Thursday, May 13, 2010



First it was a stomach bug bugging him
two, three times a night I’d hear the bathroom door squeak open

Then came glands standing out on his thin neck
as though he had been hard-wired from within

The cough, “smoker’s hack,” that became the bronchitis
that became the infection that became the ambulance

that became a bronchoscopy, my friend lying prone as doctors
looked upside-down and straight into his chest

All this led to a hot-pink, stigmatizing sign on his hospital door
“Blood and Body Fluid Precautions,” because hospitals had not yet

gotten the concept that all patients should be treated with the same sanitary care
all needles should be disposed of properly, and

no patient should have to suffer the indignity of the Mark of Cain
tacked up on the entrance to his room, nor friends and family

gowned and gloved and masked before entering
as though we were thieves (these contrivances we refused to use)

The other Monster was in the White House, afraid his son was gay
and so he chose denial; he ignored the disease, when he could have

nipped it in the bud, possessing the foresight and gumption to tell the world
we needed to act. He was called the Great Communicator

but he flunked this, the greatest test of our age, and the fire rages on
globally. Locally, we each care for our loved ones as best we can

If God sent AIDS as a punishment, it’s not just death – but grief of survivors
If God sent it as a test, it was to test our response to those in need

If God sent it to slay gay men, then sans-needle lesbians are the chosen people
If God sent it to break our spirits, we will not let it happen


In memory of G. Jeffery French, my angel
(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

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