Almost and Completely

Phillip B. Williams


Daylight comes when it’s good and ready
and no one has paid for the missing bones.

In the scrap yard of memory, to dig and find nothing
has become the sole evidence for missing bones.

In Cayey, Puerto Rico, Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado’s
limbs and head were removed from his torso.

In South Africa, parts of Thapelo Makutle’s
penis and testicles were stuffed into his dead mouth.

A poem demands images. There is no substitute
for this amount of flesh, no beauty in ash

from a cigarette lit to cut the edge from a father’s
flailed evening as he sorts through a mesh of fingers.

Perhaps the journalists did it best: listed the dead
and what remained of them. Who cut whose head

off of what body? Suspense over justice. The dissection
of queer, colored bodies is always in season. Still no eyes

can interpret. Who were they before their deaths?
Neither hope nor clothes can contest skin’s

tortured palimpsest that holds, then like a parent
lets go. Severed hands comb the air.





*On Nov 16, 2009, Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, 19 years old, was burned and dismembered in Cayey, Puerto Rico as a hate crime by Juan Antonio Martinez Matos. Believing Mercado was female, Matos said when he discovered that Mercado was male he had a flashback from when he was sexually assaulted while in prison for domestic violence and murdered Mercado in panic-induced self-defense. He received 99 years in prison. Mercado was well-known and well-loved in his community and known to frequently help gay community organizations and help raise awareness of HIV. For more information please visit, from which the info above was taken.

According to Erin Conway-Smith from, Thapelo Makutle was a 24-year-old gay and transgender man found murdered on June 9th, 2012 in  the town of Kuruman, in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. This following an argument he’d had with two men prior, who then followed him to his rental and murdered him. Unofficial reports from witnesses say that parts of his genitalia were removed and stuffed into his mouth. His throat was slit near decapitation. Makutle was known as the winner of the Miss Gay pageant held in Kuruman and volunteered for a gay and lesbian organization.