This piece appears in the “Breaking the Silence: Queer Self, Life, and Love in Northeast Ohio” anthology. “Breaking the Silence” is a part of Literary Cleveland’s Amplify Projects series, d
esigned to empower, uplift, and celebrate our many stories and place power into the hands of people and communities, giving them the platform to tell their own stories on their own terms.
When my friends and I meet
in the park in our own version
of Sunday Best, painting
ourselves into Seurat,
it is not just for quality time,
it is liberation – celebration.
We are telling the earth and the air
that we are our entire selves
and the world is better for it.
Did you know that there could be
12,000 of us in Greater Cleveland?
That’s enough for rallies,
that’s enough for parades,
that’s enough for community.
The only reason I look at other people’s
transition timelines is to see how the
brightness fills up their eyes more
and more in each photo,
despite everything that is thrown,
thrusted, fired at us.
Even when I look into my own tired eyes,
I can still see that same brightness
that was never there before I became
myself. It’s like I can see life
in full color for the first time.
Every queer picnic is its own victory,
worthy of being written down
in each of our personal history books.
The littlest things have become the boldest.
We intend to laugh, and eat,
and drink the dew off the cool, shaded grass.
It’s my hope that someone
who isn’t out yet will see us –
maybe it will be you.
And you will smile to yourself
and feel safe, if only for a second.
Trauma has never made me stronger,
But my friends have, every week,
and I need you to know that,
and I need you to see
that there is always an empty seat
at our table
Dana Kiefer is a 27 year-old non-binary trans woman and poet who has lived in and around Cleveland her whole life. She studied poetry and English literature locally at Case Western Reserve University. She often thinks about the perplexing nature of identity. Her poems often tackle themes of mental health, the self, and queer life in a Rust Belt city.
Pre-pandemic, Dana could usually be found at The Side Quest trying new drinks, knitting, and performing at Let It Out. After the pandemic, she would like to visit all the best record shops and restaurants on the west side with her loved ones. Dana is extremely thankful for all her friends in the community who have built her confidence and kept her moving forward.