That silent night the sound of jackboots grew loud encircling our streets. The hosannas grew bold. Onward like soldiers marching as to war they came, letting no one bar their trampling way.
“We march in the name of all consuming love,” they sang. But their hymn was harsh, too militant of brass and snarling drum to win our allegiance or gain our heartfelt trust.
For days we heard rumors of casting stones. (“A lie,” they sneered.) We heard chants. Change! Change! We noted the marking of souls by chapter and verse: I accept! I kneel! I crown! (“Our truth is indelible,” they three times crowed. “It scorches like fires of hell. It stains like crucifixion blood.”)
For safety we fled to the woods, worried we might be pursued by their hounds of heaven, unleashed to snap, snarl, tear any – and all – who could not, would not, dare not, true believe with them.
Step! Step! Step! The jackboots echoed. Heil! Hosanna! Heil! The hour grew late. The indifferent moon shone cold. Few stars dared to shine.
“Are we next?” we wondered, pausing to embrace, to lock wearied arms, to press ahead. “Let our kinship sustain us ’til the dawn,” we said.
And so, that once-silent night the snow fell gentle. Soft. Unsullied. It covered all with tiny gems of benediction. (Is there anything wiser than the falling snow? we asked.) Yet still we heard the warlike din, and moved among the trees where sentinel shadows guarded our late-night watch.
Each brought a candle to light our way. His, red. Hers, blue. A youth’s, pale lavender. Fairest green, a transgendered heart. A black youth, richest ebony. Amid that sheltered space our faces glowed. We shared warmth. Reflected light. We garnered hope. Breathed far, far cleaner air.
Hidden in the heart of natural things we affirmed who we are – who we have always been – who we must remain – come what may – whate’er the cost – whate’er betide setback, struggle, strategy. Having so pledged among ourselves, it seemed the woods in turn gave haloed radiance. And spectral voices, too.
“Remember us,” we heard unnamed spirits call. “We paid the price for candor long, long years ago. Our honest courage paved the way for you and yours. Draw now upon our strength. Your struggle’s ours.”
“Hear us too,” cried others moving near with sadder shape. “Our countless lives give honor. We yielded youth, talent, hope to rampant death, disease, dementia. Our suffering, our terror – though painful to recall – must not be banished from memory. Our loss, atone.”
“And we, too, are here: victims of hate, cunning, murder, foulest play. We were despised, rejected of human kind. They mocked and spat upon our gifts, our joy, our differences, our right to love. Be strong!”
Then whispered a warming, healing wind: “Your time will come. Be resolute.” And softly says the ever-gentle snow: “My peace I give. This night I blanket all. Be free. Yield not. Go out. Be whole. Be as one.”