Poems and Essays
|Matt as I'd have drawn him in the summer of 2001
|(C) Alopex, 2001
WHY WE HONOR MATTHEW WAYNE SHEPARD
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
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
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
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.
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
Erwin Ward wrote this poem on Matthew's Place Guestbook.
He gave me permission to place it on my site.
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,
Of ignorance and hatred,
They set you free,
Such a respected son.
You live in us, Matt,
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.
you in an important part of my life.
I know what it's like to be called "faggot" and "queer".
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.
is always danger of losing a friend or a family member.
I hope we can still be friends...
I know that you may have
I will do my best to answer them for you.
As I said though, I told you because I love you.
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.
I am sitting in a bar
Just smoking and drinking
Two guys approach from afar
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
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
The blows make my blue eyes dim
The bonds bite into my wrists
I struggle with them behind me
push the fence with my fists
As I feel the impacts grind me
I rapidly lose consciousness
As I hear my skull
I am in semiconsciousness
They resume the attack
I drift into alpha state
While I feel them burn
They kick my groin with such hate
But it can't concern me
The pain in my head is intense
please make it stop!
I'm losing the last of my sense
My head's a bloody mop
My legs buckle under me
sit on the cold ground
My face plunges under me
I hang from wrists still bound
The Wyoming wind whistles
I think of my family and wonder
I cannot utter a single sound
Where are my father and mother?
air is freezing as I sit
I'm shoeless, full of fears
Where next my body will they hit?
My eyes wash blood with
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
I vow this year
Homophobia I reject.
(c) Alopex 2001
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
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
Growing up an engineer's son
Life was mostly having fun
Camping out with his dad and granddad
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
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
(DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF MATTHEW WAYNE SHEPARD)
Often take time to help
eager to please--
Hurting words and actions
Often rain down the rainbows
Of their loving spirit.
am here, my friend!"
The smile holds the key to love
With hugging, warm arms
I can feel his heart
caring, so giving
Telling me that
Love is really the greatest!
Sorry to say
That I didn't know you
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 sorrow
And to a warm, loving light.
"Can I drive you home, buddy?"
Few simple words
To break the cold
Of that night.
And wipe the tears
From your eyes
to save such a
Precious, loving human being
From such a horrible plight.
I can't help but feel
I failed you
Even though I know!
You are in heaven
And are now at peace
And helping us here below.
are showing us
How to fight with love!
Instead of the same hate
That took you
Too soon, my friend!
I can keep your fire burning
As bright as the sun's state
Because love never has an end!
just like to say--
That I will always love you
My dear, sweet friend!
My dear, sweet Matthew!"
to Matt Wilson for his inspiration in helping me write this poem.)
Darren Romitti, Friday, 28 April (c) 2000
THE GREATEST GIFT
(in memory of Robbie Kirkland)
There are many met
Who never grow
Even up to know
their full potential
Would have been
But I know a boy
That surpassed all men
In what they could have
Even with their full spirit employed.
His name was Robbie
And his smile was that
all around and from
For his made his greatest
Gift his hobby.
And that greatest gift
faulters in its wake.
It lent words for Robbie
And write his poetry
For good or bad;
(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
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.