Sunday, June 20, 2010

For an AIDS Death

John Williams
Fortunately, there was a change in what seemed the utterly hopeless AIDS epidemic (a turning point, after long despair, as noted in the film WE WERE HERE) and luck did not run out for the Paul mentioned in the poem below, and Paul survives and is living well. But it felt this way in 1994:


Less than 24 hours – within this day – this morning, in fact,
John Williams died. As I wait for the 24 Divisadero bus,
and watch the sun burn past the iron feet of Sutro Tower,
the earth turning away now to end the light of the first day
of John being gone forever, another victim of AIDS,
the cold breeze coming up is John’s breath; it swirls
around, no longer a warm breath, but not wanting to follow
the sun into the underworld; it wants to remain here
until the sun returns tomorrow. I welcome John
as a cold dog spirit running circles around my legs.

Next I sit in the roaring solitude of the bus, nothing
tugging at my ankles. After a day of mourning John,
it will be a relief to dine with Paul, not yet felled by
the same disease. Paul said that he felt the aura
of a migraine coming on, but would take a nap to prevent it.
His days are a million tricks that he plays, a runner’s body
gone frail. The fragile sticks of many defenses to keep
death at bay will break, and he, too, will join The Disappeared.

The old lady in front of me, in spite of the cold, has opened
a window. Blue parrots circle my head. I know how this goes.
Soon I’ll be coated in birds and monkeys, cats and dogs, all
seeking a shoulder to stand on, a lap to warm, as all the ghosts
have dropped their bodies behind Twin Peaks in the sunsets
then come home to me in fantastic shapes. I felt selfish
earlier, beside the wall where I waited for the bus, wisteria
falling there, punctuated with the snowy blind-spots of white
roses, blank pages for the absent ones, this spring evening,
flower-perfumed, and I feel hopelessly alive as I write
my way to Paul, my good companion, fighting
his disappearance even while he is here.

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