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Poem 31 ± World AIDS Day 2016

Jason S. Price
can i love said he

can i love said he
(of course said he
always said he)
forever said he

(can i love said he
how long said he
always said he)
okay then said he

(come on said he
i’m coming said he
it’s wide said he
oh no said he)

how come said he
(stay then said he
but they said he
don’t worry said he

it hurts said he
love does said he)
but i’m willing said he
(i’m dying said he

me too said he
that’s life said he
so true said he)
i love you said he

(beat this said he
i will said he)
we will said he
(this is love said he

i know said he)
believe it said he
i love you said he
(can i love said he)

 

logoJason S. Price was born and raised in Belize. He is a graduate from the City University of New York Baccalaureate Program, and The City College, CUNY. He holds degrees in English, English Literature, and History. Jason is a poet, fiction writer, blogger, teacher, mentor, and friend. He has published several books of poetry, a collection of short-stories, and a novel. Currently, he resides in New York City.

 

Poem 29 ± November 29, 2016

Logan February
No Homo

We do not exist until they are bored. You can sit in the shadows, maybe eat an apple, maybe read a book, maybe not – you are in the shadows, after all. But when they need entertainment, your throne is carved from the same wood as the cutting board. You bare your teeth and they teach you that there are hyena packs big enough to make a lion swallow its roar.

They say if you fuck a boy, you will die of AIDS, probably while serving prison time. They laugh and their unison sounds like fourteen fourteen fourteen years in prison. You can hear the blood rushing in their veins, feel their youth, feel their hate, and it is almost as thick as your silence.

Hate is not about logic. It has never been about logic, so you let them talk, and you say nothing, but you know what you know. You know that condoms exist, that medicine exists. That boys who fuck girls get AIDS too, in exactly the same way, and this is Africa anyway, we have so much AIDS it’s probably on the walls, so maybe we are all faggots. Just maybe. In this paradox where it is a strange madness for two boys to kiss, maybe we’re all a little bit gay. They can deny until the sun sighs and falls asleep, but they cannot say no homo to the gay porn statistics, because, if we’re being honest, it looks a lot like yes homo. But hate is not about honesty either.

Even though you do not speak, you cry out to them with your eyes. You tell the hyenas it is alright to wipe the bigotry off their fangs, it’s alright to put it all down, this deception of self, enough hiding to last them fourteen years, it is okay for a boy-hyena to want another boy-hyena. Love is not the problem in a world with wars and disappearance, a world with global warming, a world with AIDS.
AIDS is not about sexuality and hate is not about logic and I promise you: condoms will not stop existing.

 

logoLogan February is Nigerian and a teenager. He likes words and pizza.

Poem 28 ± November 28, 2016

Julene Tripp Weaver
Green Witch with AIDS

I walk with my toes afire
I am not safe within my walls
I shoulder many dark secrets
I am not a cavity
I am as deep as the ocean
I am not female song
I am an ethereal being
I am not just partner to a man
I am full unto myself
I am not a female
I’m a planet
I am not a slut
I’m a sacred virgin goddess whore
I am not a stupid girl
I’m a wise witch
I am not a diamond in the rough
I’m a rainbow over the sky
I am not a crazy loon
I am Cassandra singing

 

Julene_T_Weaver_author_photoJulene Tripp Weaver is a psychotherapist in Seattle, Washington. Her third poetry book, Truth Be Bold—Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS, is in presales now at Finishing Line Press. Two prior books are No Father Can Save Her and Case Walking: An AIDS Case Manager Wails Her Blues. Her poems can be found online at Anti-Heroin Chic, Riverbabble, River & South Review, The Seattle Review of Books, The Unprecedented Review, and a creative nonfiction piece is published by Yellow Chair Press, In The Words of Womyn International: 2016 Anthology. Find more of her work at julenetrippweaver.com.

This poem appeared in The Unprecedented Review.

Poem 27 ± November 27, 2016

Stephen J. Williams
Fentham

What can the dancer say,
moving with his arms that way,
And with those legs and hips, that we,
In our dumb bodies, say with tongue and lips?

He says that in the movement of my being,
this breath, this life, “I am.” —And no one,
even he who soon might take me,
may be the dance I am.

 

Bruce Fentham died of AIDS in 1993. He was a dancer in Melbourne. Near death and unable to walk, his last performance was as the hood ornament of the car that led the 1993 Fringe Festival parade. See The Age 25 October 1992 (page 7), and 8 September 1993 (page 15).

 

Portrait of Stephen J. Williams (detail) by Margaret Gold
Portrait of Stephen J. Williams (detail) by Margaret Gold

Stephen J. Williams lives in St Kilda (Victoria, Australia) and has published writing and images in many literary magazines and newspapers. He has been the recipient of the University of Melbourne’s John Masefield Prize, the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Anne Elder Prize and John Shaw Neilson Prize, and the Association for Australian Literature’s Mary Gilmore Award.

Poem 26 ± November 26, 2016

Aidan Forster
Wood/Water Body

One night I slipped from the house.
I could not see my own body

but I felt like more than a body.
I was reflective. I called

every creature to me
and bade them drink my waters.

I scattered with the creatures
and took shelter in a man’s truck.

The man had a beard. The truck
smelled like vanilla and sweat.

He bade me consider the night,
the distance. He placed two wooden

discs over my eyes. From my body
he made a church, a worship to fill it.

He moved through me
like an eidolon. The man lived

inside his parents’ garage. He was
a carpenter. His floor was littered

with wooden figures. He took me
to his bedroom and left

to carve a chair, came back
and revealed to me its sleek figure

which he offered to my body.
And I named the chair Bearded Man.

I sat on Bearded Man and received
its maker. And what have I learned?

How man makes from wood
what he desires and gives his creations

to whom he desires. How to divide
the beasts and the sheets in search

of their cool centers. How to receive
a man like a clump of earth

thrown over me. He has named
my body Wooden Artifice, Water Body.

 

aidan-forsterAidan Forster is a junior in the creative writing program at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. He is the blog editor of The Adroit Journal and the co-founder/editor-in-chief of Fissure, an online magazine for LGBT+ and allied writers and artists. He is the 2016 recipient of the Louise Louis/Emily F. Bourne Student Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, and has received national recognition from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. He work appears in The Adroit Journal, Assaracus, DIALOGIST, Tinderbox, Two Peach, and Verse, among others.

Poem 25 ± November 25, 2016

D. Gilson
Movie Going

The week I move to Washington,
my mother emails me an article:

“Nation’s Capital Now Capital of HIV Infection.”
Be careful, she says, I love you,

and Kevin says he can’t live with rejection
so he sleeps around. Chases

bugs and snorts lines of coke
and texts: I let Matt fuck me bareback.

Over brunch, Dupont Circle, we’re talking 1981.
What a bummer, Wet Hot American

Summer, Nancy Reagan just says no.
What the fuck did we know

then? Larry Kramer asks. It was summer,
1981, two men dead in Los Angeles

from rare lung infections. Then five. True story:
summer before senior year, Andrew wrecked

his Ford Explorer when I gave him road
head on the way to see 8 Mile.

At twenty-nine, I’m still alive and waiting
at the clinic for Kevin to get his results.

He’s negative again, thank god,
and, The problem with some men, I tell Will,

is that they’ll never win, and he reminds me,
The only thing these men have in common is you.

Bummer. What I’m trying to say: Kevin
and I are lucky men. Not bitten but leaving

the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Clinic with a
5:15 showing of American Pie to catch.

 

D. GilsonD. Gilson is the author of I Will Say This Exactly One Time: Essays (Sibling Rivalry, 2015); Crush with Will Stockton (Punctum Books, 2014); Brit Lit (Sibling Rivalry, 2013); and Catch & Release (2012), winner of the Robin Becker Prize. He is Assistant Professor of English at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and his work has appeared in Threepenny Review, PANK, The Indiana Review, The Rumpus, and as a notable essay in Best American Essays.

Poem 24 ± November 24, 2016

Stacy Nigliazzo
Aubade

Take these sunken eyes and learn to see.
—Paul McCartney

One of my first patients was a man
with advanced AIDS.

He was admitted with altered mental status
and a fever.

As I leaned over to check his colostomy site,
he smiled and touched my breast,

saying he loved me.

His partner quickly pulled his hand away
and apologized. By this time,

the patient was singing Blackbird
and waving his arms like a symphony conductor.

His partner and I continued the song
until he fell asleep.

 

stacy-r-nigliazzoStacy R. Nigliazzo is the author of Scissored Moon (Press 53, 2013), named Book of the Year by the American Journal of Nursing. It was also listed as a finalist for the Julie Suk Poetry Prize (Jacar Press) and the Texas Institute of Letters First Book Award for Poetry/Bob Bush Award. She is co-editor of Red Sky, an anthology addressing the global epidemic of violence against women (Sable Books). srnigliazzo.com

Poem 23 ± November 23, 2016

Raymond Luczak
Visiting St. Vincent’s Hospital (1990)

I will continue to pretend. My heart
still brakes for you in the elevator
as I stare out, nonchalantly apart.
I must continue to pretend. My heart
droops like grapes. What would a cultivator
do with those alarming lines on your chart?
Your pulse has weakened, a timid blip.
The machines keep you alive while I seethe,
trapped effectively against one more flip.
So I continue to pretend. Your heart
gasps. I palpitate when you try to breathe.
It’s become damn hard to fake smiles. My heart
can’t bear new stents inserted while you sleep.
I’m learning again what it means to weep.

 

raymond-luczakRaymond Luczak‘s play Snooty won first place in the New York Deaf Theater’s 1990 Samuel Edwards Deaf Playwrights Competition, and his essay “Notes of a Deaf Gay Writer” was a cover story in Christopher Street magazine. He edited Eyes of Desire: A Deaf Gay & Lesbian Reader (Alyson Books, 1993), which won two Lambda Literary Award nominations (Best Lesbian and Gay Anthology, and Best Small Press Book). In 2005, he relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he continues to write, edit, and publish.

Poem 22 ± November 22, 2016

Stephen Mills
Last Night Out

Let’s say you like to wear t-shirts
with the word “sissy” printed in hot
pink letters across the chest. Say you
kiss other boys on the dance floor
while hoards of sweaty men grind
against each other as if this is their last

chance for human contact—the end
of the world—and maybe it is.
Let’s say you also drink too much
rum, purposely bump into strangers,
make new friends. One tells you
he’s positive, pointing to the AIDS

awareness bracelet you wear everyday
as a symbol that you care, even though
you’ve never known anyone
with the virus. Now faced
with this man, all you can do is smile
because your head is spinning

and the shiny confetti is beginning
to fall from the ceiling like rain
that never gets you wet. Let’s say
you aren’t sure you heard him correctly,
his lips moved, but the words bumped
into the music before entering your ears,

and you don’t want to make a mistake,
say something stupid, and besides you
aren’t planning to sleep with him,
so it doesn’t really matter, except
that he could be dying and you feel
you should comfort him—

but you hate yourself for thinking that,
for assuming his death is approaching
faster than your own, which could come
now on the dance floor, a heart attack at 25.
Or some homophobe with a bomb,
or maybe a club fire where everyone

tramples each other trying to escape the blaze
like that temple in India where someone
started a rumor of a fight and everyone
scrambled down the mountain, killing
hundreds. And you wonder what sound
bodies make succumbing to the pressure—

perhaps it’s the same sound bodies make
spinning on the dance floor, arms around
each other, mouths on ears whispering
all the ways the night could end,
which reminds you of this club
that, after tonight, will close forever.

They’ll take a wrecking ball to the walls,
erase every memory you have of drinking
here, of falling in love over and over again
while the bartenders in their brightly colored
shirts swirled drinks into your open mouth,
and how just when you thought you couldn’t

take it, the heat of bodies next to bodies,
that blast of ice cold air would burst
from the ceiling, covering everyone
in freezing fog and for a second you
could stand there, in the middle of hundreds
of dancing boys, and not even see

the one right in front of you with his hand
in your pants. Let’s say it scares you
to think how quickly it all fades away—
that in a month no one will be talking
of this place that right now feels so alive,
and by next year you won’t remember

how it feels to stand in this space, feel
the vibration of the music, the hands
on your ass, or your lips locking with the sexy
boy you love. And by next year the man
you just met might be sick, and then he
too will close up for good,

and you won’t remember his name,
or face, or the way he grabbed your hand,
pointed to your bracelet, and said thank you
over and over again, and all you could do
was nod and scream over the thumping
bass: you’re welcome.

 

stephensmillsStephen S. Mills is the author of A History of the Unmarried (Sibling Rivalry, 2014) and He Do the Gay Man in Dif­fer­ent Voices (Sib­ling Rivalry Press, 2012), a final­ist for the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry from the Publishing Triangle and winner of the 2012 Lambda Lit­er­ary Award for Gay Poetry. His poems have appeared in The Anti­och Review, The Gay and Les­bian Review World­wide, PANK, The New York Quar­terly, The Los Ange­les Review, Knock­out, Assara­cus, The Rum­pus, and oth­ers. Stephen won the 2008 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Poetry Award for his poem entitled “Iranian Boys Hanged for Sodomy, July 2005,” which appeared in the anthology Poetic Voices Without Borders 2 (Gival Press, 2009), edited by Robert L Giron. He lives in New York City. stephensmills.com.

This poem appeared in Quarterly West.

Poem 21 ± November 21, 2016

Roxanne Hoffman
Once Bitten

It’s been written, though never proved
that once bitten, by one less than thrice removed
from the source of the venom ― the plumed serpent rattling ―
that each night, thereafter, your soul alights upon black crepe wings.

You hear the hyena’s laughter howling insidious within your ear,
and though your flesh may crawl, goose-bumped with fear,
you’ll seek another bite to assuage the first bite’s sting
though you know in your heart of hearts it will only bring

you closer closer to the very deadly devil you dread,
but there’s hunger gnawing at your gut that must be fed,
a tumultuous torrent of anguish that never wanes
with no bedrock or floodgates so solid as to keep it contained.

So each night you cry out demanding relief,
seek that exalted moment no matter how brief,
drawn to an elusive elixir to salve your wound,
but once it’s relished, you’re forever tainted, forever ruined.

It’s been said, but never been proved
that once fed upon, by one more than twice removed
that the craving can be conquered and the heartache endured
if your love for a woman is steadfast and hers self-assured.

If for three days and a fortnight she stays true at your side
the blood lust within you may completely subside,
but if she succumbs, falls prey to your peril,
you’ll run with the wolf pack, invoke savagery feral.

 

roxanne-hoffmanRoxanne Hoffman is the founding publisher of Poets Wear Prada. Her poems have appeared in Amaze, Best Poem, Champagne Shivers, Danse Macabre, Hospital Drive, Lucid Rhythms, Mirror Dance, Nomad’s Choir, Red River Review, Shaking Like a Mountain, Word Slaw, and others journals, as well as in numerous anthologies and performances.

This poem appeared in The Riverside Poetry Workshop; SNM Dark Poetry; Dark Gothic Resurrected; Scarlet Literary Magazine; and Stolen Moments.