Romitti and Lasting Productions


Sergio has given me permission to place his thoughts on my website. Click his picture to go to his website and diary.

Matthew, I never met you, but I know that someday we'll be able to sit and talk. Gosh, it hurts so much to know that people can be so ignoranct. Taking someone's life due to his sexual preference sadly is something that isn't very new, but that doesn't exempt that it's WRONG! All human beings have the right to live. I'm 18 now, and I haven't gone through half of what you had to endure when you were here in this world. YOU ARE A HERO TO THE REST OF US! My heart aches because it took your life, something so priceless and beautiful, to help change some people's view towards homosexuality. I knew so many people who were extremely homophobic, but after hearing about what happened to you, they became more understanding and accepting. We all miss you, Matthew, and we will forever be thankful. You were an angel send from Heaven! You are back home where nobody will ever harm you, Matt.
Sergio Yuma AZ

I once
knew a special person named Matt
who left this earth for no reason.
He didn't deserve to die; Matt, he died of hatred.
How can this happen to a special guy who wants to make a difference in this world? It is up to us to carry on his legacy.
I'm sure Matt will be smiling at us.  Matt, you will never be forgotten.  You have touched everyone's lives, those who knew you, especially me.
Thank you, Matt, for being a special friend.  God loves you.
Nep, from Matthew's Place, who corresponded with Matt via email

I long for a new dawn
To wake up in the arms of love
To be comforted by his warmth
I long for a new day
To walk down the streets
Free from hiding, hands entwined
I long for a new night
To sleep in peace
And sweetly dream of a world such as this
Walter, from Matthew's Place

As l lie here from which to when,
I think of you & what might have been
A life that ended from hate & confusion.
Your love of life was never an illusion.
Now your life goes a separate way,
Long after that unfortunate day.
Your memory forever we all shall keep,
With thoughts of you that linger while we sleep.
But in my heart will always be,
A single prayer for you and me.
Robert Arthur Cole Jr  (RJ) from Matthew's Place in June 2002 

Here's something I'm working on for Jim Hastings' website to Matt:
I am a small man, which shouldn't bother anyone.
I have blond hair and azure eyes, which shouldn't bother anyone.
I came into this world prematurely, which shouldn't bother anyone.
I am honestly gay, which shouldn't bother anyone.
I had many personal problems, which shouldn't bother anyone.
I could light up a room, which shouldn't bother anyone.
I wore braces, which shouldn't bother anyone.
I have freckles on my nose and cheeks, which shouldn't bother anyone.
I have tremenous empathy, which shouldn't bother anyone.
I enjoy politics, which shouldn't bother anyone.
I am cosmopolitan, which shouldn't bother anyone.
I had a longterm, African-American boyfriend, which shouldn't bother anyone.
I was robbed one night, which should bother everyone.
They kidnaped me, which should bother everyone.
They beat me to death, which should bother everyone.
They tied me to a fencepost like a trophy, which should bother everyone.
They left me hang there for eighteen hours, which should bother everyone.
All because I am gay, which should bother everyone.
They used homophobia as an excuse, which should bother everyone.
They probed my past, which should bother everyone.
They avoided the death penalty, which should bother everyone.
They victimized me again in court, which should bother everyone.
Society has not yet changed, which should bother everyone.
Neither has politics, which should bother everyone.
"Killing a man is a hell of a thing.
You take away everything he's got,
And everything he will have."
William Munny (Clint Eastwood) in "Unforgiven"  The Scene is after Munny and the Schofield Kid killed two cowboys in a hit, and they were waiting for "Little Sue", one of the prostitutes who put the hit in revenge for cutting up one of them, to bring them $1000 in payment, which was a load of money in 1881.

May this page grow!