35 Years of AIDS

Indolent’s original poem-a-day project. A poem a day by a different poet for a full year counting down to 35 years of AIDS on June 5, 2016. Visit our SUBMITTABLE SITE to SUBMIT poems for the HIV Here & Now Print Anthology (forthcoming in 2017).

Poem 347 ± May 16, 2016

James Diaz
Cecilia, why aren’t you laughing?

Push me
and I will edge open
along my spine
where the nerve of storm
falls along the open expanse
of meadow and wet marsh

this is an absurd way
to get to know someone
but let’s burn this bar to the ground
and roast marshmallows
over its middle-of-the-night demise

and if the shadow of laughter
hails outward with its caustic contralto
into the valley along peace river
where winter will have buried the details of our crime
slap me hard in the face
and tell me that it was for my own good.

 

James DiazJames Diaz, an activist and author, lives in upstate New York. His work has appeared in Ditch, Chronogram, Cheap Pop Lit, Foliate Oak, The Voices Project, Pismire, Epigraph, My Favorite Bullet, and Collective Exile. He is the founding editor of the literary arts magazine Anti-Heroin Chic.

This poem is not previously published.

Poem 346 ± May 15, 2016

Cedric Tillman
light reading

everybody comes for the waves,
the stripes on the rented umbrellas
all go the same way, their walls
too sheer to keep secrets.

now she pats the chair to
give me just a little more time
as the surf swirls in,
a shush under the play of grandbabies,
their bowled bellies making molds
in tight one-piece suits,
breezes lift the blue frills, pink tails
would bloom with laughter
just over that water line
up and down this patch of beach
all day if they’d let them.

He keeps a thumb in the book
to hold a place,
reaches for the minus sign
on the speaker, says
Ma, check this out
low and somber,
like chatter in the pew.
Listen.

She’s busy being glad the baby
is beyond the gauntlet of hot sand,
standing in something
that can cool bare feet.
He wonders aloud
Do you understand it?
He’s coming out to…

but she cuts him off,
says What would your daddy
and then trails off,
staring over the romp of the beach,
fumbling for something
in the wrong purse.

How…?
She starts again, expelling the air,
shaking her head,
looking right cute
beneath her straw hat.
When he says
I don’t know Ma,
it’s somethin’,
the water seeps away again,
caught in the act,
and the sun leans in close.
Anyone out of the water
is riveted with sweat.

 

Cedric TillmanCedric Tillman is the author of Lilies in the Valley (Willow Books, 2013). His poems have appeared in Rove, Iodine Poetry Journal, The Drunken Boat, Crosscut, Kakalak, and other journals, as well as in Home Is Where: An Anthology of African American Poets From the Carolinas (Hub City Press, 2011). He is a Cave Canem fellow, a two-time Pushcart Award nominee, and Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Contest semifinalist. He lives in Charlotte.

This poem is not previously published.

Poem 345 ± May 14, 2016

Rosalie Calabrese
Odd Man Out

Death, I’ve argued all along,
is preordained, in the cards—
each occurrence indelibly inscribed
in the book of life.
Now as your story
is about to be cut short,
I pray the clock will stop
but, like the cherries
in the slot machine
that time you said
the odds were in our favor,
it relentlessly moves ahead.

rosalie-calabreseRosalie Calabrese is the author of Remembering Chris (Poets Wear Prada, 2015). Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Poetry New Zealand, Poetica, Jewish Currents, Mom Egg Review, and The New York Times, among other publications. Her poems have also been set to music by composers for the concert hall and the musical theater stage. A native New Yorker, Rosalie works as a management consultant in the arts.

This poem is not previously published.

Poem 344 ± May 13, 2016

Christian Axavier Lovehall
Brutha from Anotha…

Weary
And bruised
I stand
Upon Mother-less land
Naked
As leaves
Muddied in grief
And silence
I am marked
Like Beast
Beauty hidden
beneath keloids
that smile
Big lipped
In vain
from Bwoy to Nigga
House to field
The store bells ring
My name
in anticipation
Of the wild and
untamed
I am a soft light
Feared and
Reduced to figments
Of shared realities
Raped and eaten alive
There is blood in these handshakes
It smells of wombs
Magic
breasts and God
I am guilty
Until proven innocent
Hated for the Zulu in my walk
the Patois inna mi talk
The Taurus in my moons
Non phenomenal
Denied to rise
I am Man
Black Man
and I am nothing
That they say I am

Christian LovehallChristian Axavier Lovehall is the author of Black, Trans & Gifted (Lulu.com, 2016). Christian, also known as Wordz The Poet Emcee, was featured on In Bed with Butch, a Philly-based LGBT entertainment show that aired on Comcast and performed on BET’s flagship popular music series 106th and Park. Christian graced the cover of Original Plumbing Magazine, a trans male quarterly based out of San Francisco, and was featured in their 2011 calendar. Christian was an editor of TMan Magazine. He founded and organized the Philly Trans* March, an annual rally and march towards trans* equality, and with his partner Milan N. Sherry created and organized the National Trans March of Resilience. Learn more at the tumblr His Pen…UNTAMED.

This poem is not previously published.

Poem 343 ± May 12, 2016

Max McDonough
Two Poems

 

My Mother’s Computer

In the sheer sloth of another school night, another
social studies assignment, the first time
I was allowed to use it—the same one

she adopted my siblings from, auctioned off
her dolls but, more often, bought more to put
customized outfits on—the bulky black Dell

perplexed me, like looking into a pond and seeing
vague movements underwater. Whisper
a name
George, I entered, pecking
the keys, sheepish, like my mother would, with only
index fingers. Then Bush, for the project I would

complete like the example child I had deemed
myself. Images of a confused-looking man
filled the screen, useful to me, though I already knew

before I knew to stop myself what I was
about to do—glancing left, then right. My mother
upstairs somewhere. The house

uncannily quiet. The communal
privacy of her computer room—interrupted
only by a dusty moth assaulting the overhead light.

His running-mate Dick, I typed, clicked
search—no Cheney, no pause—unwinding
a jack-in-the-box, her computer screen bursting

with anatomical diagrams and plush
abdominal down—bronze men trapped
in the gallery’s rigid grid, little rooms

in which, stiff, they held themselves like trophies
as I was holding myself, astonished
in the glow of that rectangular world.

 

Self-portrait as Boyhood Erection

And this is how you wear a sock
over your head: stretch
and cotton-sweat, lips
coy as petals,
whetted then struck
by a barbarous tugging—
smell of grass,
of cinnamon,
of aftershave still on scuttling
hand. I live in denim musk,
a clam unshelled and
flowering
in classroom, locker room, bathroom stall—
I live to enthrall and be enthralled.
I live like most things: a burgeoning,
then pink-shrink and loll.

 

Max McDonoughMax McDonough is a Creative Writing Fellow at Vanderbilt University. His poems appear in Gulf Coast, CutBank, Meridian, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere.

“My Mother’s Computer” appeared in The Journal. “Self-portrait as Boyhood Erection” appeared in Anthropoid.

Poem 342 ± May 11, 2016

Joe Eldridge
Two Poems

 

Gemologist

Kaposi’s Sarcoma—such
a lovely, lovely name
Sounds like an uncut
Greco-Hungarian porn star

Don’t hear it much anymore
like the conversation-stopper it was
when bandied about
in the early plague years

Roger had it
on his pleasing face
shiny purple spots
like opals and amethysts

At the Heart’s Ball
I tried to fasten
a glow stick around his neck
He stopped me

said it took a team
of beauty consultants
and a crate of Cover Girl
to hide his lesions

Feared the blazing
disco lights plus heat
from the piss-colored choker
might melt

his meticulously applied
natural looking base
coat—expose
his hidden gems.

 

Crew Member

Him I hardly knew—but his dark god beauty
I certainly did, as well as the galley gossip
on those countless all-nighters crossing the pond
when we fellow flight attendants
prattled on and on about his many conquests
amazingly made what with him
looking all Tiffany blue
yet sounding pure Capote.

I thought nothing of crashing his bon voyage
party where sycophants assembled to send
him home to Buffalo now that dementia bought on
by a head full of tumors rendered him somewhat
narcoleptic yet him rousing
for an “Up yours Reagan!” rant
and me laughing along with his rapt audience
at every gaffe he intentionally made

and along with that group
cursed the captain who stopped his wheelchair
at the jet-bridge door forbiding him boarding
with the all too familiar excuse that he looked
contagious. Well for Christ’s sake tell me
who didn’t look a bit gaunt at that time?
I’d really like to know.

Less than a month later I joined in the merriment
at his memorial service where his boozy fag hag
a-shimmer in a black Holly Golightly dress
narrated a slide show celebrating his life
a mixed tape of Manilow and Midler setting the tone

and at dusk along with the distraught horde in thrift
store designer duds purchased specifically
for this most bittersweet occasion
released baby blue Mylar balloons over Lake Michigan

then at the after party in his soon to be sold condo
I fucked his widower. What else could I do?

 

Joe EldridgeJoe Eldridge earned his MFA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago where he is currently an adjunct. He has published poetry in Assaracus, Court Green, Moonshot, St. Sebastian Review, Velvet Mafia, Clementine and The Gay & Lesbian Review, among others. to name a few. He received a Pushcart nomination for his poem “He Looks at Clouds” which appeared in Rhino. A black belt in Seido Karate, Joe has also been a flight attendant for the past 30 years, circling the globe with his circle of friends.

These poems are not previously published.

Poem 341 ± May 10, 2016

Priyank Pillai
Crocus

Sometimes my kiss is the snowfall on a frozen lake,
healing what is left behind after young figure skaters
return home, their tendons aching with the phantom
pain of ambitions forgone to life’s knowing embrace.

Tonight your gaze makes me wonder how summer
is possible, how the crocus can bloom despite the bustle
of an unforgiving city where our bruised hearts intertwined
for the first time in our desperate anti-intellectualism.

I will leave the nightlight on so they shall not smell
the fear acuminating under the foliage of what the law
was still too shy to call a marriage, our blossoming
deferred until the horizon is wounded by light.

Tomorrow you will smile for me, bravely, as you have
from our photographs these past fifteen years, knowing
that our bodies will touch again in passionate geometries,
and never revealing to history the illicitness of our survival.

 

priyank pillaiPriyank Pillai is a trans poet and conceptual artist currently based in Houston, TX. Their previous works have appeared in queer South Asian publications such as Gaysi, Orinam, and Pink Pages. Their first North American writings are forthcoming in the Spring 2016 issue of the Minetta Review.

This poem is not previously published.

Poem 340 ± May 9, 2016

Richard Loranger
Untitled

To write your way out of death, like finding a tiny path in the woods at night and staying on it without a torch. One yearns for the acute sight of youth, the pinpoint recognition of a newt in the dark, a small twist of trail that will take you home. Maybe it’s also a matter of scent, groping one’s way through musk and bark, grappling the faintest of lavenders in breeze, the sharp stink of rot, to find the perfect midnight glen. Almost the essence of touch, as well – here you are on an island you’ve long known, every twist of the path familiar, and you can feel each tree, each tumbled stone, each branch without moon and the distant shore as you would a companion sauntering astride. To write your way out of death, know the land like your lover, take to the hills for a good long breath, have a tall glass of water, and let death write its way out of you.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Richard Loranger is the author of Poems for Teeth (We Press, 2005) and The Orange Book (The International Review Press, 1990) as well as nine chapbooks. His book of flash prose, Sudden Windows, is forthcoming from Zeitgeist Press in 2016. Recent work can be found in Oakland Review and in the anthologies Overthrowing Capitalism Volume 2: Beyond Endless War, Racist Police, Sexist Elites (Kallatumba Press, 2015) edited by John Curl and Jack Hirschman on behalf of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade, and I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand (great weather for MEDIA, 2014), edited by Jane Ormerod, Thomas Fucaloro, and George Wallace. Richard lives in Oakland, Calif. You can find more at richardloranger.com.

This poem is not previously published.

Poem 339 ± May 8, 2016

Phillip J. Ammonds
Two Poems

 

Ode to my mother

my lips
my eyes
the way I taste
how I know before I should
my hands
my feet
the way I sway
back and forth at the stove
my stare
my neck
oh how it twists
when I hear children cry
this hair all of this luxurious
kinky, curly, straight, black,
brown, red, blonde, blue hair
all this hair
a crown of glory
signaling that I am made
of sweet echos of
mitochondrial chaos

 

Honey Moon

We ate Puccini and Bach off of each other’s lips,
during evenings of curry trances,
Political musings, smoke filled laughter.
That building condemned by love.
Floors creaked under eager weight of slick youth.

Slats thumped a song on the neighbors;
Fatigue blocked their protest.
Our hands painted walls with vivid plans
of sun ripened vacations, dark plumb seas–
trimmed in iridescent, Northern lights.
New love knows no bounds.

Joy, boxed and tied into four rooms.
No worries. No worries. No worries.
Get drunk and choke on upchucked love,
’til the world crawls through cracks,
looking to take what you have.

 

SAMSUNG

Phillip J. Ammonds, a Brooklyn native, is a founding member of the writing collective Writeous, with whom he has co-produced three chapbooks. Phillip curates Rainbows Across the Diaspora, the queer text reading series at Dixon Place in New York City. His work appears in the anthology Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call (Vintage Entity Press, 2013), edited by Steven G. Fullwood and Charles Stephens.

These poems are not previously published.

Poem 338 ± May 7, 2016

James J. Siegel
The God of San Francisco

Some believe the God of San Francisco
has taken his throne
at the top of Twin Peaks—
A mighty Mount Olympus
nine hundred feet above the city
where the kingdom of heaven
embraces the kingdom of The Bay.

At that elevation it is difficult not to see
that something greater guides the way,
watches over all creatures and creation
coming and going
by bridge and by air,
by cable car and ferry.

Watch as the west erupts with light,
the sun that drops into the Pacific
burning brighter than an angel
entering the atmosphere.
Watch the fog that follows,
floats like the Holy Ghost
down the rocky hillsides
to hang over Hayes Valley,
the Haight-Ashberry—
The sweetest incense
of some Catholic mass.

Yes, it is difficult not to believe,
but they are correct in name
and name alone —
My savior has a bar stool
at the Twin Peaks Tavern,
a window seat to watch the world
where Market street meets Castro,
and the rainbow flags flap in the cold
of another West Coast wind.

I go there when I need religion
at a happy hour price—
a Bud Light baptism—
when I need a good lesson
that God has yet to leave us behind.

He sits alone,
his hands turned to vein and bone.
But buy him a martini—
vodka with two olives,
extra dirty—
and he will tell you anything
you need to know,
from the gold rush to North Beach
where the sailors wore dresses
over their anchor tattoos

to Jose Sarria and the Black Cat,
the Nightingale of Montgomery Street.

Yes, those were the days
when the prophets wore pearls,
when the Bible was burlesque,
and the saints mingled with the sinners,
the night a lightning strike
of arias and police sirens—
“God Save Us Nelly Queens.”

He raises a glass to the nevermore—
The Continental Baths,
the Elephant Walk,
to Harvey and his bullhorn.
A drink to the things that slipped away,
the bullets that shattered brains,
the murder called manslaughter
ushering in those White Night Riots,
the shattered glass of City Hall,
cop cars turned to funeral pyres,

And he remembers death
coming like it did in Egypt
stealing the first born,
the second born,
any young man who fell in love
with the twilight over Polk Street.
The obituary pages
doubling everyday
with the black and white faces
of the men who colored the Castro.

He can tell you how he washed the feet
of skinny boys with lesions,
boys in hospice beds
wheeled to the window
for one final look of the city at dawn,
then wheeled to the morgues
with no family to claim their remains.

So he took them—
all of them—
ashes upon ashes
collected and released
where the ocean waters worship
the glory of the Golden Gate.
He scattered them
in South of Market bars
where the men in leather tap a keg,
toast the life of another dead brother.

And he set them free
where the winds bow and bend,
genuflect for the San Francisco sky.
All the bodies that danced
in Folsom neon and Freedom Day parades,
in disco light and speakeasy darkness,
in the soft ballet of love and life,
they flutter and float forever
where the oceans wear
a halo from the moon,
and the towers of Twin Peaks
glow in the resurrection of the night.

 

James J. SiegelJames J. Siegel is the author of How Ghosts Travel (Spuyten Duyvil Publishing, 2016). His poems have appeared in the journals The Good Men Project, The Cortland Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Assaracus, and The Fourth River, as well as in the anthology Divining Divas: 100 Gay Men On Their Muses (Lethe Press, 2012), edited by Michael Montlack. James received a scholarship to the Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. An Ohio native, James has been living in San Francisco for over a decade.

This poem is not previously published