Christal Ann Rice Cooper

Christal Ann Rice Cooper
May Flowers 2017

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Leslea Newman's OCTOBER MOURNING A SONG FOR MATTHEW SHEPARD excerpt . . .

Christal Cooper

The “Introduction” and the poem “THE FENCE (that night)” is excerpted from:
** OCTOBER MOURNING: A SONG FOR MATTHEW
SHEPARD. Copyright © 2012 by Lesléa Newman. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. (http://candlewick.com)


This  copyright will expire on 10/12/2019



Leslea Newman at the fence
Copyright granted by Leslea Newman

Guest Blogger LESLEA NEWMAN
Excerpt from OCTOBER MOURNING:  A Song For Matthew Shepard


Introduction:
       On Tuesday, October 6, 1998, at approximately 11:45 p.m., twenty-one year-old Matthew Shepard, a gay college student attending the University of Wyoming, was kidnapped from a bar by twenty-one-year old Aaron McKinney and twenty-one-year-old Russell Henderson.  Pretending to be gay, the two men lured Matthew Shepard into their truck, drove him to the outskirts of Laramie, robbed him, beat him with a pistol, tied him to a buck-rail fence, and left him to die.  The next day, at 6:30 p.m. – eighteen hours after the attack – he was discovered and taken to a hospital.  He never regained consciousness and died five days later on Monday, October 12, with his family by his side.


Matthew Shepard.  Copyright granted by the Matthew Shepard Foundation 


Russell Henderson, left, and Aaron McKinney in Albany County court in Laramie, Wyo., Oct. 9, 1998.  Ed Andrieski, The Associated Press.  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law 

A basket of flowers at the fence . . . 

       One of the last things Matthew Shepard did that Tuesday night was attend a meeting of the University of Wyoming’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Association.  


Matthew Shepard.  Copyright granted by the Matthew Shepard Foundation 

The group was putting final touches on plans for Gay Awareness Week, scheduled to begin the following Sunday, October 11, coinciding with National Coming Out Day.  Planned campus activities included a film showing, an open poetry reading, and a keynote speaker.
       The keynote speaker was me.


Web Logo photo of Leslea Newman http://lesleanewman.com

       I never forgot what happened in Laramie, and around the tenth anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death, I found myself thinking more and more about him.  And so I began writing a series of poems, striving to create a work of art that explores the events surrounding Matthew Shepard’s murder in order to gain a better understanding of their impact on myself and the world.


Matthew Shepard.  Copyright granted by the Matthew Shepard Foundation 

       What really happened at the fence that night?  Only three people know the answer to that question.  Two of them are imprisoned, convicted murderers whose stories often contradict each other (for example, in separate interviews both McKinney and Henderson have claimed that he alone tied Matthew Shepard to the fence).  The other person who knows what really happened that night is dead.  We will never know his side of the story.
       This book is my side of the story.




       While the poems in this book are inspired by actual events, they do not in any way represent the statements, thoughts, feelings, opinions, or attitudes of any actual person.  The statements, thoughts feelings, opinions, and attitudes conveyed belong to me.  All monologues contained within the poems are figments of my imagination; no actual person spoke any of the words contained within the body of any poem.  These words are mine and mine alone.  When the words of an actual person are used as a short epigraph for a poem, the source of that quote is cited at the back of the book in a section entitled “Notes,” which contains citations and suggestions for further reading about the crime.  The poems, which are meant to be read in sequential order as one whole work, are a work of poetic invention and imagination:  a historical novel in verse.  The poems are not an objective reporting of Matthew Shepard’s murder and its aftermath; rather they are my own personal interpretation of them.    
      

       There is a bench on the campus of the University of Wyoming dedicated to Matthew Shepard, inscribed with the words He continues to make a difference.  



My hope is that readers of October Mourning:  A Song for Matthew Shepard will be inspired to make a difference and honor his legacy by erasing hate and replacing it with compassion, understanding, and love.


“Morning In  America” The death of Matthew Shepard, 
Gouache on paper 19 ½ X 20 ½
1998 Painting by Richard Taddei
Copyright granted by Richard Taddei   www.richardtaddei.com

THE FENCE
(that night)  

I held him all night long
He was heavy as a broken heart
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing

He was heavy as a broken heart
His own heart wouldn’t stop beating
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood

His own heart wouldn’t stop beating
The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood
I tightened my grip and held on

The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
We were out on the prairie alone
I tightened my grip and held on
I saw what was done to this child

We were out on the prairie alone
Their truck was the last thing he saw
I saw what was done to this child
I cradled him just like a mother

Their truck was the last thing he saw
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
I cradled him just like a mother

I held him all night long.




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