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Seattle Ricin-Threats May Have Been Sent By Gay Person

Those of you who speculated that the sender of a letter to 11 gay bars in Seattle threatening that drinks will be poisoned with Ricin were sent by a gay man are on to something. The letter quotes the poem “A Display of Mackerel” by gay writer Mark Doty. The 1994 poem was written by Doty as a meditation on gay men who died because of AIDS. Doty tells Dan Savage, “I was trying to console myself and others, at least a little, for all we’d endured. So, it’s especially ugly for these words to be used against gay men.”

The Seattle Times reports:

“The FBI confirmed it was involved in the investigation but referred questions to a Seattle Police Department spokesman, who said the department is taking the threat seriously but declined to comment further on the investigation.

Josh Friedes, of Equal Rights Washington, said he is pleased by the seriousness with which law-enforcement and public officials seem to be taking the threat. Friedes said he will be urging people who patronize the bars to be “extra vigilant” with their drinks but that the threats will not curtail his own plans to go out to bars.

The letter sent to bars quoted the poem “A Display of Mackerel” by gay writer Mark Doty, leading many to speculate the letters were written by someone who is gay or lesbian. The poem was recently published in his book “Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems,” which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008.

The letter mimics the poem in the line, “The targets won’t care much that they’ll be dead and nearly frozen, just as, presumably, they didn’t care that they were living.”

It’s nice to hear that the FBI is taking the case seriously as whoever sent the letters is quite literally, engaging in terrorism. That said, gay bar owners don’t expect the threats to keep away business.

“I don’t think this community is going to be scared to go out,” said Carla Schricker, owner of Re-bar, one of 11 gay bars that were threatened in the typewritten letters.

Still, Schricker and many others have posted signs warning customers not to leave their drinks unattended. They also have asked staff to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior.”

Here is the full poem by Mark Doty:

A Display of Mackerel

They lie in parallel rows,
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity

barred with black bands,
which divide the scales’
radiant sections

like seams of lead
in a Tiffany window.
Iridescent, watery

prismatics: think abalone,
the wildly rainbowed
mirror of a soapbubble sphere,

think sun on gasoline.
Splendor, and splendor,
and not a one in any way

distinguished from the other
–nothing about them
of individuality. Instead

they’re all exact expressions
of one soul,
each a perfect fulfillment

of heaven’s template,
mackerel essence. As if,
after a lifetime arriving

at this enameling, the jeweler’s
made uncountable examples,
each as intricate

in its oily fabulation
as the one before.
Suppose we could iridesce,

like these, and lose ourselves
entirely in the universe
of shimmer–would you want

to be yourself only,
unduplicatable, doomed
to be lost? They’d prefer,

plainly, to be flashing participants,
multitudinous. Even now
they seem to be bolting

forward, heedless of stasis.
They don’t care they’re dead
and nearly frozen,

just as, presumably,
they didn’t care that they were living:
all, all for all,

the rainbowed school
and its acres of brilliant classrooms,
in which no verb is singular,

or every one is. How happy they seem,
even on ice, to be together, selfless,
which is the price of gleaming.

By:           Japhy Grant
On:           Jan 8, 2009
Tagged: , , , , ,

  • 9 Comments
    • mikeindc
      mikeindc

      God, it wouldn’t be the first time a self-loather perpetuated a hoax like this. Though it easily could have been a homophobe too, who knows? I hope they find out.

      On a personal note though, thanks for quoting that entire poem. I love unexpected art. Doty certainly deserved that National Book Award.

      Jan 8, 2009 at 11:12 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Alan down in Florida
      Alan down in Florida

      Smells to me like anger due to recent sero-conversion. Someone just came up positive and is taking out his anger on all gay men because either he doesn’t know who infected him or because a specific target could lead back to him.

      Jan 8, 2009 at 11:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Eminent Victorian
      Eminent Victorian

      @Alan down in Florida: As awful as it is to think about, I think you may be on to something here.

      Jan 8, 2009 at 12:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mark Doty
      Mark Doty

      I’m glad you posted my poem here, thanks. Just wanted to note that plenty of people who aren’t gay read poems by gay and lesbian poets — to name a few shining examples, Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Eliabeth Bishop, James Merrill, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler… I think it’s jumping to conclusions to decide that the letter-writer’s gay based on the poems he likes.

      Jan 8, 2009 at 6:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mark Doty
      Mark Doty

      I’m glad you posted my poem here, thanks. Just wanted to note that plenty of people who aren’t gay read poems by gay and lesbian poets — to name a few shining examples, Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Eliabeth Bishop, James Merrill, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler… I think it’s jumping to conclusions to decide that the letter-writer’s gay based on the poems with which he’s familiar.

      Jan 8, 2009 at 6:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bruno
      Bruno

      @Mark Doty:

      Yeah, it seems to be something many of us do often…assume the worst about ourselves. That comes from years of being told we’re inhuman.

      Jan 8, 2009 at 6:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • chuck
      chuck

      @Bruno:

      Sterling point, Bruno. If one is told long enough that you s/he is bad, eventually they come to believe it, just like the children of religious zealots come to believe in sky daddies and fairy tales as adults.

      Lost causes in both cases.

      Jan 8, 2009 at 7:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike
      Mike

      @Mark Doty: Mark, thank you for your poem. It’s beautiful.

      Jan 8, 2009 at 8:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jon Dean
      Jon Dean

      @Mark Doty: I just read your preface to Legitimate Dangers this morning. It had been a while since I’d read anything by you, and I was just thinking that I should look up some more of your work when I came across this story. Now I’m not sure if I should feel lucky or unlucky to have found this. It’s a bittersweet feeling to find such a lovely poem ensnared in such vile circumstances.

      Jan 9, 2009 at 1:13 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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