Admitted to the hospital again.
The second bout of pneumocystis back
In January almost killed him; then,
He'd sworn to us he'd die at home. He baked
Us cookies, which the student wouldn't eat,
Before he left--the kitchen on 5A
Is small, but serviceable and neat.
He told me stories: Richard Gere was gay
And sleeping with a friend if his, and AIDS
Was an elaborate conspiracy
Effected by the government. He stayed
Four months. He lost his sight to CMV.
One day, I drew his blood, and while I did
He laughed, and said I was his girlfriend now,
His blood-brother. "Vampire-slut," he cried,
"You'll make me live forever!" Wrinkled brows
Were all I managed in reply. I know
I'm drowning in his blood, his purple blood.
I filled my seven tubes; the warmth was slow
To leave them, pressed inside my palm. I'm sad
Because he doesn't see my face. Because
I can't identify with him. I hate
The fact that he's my age, and that across
My skin he's there, my blood-brother, my mate.
He said I was too nice, and after all
If Jodie Foster was a lesbian,
Then doctors could be queer. Residual
Guilts tingled down my spine. "OK, I'm done,"
I said as I withdrew the needle from
His back, and pressed. The CSF was clear;
I never answered him. That spot was framed
In sterile, paper drapes. He was so near
Death, telling him seemed pointless. Then, he died.
Unrecognizable to anyone
But me, he left my needles deep inside
His joking heart. An autopsy was done.
I'd read to him at night. His horoscope,
The New York Times, The Advocate;
Some lines by Richard Howard gave us hope.
A quiet hospital is infinite,
The polished, ice-white floors, the darkened halls
That lead to almost anywhere, to death
Or ghostly, lighted Coke machines. I call
To him one night, at home, asleep. His breath,
I dreamed, had filled my lungs--his lips, my lips
Had touched. I felt as though I'd touched a shrine.
Not disrespectfully, but in some lapse
Of concentration. In a mirror shines
The distant moon.
From The Other Man Was Me: A Voyage to the New World by Rafael Campo, published by Arte Público Press. Copyright © 1994 Rafael Campo. Used with permission.
and again the test comes back negative for waterborne parasites
for gonorrhea of the throat and of elsewhere for white blood cells in the stool
this isn’t always true sometimes it’s a phone call from your lover
sometimes it’s your computer blinking on with news of what’s wrong
with your body this time
simple really how he says the name of a disease
and suddenly you’re on your back staring out the window onto a highway
suddenly a woman enters the room to wrap a black cuff around your arm
and squeeze until you’re no longer sick
to slip a device under your tongue check in your sweat’s accompanied
by the heat it demanded
and aren’t we all of elsewhere sometimes the nowhere places you make yourself
inside the hallowed chambers of the hospital and inside the man’s unsure voice
when he calls and is too scared to name the precise strain of letters
you might share now what parasite might feed on the topsoil of your groin
what laugh track what tabernacle unlatched to let all that god in
what bacteria spreading its legs in your throat as you speak
when the illness is terminal you drink an eighth of paint thinner
while all the color drains from your face
all those little rocks in your gut turned to buses all those buses full of strange men
each one degree apart all going somewhere and gone now
funny how a word can do that garage the body
what if instead he’d simply called to say epithalamium or new car or sorry
From Bury It. Copyright © 2018 by sam sax. Published by Wesleyan University Press. Reprinted by permission.
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.
Never knew a thing about the Saint
Vincent, hearty name
a comforting stew
in a violent December
the first ward to welcome
the men who would become
my children until mothers
chose God over religion
love over blame
woke up from the stupor of shame
that worst of all AIDS complications
awake that I might take their place
after one found me in bed
putting love into lesions
fields of killer berries blue
heralds of final breaths
our bodies gently threaded in tenderness
word got around
the best doctors looked away
nurses never saw a thing
as we snuggled, giggled
careful not to unplug anything
the joy of Popsicles
the birthday cakes
the friends who came
the ones who didn’t
thinking about the daddy
you wish you had
made you mad
so many orphans of the living
be the daddy, don’t dream the daddy
daddy’s not coming
be the daddy you wish you had
don’t get jealous
get alive and live to the bone
of all the love you have to give
send your neighbor a prayer, a chocolate, a kiss
don’t miss the daddy, be the daddy
tell the bedtime story
we can all tuck each other in
be the daddy to the boy dying
days before you
become the breath you barely have
be the orchestra section of another’s life
the days endless with machines, medications
interruptions of sleep by front line miracle dreams
I wear my Reverend Mother disguise
so I can stay through the night
You make me promise
they’ll honor the DNR
no matter how you beg
whatever look of despair
comes into your eyes
You know what you want
while you still own your mind
When mama finally arrives
you’re still alive
I kiss you every time
always the chance of good-bye
The AIDS wards
Where lifetimes were lived
Where Death wrapped us in the mercy
of seeing life for the very first time
of Love threading body to soul
Never gone too far.
Copyright © 2017 by Magdalena Gomez. This poem originally appeared in Honeysuckle Magazine, October 2017. Used with permission of the author.