Words AIDS Day 2016

A poem a day by a different poet for the month leading up to World AIDS DAy 2016. Visit our SUBMITTABLE SITE to SUBMIT poems for the HIV Here & Now Print Anthology (forthcoming in 2017).

Poem 11 ± November 11, 2016

Michael Broder
What Would Sylvia Have Done?

Daddy, you can fuck me up the ass,
but don’t expect me to lick your balls after.
How many poems can I write about the penetrated male anus?
One for each sphincter, maybe—
Two anal sphincters, the external, which is voluntary,
and the internal, which is involuntary,
controlling the exit of feces from the body;
also the entrance of fingers, fists, penises, dildos, butt plugs
and nozzles for anal douching. But there are other sphincters—
pupillary sphincter (in the iris of the eye);
sphincter orbicularis oculi (muscle around the eye);
upper and lower esophageal sphincters
(and…we’re back to fucking);
cardiac sphincter, atop the stomach,
keeping gastric acid from out of your throat;
pyloric sphincter (bottom of the stomach);
ileocecal sphincter (where small intestine meets large intestine,
liminal space between digestion and poop);
Oddi’s sphincter, named for Ruggero Oddi (1864–1913), Italian,
also know as Glisson’s sphincter,
named for Francis Glisson (1599–1677), British physician,
keeping bile and gall in their proper places;
sphincter urethrae, which keeps you from pissing your pants
(and also capable of being fucked, a kink known as “sounding”);
precapillary sphincters, wee microscopic bloodgates;
and finally the preputial sphincter of the foreskin
(may its memory be for a blessing).
I like to think that any sphincter can be fucked; in some
cases, maybe we just haven’t figured out how—yet.


Michael_Broder_02-12-16Michael Broder is the author of Drug and Disease Free (Indolent Books, 2016) and This Life Now (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014), a finalist for the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Assaracus, BLOOM, Columbia Poetry Review, Court Green, OCHO, Painted Bride Quarterly, and other journals, as well as in the anthologies This New Breed: Gents, Bad Boys and Barbarians 2; My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them; Spaces Between Us: Poetry, Prose and Art on HIV/AIDS; Divining Divas: 50 Gay Men on Their Muses; and Multilingual Anthology: The Americas Poetry Festival of New York 2015. Michael is the founding publisher of  Indolent Books and the founding editor of The HIV Here and Now Project. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband, the poet Jason Schneiderman, and a backyard colony of stray and feral cats.

This poem appeared in Inklette.

Poem 10 ± November 10, 2016

Luis Lopez-Maldonado
A Cock-Filled Emptiness

I am illegal snake slithering like satan.
I am Fire&Ice Trojan™ condom.
I am the birds bees bullets babies.
I am overcooked underlooked stolen steak.
I am punched and fucked manhole cream-pie.
I am crystal rosaries hanging from brown necks.
I am mini-mí replica of my mother.
I’m a half-smashed rabbit duck skunk against gravel.
I’m a dose of muscle relaxers down thick throats.
I’m a bitch-ass faggot puto brownnoser poser.
I’m a fruit salad con limón y sal.
I’m a round rude moon raging floating above water.
I’m a Catholic Priest slut cake blooming slave.
I’m a brown stain on white wall.
I wants to die wants to cry wants to fly… away.

luis-lopez-maldonadoLuis Lopez-Maldonado is a Xicano poet born and raised in Orange County, CA. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California Riverside, majoring in Creative Writing and Dance. His work has been seen in The American Poetry Review, Cloudbank, The Packinghouse Review, Off Channel, and Spillway, among many others. He also earned a Master of Arts degree in Dance from Florida State University. He is currently a candidate for the Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame.

Poem 9 ± November 9, 2016

Bob Carr

Come into me unsheathed
strand, little death hood
between boy and man.

Simmer in the warm lining
of my ass. Dance as I play
percussion on the empty
case of your clarinet,

beat that burns
the blonde of loved arms
to nub, the singeing stink
of your match.

Come over me, decade
of brownouts as I plunge
fingers into a rib cage
and split myself to you.

Come around me, clustering
of little boy smells, raging stain
dripping absence of color
from a bag on a pole.

Come, come to me
in the startled brow
of a lover who called me
his only one,

the small voice saying
the sarcoma on his arm
is a birthmark I’ve forgotten.


bob_carrBob Carr is the author of “Amaranth”, a chapbook published in 2016 by Indolent Books. In his writing life, Bob is currently working with Michael Broder as co-editor on the HH&N print anthology. Recent work by Bob appears in the Bellevue Literary Review, Kettle Blue Review, New Verse News, Radius Literary Magazine, Pretty Owl Poetry, White Stag Journal, The Good Men Project and other publications. He lives with his husband Stephen in Malden, Massachusetts, and serves as Deputy Director for the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. His poetry, book reviews, and upcoming events can be found at robertcarr.org

Poem 8 ± November 8, 2016

John Findura
Portrait: News Broadcast, 1985, w/Me Shaking

I was ten the first time I heard
About AIDS and how there was
No cure and how if you
Had it you were going to die
And my ten year-old self
Was sure that I would then
Get this disease because the news
Broadcasts don’t lie and there
I was shaking that I was going
To get an incurable disease
At ten years-old and die obviously
Not understanding anything about
What it really was only that it
Was a death sentence for everyone
And it was going to spread through
The country by blood and this sounded
So bad so horrible that I shook
Myself to sleep that night
But now I think not of how silly
I was because I wasn’t silly at all
I was scared and sure but now
At forty I am more frustrated
That it has been thirty years
And there is a ten year-old somewhere
Who is just as scared as I was
Because there is still no cure
And there are still people dying
And sometimes it seems as if
The most that I can do is write
A poem saying that it’s okay
To be young and scared because
When there are this many of us
You don’t have to be alone


john_finduraJohn Findura is the author of the poetry collection Submerged (ELJ, 2018). He holds an MFA from The New School as well as a degree in psychotherapy. His poetry and criticism appear in numerous journals including Verse, Fourteen Hills, Copper Nickel, Pleiades, Forklift, Ohio, Sixth Finch, Prelude, and Rain Taxi. A guest blogger for The Best American Poetry, he lives in Northern New Jersey with his wife and daughters.

Poem 7 ± November 7, 2016

Darius Stewart
Communally Bound

In the early Sunday morning drowse of the Travis County Jail, paired off, handcuffed, each to another & shuffling in our over-sized flip-flops, we make our way to court, waiting for the judge to appear in his choir robe, yawning & wringing his eyes of sleep between reading, one by one, the charges we each face. I’m handcuffed to a man who’s light-skinned—redbone we’d call him in the projects—who insists on scratching his balls each time the judge pauses to allow Spanish translators to repeat charges the non-English speaking are facing, whether or not the court should contact the Mexican consulate, & so forth, & it seems redbone has made a game of this—at once enticing & irritating—like so many men I’ve met outside these court room walls. He might as well be any one of them, except the tattooed tear below his right eye suggests he’s not one given to sentimentality— a perpetual crier—but he’s a murderer—yes, that’s what the tear means—& I wonder what circumstances brought him to such depths of human frailty—to kill a man & have forever stamped on his face the night it all went down—a drive-by shooting, a knife wedged between someone’s heart & lungs somewhere in a black alley, the possibilities are endless—& I shake my head, chuckle, knowing the crimes he’s committed far supersede the drunk-driving charges he’s now facing, & no one’s the wiser save those who can read symbols on a man’s face & know he’s completed a rite of passage, a bar mitzvah of the ghetto variety, though how does my second-degree felony drug charge stack against his crimes, I wonder—me, who prefers Pinot Gris to malt liquor, me who sautés & brines, writes the moon into a story of unrequited love, me who witnesses tufts of pubic hair wiring their way upward each time he scratches himself, pondering if it could ever work out between us. Or is it the bond of incarceration that binds us as we are wrist-bound to one another, as if we are indeed a portrait of perfect compatibility—his Eliza Doolittle to my Professor Higgins. Though of course, this is mere fantasy, synapses snapped in the brain preventing mind’s access to rational thought—though in bearing this, seeds of regret blossom in my throat & I’m choked with grief knowing this is the end of our courtship, & I must touch everywhere but where our wrists are communally bound, kiss his lips, that lone tear, awaken him from the life that leads to this place.

Darius StewartDarius Stewart is the author of three chapbooks: The Terribly Beautiful (2006), Sotto Voce (2008), each of which was an Editor’s Choice Selection in the Main Street Rag Poetry Chapbook Series, and The Ghost the Night Becomes (2014), winner of the Gertrude Press Poetry Chapbook Prize. He earned an M.F.A. from the Michener Center for Writers, where he was a James A. Michener Fellow in poetry, and lives in Knoxville, TN with his dog Philip J. “Fry.”

This poem appeared in storySouth.

Poem 6 ± November 6, 2016

Risa Denenberg
Twenty years of dead

— J (1956-1993)

There’s not a lot of love that isn’t brutal, but we

had our East Village dives that didn’t open for Sunday
liquid-brunch until 1 pm and Monday nights at the G&L
community center where all the boys were cruising and
you hung out with me anyway, and

your pâté, your miraculous leg of lamb, your
hundred layers of filo, and

your ten plagues, the infusions that didn’t kill
the germ that killed you, and how

after I met your parents, and
after I found the shoebox of postcards of martyred Saints
and slush pile of short stories you wrote in college,

I read your journals.

I should never have read your journals. Your love
was hilarious and full of grand gestures and
caution tossed, and

Christ how we could talk smart and fast like 2 Jews do,
I could meet up with you after an AA meeting, count
on you to say good god girl, you need a drink, because

you knew you were going to die and you could say
things so brainsick as after I die, I want you to burn
my body in the street and eat my flesh.


imageRisa Denenberg is the author of Whirlwind @ Lesbos (Headmistress Press, 2016), In My Exam Room (The Lives You Touch Publications, 2014) and blinded by clouds (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2014) She is a nurse practitioner working in HIV/AIDS care and end-of-life care. Risa is a moderator at The Gazebo, an online poetry board; reviews poetry for the American Journal of Nursing; and is an editor at Headmistress Press, a publisher of lesbian poetry. She lives on the Olympic peninsula in Washington State.

This poem originally appeared in Spry Literary Journal.

Poem 5 ± November 5, 2016

Debora Lidov


1. Hospital Record

Patient is full-term baby born to HIV-positive mother. Per infectious disease team, Patient to be discharged home on oral AZT four times daily times six weeks. Note father is unaware of mother’s status or baby’s treatment protocol. Mother has trained in medication administration and verbalizes plan: Father to be told by mother that AZT is routine antibiotic or did she say vitamins. Mother refuses home-care nurse.


2. Staff in the Hall

The mother has a
House In Virginia.
The mother has a

Hat In Verona.
The mother has a
Honda In Vegas.


3. Staff Meeting

nurse: Don’t we have to tell the father?

lawyer: Does anyone know if we have to tell the father?

pediatrics director: This again? We never tell the father.

pediatric infectious disease: If we tell the father we risk losing everyone.

social worker: Does the father have the right to see the child’s chart?

answer: No father has ever asked in the history of this unit to see the chart.

pediatric resident: Aren’t we supposed to inform DOH to alert partners?

social worker: We’re the baby’s team. The baby doesn’t have any partners.

home-care liaison: She knew when she married him and he doesn’t know? What’s AZT?

He might beat her if she told.

Maybe he should beat her and teach her a lesson.

Her load is low he isn’t at risk.

Her load his high she’s noncompliant we shouldn’t let her have this baby in the first place.

Hi, I’m Vanessa!

Howard Interrupts Victor.

He probably does know and he probably gave it to her.

But he’d still beat her and blame her if she told.

They aren’t married, he doesn’t have rights to see the chart.

How would we know which parents are married?


4. Interview

Social worker: Can you tell me what you think would happen if you told?

Mother: It just isn’t something he needs to know.


Debora_LidovDebora Lidov is the author of Trance (Finishing Line Press, 2015). Her poems have appeared in Ars Medica, Cut Throat, Five Points, Salamander, upstreet, and The Threepenny Review. Debora is a medical social worker and lives in Brooklyn.

See her poem in the previous HH&N poem-a-day feature.

This poem is not previously published.

Poem 4 ± November 4, 2016

Hank Henderson
We Are Not All Dead

We are not all dead,
the ejected, rejected, the blood infected.
Our self-claimed self-named ghettos
decimated, desecrated
from the Castro to Greenwich Village
between them
in Chicago Denver Kansas City
below them
in Miami Dallas Phoenix L.A.
above them
in Seattle Minneapolis Provincetown
New Town, Boy’s Town, Our town
Every town.
Our ghettos were then renovated,
annotated by replacements
straight and forgetful.
The boys from the 80s.
White boys stacked in cities,
brothers dancing on the downlow,
farm kids who fled for urban freedom,
cowboys & rancheros deep in the West,
Puerto Rican kids in shadows under bridges
where people marched
with bloodied signs for battered souls.
The boys along boundaries
of north and south
boundaries lined by city and suburb
boundaries just outside acceptance and society.
Outcasts outlived
by parents and grandparents,
some who knew and held us,
some who turned away
left us to die alone.
Our dead piled up, rose up,
polarized, politicized,
proselytized to a government ignoring us.
Our disease unspoken by leaders
who turned their backs, blamed Haiti
as if we all were dying by voodoo.
Haitian crypto-spells burned faggots to the ground.
We bled an invocation
to a culture lost to governmental equivocation.
Our bloodied souls rose
above the death wave
demanded attention
and received it only when
the White of whites Ryan
died early and straightened our disease.
Now over a score later, manic preachers
with psalms of hate, still.
We defy your hatred,
your fear-mongering Christian terrorism.
We are not all dead.

I was a faceless son hiding behind distant conversations.
Constant coming outs were eclipsed by
reunions of lies. Coverups became
a life more real than what I lived,
my creed one of what could have been.
It was not my idea in the first place.
For all of you I spent years
being a person I didn’t know,
followed him with darkened shame
because I could not be some dis eased being
I did not create myself.
Now the sudden mindfuck of time passage
startles me from stillness. I stand mortal,
a half-century lived,
much longer than I imagined possible.
Fear’s wasted time covers my feet.
I call to those gone, pushed from presence,
carpeting the past behind me.
I uncover their scattered history
so they do not disappear unheard
or worse, unremembered.
I pull them out from within,
their pyre everburning,
to a place of falling present.
I create a shrine of salvation in wordsmouth phrases:
sacred stories,
myths, legends and lies
all truths and real fictions
from nevermore to alwayswill.
Thoughts, loves and losses from faraway places
and long ago wantingreals
will phoenixrise, become tides of stories
carried on bloodied pieces of soul.
Their souls, my soul, our souls.
Tales for telling, spaces for filling,
minds for storing, pages for sharing.
Repair repent repair repent repair repent.
It was a rape of time where there was no god
only blackness of non-being.
We need the discourses of histories past
steered back out from memory into the here.
We need to be the truth to us now.
We need the adventure of being true
to a sky filled with the dead
who beckonplead their stories
be told and told and retold
into truths of voices praying
histories herstories ourstories
all stories of us ignored.
We are not all dead.

We live in the cum stains of youth
past and future.
We live in the future of gay
not yet born.
We live in those moments of discovered truths
like unnerving hardons
unexpected and all-knowing.
We live in houses plain and glowing
in their ordinaryness.
We live in the now
of plaintive girls longing for queerpanionship
of boys with loves they cannot explain,
of transkids who smackdown on sidestreets
for their discarded friends warring against
a life of slang and indifference.
We live in the lives of men who see
a truth they finally dare to speak.
We live within and under the colors of skin,
Beyond boundaries of money and class
We live in suburbs of stamped out cookie-cutter sameness,
We live in lofts, cabins, farmhouses and condos.
We live in sexting teenagers thumbnail pics.
We live in memories not yet made,
pasts not yet created,
in Christian boys and Catholic girls
in Mormon kids and Jewish teens
playing along to a point.
We live behind burkas, beneath turbans
behind oppression, beneath threats of death
playing along to survive another day.
We are in school rooms learning
in locker rooms wanting, in city buses needing
in churches imagining, in workplaces dreaming,
laughing marching shouting fucking demanding
changing fighting loving debating
mutating creating orgasming
evolving becoming
We are not all dead.


hank-hendersonHank Henderson is a writer, curator, propagator, fabulist, seeker and homo about town. He curates the long-running monthly LGBTQ reading series homo-centric (www.homo-centric.com). He has read his work in bookstores & coffeehouses all over L.A. His solo show Greetings From the Fugue State premiered at Highway’s queer performance festival BEHOLD. His work has also been seen as part of the West Hollywood’s One City, One Pride Festival and INSTALL: WeHo. Hank likes kittens, rainbows, walks on the beach, holding hands & has a forever crush on an artist model (and probable street whore) who has been dead for over 400 years.

“We Are Not All Dead” was performed as a spoken word piece as part of InstallWeHo at West Hollywood’s LGBTQ Arts Festival.

Poem 3 ± November 3, 2016

Tom Capelonga
Prayer of Saint Francis

Or tell it to the angel
there beside you in his briefs

who holds you like host in
the palm of his hand and

asks no more than that you
whisper light into his wounds—

how knees split open in our
haste to distance bad beginnings

how we enlist the boys to take
up arms against us unaware

and cast ourselves unworthy
of their weaponized affections.

Let’s set aside our crosses
and consider gentler crowns.

The past won’t find us tucked
away in this Eureka valley.

We’ll keep the lamps lit
looking after one another’s shadow

and make ourselves a channel of
the peace that’s been denied us.


Tom Capelonga
Tom Capelonga

Tom Capelonga is a native of New York City. His poems have appeared in FourTwoNine Magazine, Podium, and Lambda Literary.

Poem 2 ± November 2, 2016

Stephen Zerance

Madonna of material, I snapped
my rosary, made it into a bracelet for you
at Sunday school, sneaked downstairs
to see you lit before inflamed crosses,
my fingers scented with your patchouli-
cassette. I get drunk, Madonna.
So drunk I sneak leftover drinks
from the bar. I lose myself in the mirror
plucking gray hairs, tug at the sag
in my belly. I want to conquer my fear of
heights, Madonna. Of having roaches or the virus
inside my body. I want a cheap twenty-two
year old lover that doesn’t speak
English. I want my hair bleach blond.
I want to go to the bar, Mother. I want
a vodka double, Mother, a double vodka
Madonna on the rocks.



Stephen Zerance is the author of Caligula’s Playhouse (Mason Jar Press, 2016). His poems have appeared in West Branch, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, Assaracus, and Knockout, among other journals, as well as on the websites of Lambda Literary and Split This Rock. He received his MFA from American University, where he received the Myra Sklarew award. Stephen lives in Baltimore, MD.

This poem appears in Caligula’s Playhouse.