Pamela Sneed is a New York-based poet, performer, visual artist, and educator. She is the author of Funeral Diva (City Lights Books, 2020), Sweet Dreams (Belladonna*, 2018), KONG (Vintage Entity Press, 2009), Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom than Slavery (Holt, 1998), and others. Sneed has performed the Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Poetry Project, The High Line, the New Museum, and the Toronto Biennale. She appears in Nikki Giovanni’s “The 100 Best African American Poems,” and has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes.
I suppose I should place them under separate files Both died from different circumstances kind of, one from HIV AIDS and possibly not having taken his medicines the other from COVID-19 coupled with complications from an underlying HIV status In each case their deaths may have been preventable if one had taken his meds and the hospital thought to treat the other instead of sending him home saying, He wasn’t sick enough he died a few days later They were both mountains of men dark black beautiful gay men both more than six feet tall fierce and way ahead of their time One’s drag persona was Wonder Woman and the other started a black fashion magazine He also liked poetry They both knew each other from the same club scene we all grew up in When I was working the door at a club one frequented He would always say to me haven’t they figured out you’re a star yet And years ago bartending with the other when I complained about certain people and treatment he said sounds like it’s time for you to clean house Both I know were proud of me the poet star stayed true to my roots I guess what stands out to me is that they both were gay black mountains of men Cut down Felled too early And it makes me think the biggest and blackest are almost always more vulnerable My white friend speculates why the doctors sent one home If he had enough antibodies Did they not know his HIV status She approaches it rationally removed from race as if there were any rationale for sending him home Still she credits the doctors for thinking it through But I speculate they saw a big black man before them Maybe they couldn’t imagine him weak Maybe because of his size color class they imagined him strong said he’s okay Which happened to me so many times Once when I’d been hospitalized at the same time as a white girl she had pig-tails we had the same thing but I saw how tenderly they treated her Or knowing so many times in the medical system I would never have been treated so terribly if I had had a man with me Or if I were white and entitled enough to sue Both deaths could have been prevented both were almost first to fall in this season of death But it reminds me of what I said after Eric Garner a large black man was strangled to death over some cigarettes Six cops took him down His famous lines were I can’t breathe so if we are always the threat To whom or where do we turn for protection?