An Inside/Out Poem from Poet Laureate, Susan M. Peiffer

Happy Holidays! When I first moved to Colorado Springs I was coming from a job as program director for a non-profit in Philadelphia whose services supported children with guardians who identified in the LGBTQIA spectrum. We ran a year-round speaker’s program and a two week long residential summer camp in the pine barrens of New Jersey. The creative arts were essential to our activities—poetry was a means of expression the young people eagerly responded to and embraced. I have found their enthusiasm to be universally present—especially among the queer youth of the Pikes Peak region.

In Colorado Springs, Inside/Out Youth Services launched as a program for LGBTQIA youth in 1990 as a program of the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment. Inside/Out is known for trusted, high quality and engaging youth development and recreation programs, as well as referrals for at-risk youth. They are often the only safe space in the city for a queer or questioning young person. An army of volunteers and small staff advocate and empower young people and their allies so that safety, acceptance and liberty breathe across the city, not just behind the doors of our youth center. The creative and outspoken work they do encourages compassion and story telling.

Inside they provide safety and acceptance for LGBTQIA youth and their allies.
Out in the community they provide understanding, respect, and equality.

I am proud to share this poem, written for Inside/Out, with you.

For you whose chest is rainbow fractured—
—you tired seahorses
& unexpected heroes with the birds-nests
worried into your hair—
whose struggle to silence the screaming
has blocked out dove psalms—
There are sparrow seeds sprouting
from the shine seeping through
the cracks of your opening heart.
Your flame flickers in darkness
& grows brighter with the wind.
We have come out of the closet
& have seen scars in the mirror
We have lit candles
& left the house—
Strengthened our spines
by growing wings—
Taken aim & flown
past the moon.
We see her reflection
& plaster her glow
like a smile on the mirrors
of our faces.
We use the light of each other
to fly our way home—
In the safety of our house
nestled in the embrace of branches
& the flutter of wings
we find friends who are ever-enduring shadows
& un-lying mirrors
Candles lose nothing when they share
the warmth of their flames—
There are millions waiting in the dirt of flower pots
for the warmth of owning their own names.
When a flower fails to bloom
you build them a new home—
you do not give up
on their blossoming at all—
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.
We poets who trade in our lives for a living
were once, too, parchment waiting to be inscribed—
We burn our eyes by staring too long
at our bright burning star of a sun—
& we wonder
at the burn of our own reflections
—& at the mirrors we’ve become.
Look what you can do with this world
& a wind-pipe
& a poem
—a whistling bird call
always drawing you home.

-Susan M. Peiffer

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