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James Liceaga Hernandez

A Chisel, A Scalpel, A Needle, a Prayer

I don’t believe in God

not like a Christian

or my Catholic family.

I don’t thank God for my family’s acceptance—

God didn’t do that, God doesn’t do anything.

I thank the people who choose love, choose me

Mother says to me, I wish you knew what it’s like to pray

and feel that you are being heard.

I never prayed to God,

a deity that hates fags,

I never knew what to say,

yet I am not without faith

strength in queer forms—

white knuckles, gritted teeth, clenched jaws,

the refusal to prove them right.

I wear my heart on my sleeve, a target on my back.

I’ll take the label of the abomination,

the damned, the sinner, the slur—

never will I be known as coward.

I learned it all from Marsha, Silvia, Miss Major—

I am out and proud and loud

to honor their memory,

to honor my siblings,

whose survival is silence,

who believe they are alone,

who feel death is their fate—

to honor my siblings,

killed for living

in radiant color.

I do not hide what they pass on to me:

a flag, planted on my shoulder,

carried on til my marching is done.

Yet I doubt my strength to hold its weight—

I don’t feel safe in many places,

for I know what hatred looks like

the marks it leaves on people like me:

In my nightmares and on the news, I am

beaten, they are

disowned, we are



Even so, even so, even so, even so—!

I am not without faith.

My holy scripture, clean of hatred, hold it tight:

To struggle does not make me weak,

to struggle is to fight.

To fear is not cowardice,

courage cannot exist without it.

To tremble is not weakness,

real effort demands it.

We prevail,

beyond tragedy, beyond violence.

We suffer, but so too do we

defend and fight and

marry and raise and grow and

rally and riot.

We love and love and love.

I am not without faith.

My god is bottled testosterone, 200mL,

every other week, I partake in its body—

communion delivered by needle,

intramuscular, one inch and a half

pressed into flesh by gentle nurse hands.

God is my surgeon’s scalpel. God is a double mastectomy.

God is the sunlight hitting my bare flat chest. God is the stubble on my chin.

God speaks through the thickened cords of my throat.

I don’t need the Christian God.

I don’t need my family’s God.

For years I prayed and heard silence,

now I know what my god sounds like—

my mother and grandmother, my father and my brother,

their voices, calling son, grandson, brother,

blessing upon blessing.

I made myself in my image—

I carve myself from marble.

I stand, sling in hand—

I face Goliath.

About the Author

James Liceaga Hernandez was born in Mexico and moved to the US when he was 2 years old. He is fascinated by the human condition, bearded vultures, and analog horror. He loves caffeine, having ADHD, his friends, and family. James aspires to become an illustrator for graphic novels and comics.

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