About the Poem

I used to work at a coffee shop where I would be the only person working at a time, and there was this old guy, Bill, who had no teeth and would sit out front chainsmoking for hours every day, and once he came in and told me this story of this poor young gay dude who was killed between two buildings by a closeted cop he was having an affair with, I think he was only telling me because I was a young gay myself, what he would call “a bleeding heart,” and it must have seemed like the sort of thing I would want to know about, and I guess he was right because I spent the rest of my shift thinking about it and then much of the following day online, trying to dig up as much information as I could, and I wrote a poem imagining an alleyway between two buildings and all of the possibilities that could come of that, how a kid my age should never have had to die there, and I’ve shared it, the poem, with many people since then, and they’re always kind of moved by it, like they get a little surprised by the ending, where I twist back on the possibilities and reveal that there’s a dead guy with so much promise pouring out of him or something like that, but what they don’t realize is that years after writing the poem I used Google Street View to see the scene of the crime, and it looks nothing like an alleyway between two buildings, it’s really more like a small, grassy ravine, and so now I know that the poem is something of a lie, and maybe people aren’t connecting with it because they can tell that it’s something of a lie, and anyway I haven’t seen Bill in over six years and he’s probably dead.

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John Luke Byrne is a queer writer from Nebraska. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina, where he received his MFA in poetry from the College of Charleston. His work has been published in Hobart, Rejection Letters, Quarter After Eight, The Journal, and elsewhere.

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image: Jade Hawk is a meat popsicle.