2012610_1809dSat facing away from the sun
an old man wipes years from his eyes
drawn over with cataract like milky bath water
he strains to see the outline of motion
 
where are all the old men? He thinks
once so barrel chested and neatly trimmed
with mustaches and shiny hair like Cover Girl teens
where are all the eighties queers who painted beaches
with tight abs and tiny shorts in tropical shades?
 
now half empty, the beach longs for color
only rotund women with bristly chins
unkempt hair chopped without thought
some with children or children’s children
placing sensible shades and thick UV factor 50
on slow-moving parts of themselves
 
in previous years you could
reach out and paint a rainbow
in their courage of being twenty
though lesbians and gay men do not
always a palate make
such contrasts in their expression
these women without restraint
mopping the brows of dying beautiful boys
unwilling nurses drawn to duty
by suffering ignored
 
some judged, as is human’s wont
even those judged themselves
learning in pious pews the curses afflicted upon
the sinner
their ingrained prejudices wondered;
Why so many striken did not stop frequenting steam rooms
smelling of bleach and pleasure and illness
looking for strangers with no way to tell
if death stood beside them?
 
perhaps; time old division of the sexes
rather than, one bad, one good
men will find a hole, stick it in without regard
this is not a homosexual thing but
the nature of a penis
gay men acted upon that unrestrained impulse
all men share, save those who learn greater depth
than the hand, the orifice, the gag reflex
then disease clasped them in a death grip
chewing away at fragile worn tendencies
soon no beautiful boys remained
hot in steam rooms to blink their doe eyes
fringed with fear
 
some divisions are economic
lesbians with babies, lesbians without brawn
unable to act upon their natural instinct
remained married, starched at home, dying in place
whilst young men, fed on corn and barley, took good
California jobs and soon the boom grew teats
 
educated baby dykes today do not know loss of freedom
or the true price of salt
they can rack up bed notches in reckless abandon
imitation not always the greatest flattery
but back then …
all so new and unsanctioned
people didn’t have road maps or internet
to gauge behavior by
and in the dirty rim of a third glass of whiskey
courage and terror would sometimes blind
best intention
 
girls today repeat the worst inventions
of boys without purpose
those early days of the movement
can a life be a movement?
they died weekly and by the hour
in shabby rooms without succor or sense
strangled by disease, shamed by the ‘told you so’s’
just coming out
only to climb into a coffin and be carried
jeers and spit and hate to their graves
where few wept, for they too shared death
mottled with kaposi’s sarcoma
some haters slinging mud shouted;
you depraved souls! You reap what you sow!
is this the word of Mohamed & Jesus?
or cruelty with nothing more than hate to grow?
 
now gays think they are safe
over the hump, socially acceptable
on TV, in your face, sitting next to you, earning more
painting their rooms mauve, their wallets thick
HIV can be lived past, no more automatic death sentence
adoption is legal, and marriage, a thriving business
do they even remember how many fell?
before they could inherit this tenuous hour?
 
the old man was one of fifty
the last survivor of his generation
depleted by silent war
struck down by AIDS and her harpies
over time even medication failing hope
or bodies, tired from their walk
collapsing on scalding streets without
the kindness of stranger
 
the old man, he cannot say to today’s youth
this is how it was, learn from the past
because they do not care, it is their time now
and if they knew it would not matter
only the hour of their immediacy
compelling them forward to their own history
one day past them and in reverse
they may share his loneliness then
too late
 
the old man
who used to be a beautiful boy
with golden skin and hazel eyes
a thick swath of black hair hanging like a wave
he looks at his gnarled hands and sagging arms
with their scars and their ragged hurt
and he wants to be as loud as the young
and shout out;
 
where have they gone?
the beautiful boys of my time?
why must I outlive them all and see in my decline
the loss of their right, to be recalled!
for whom among us, shall pick up the mantle
and say their names, once we are all
beneath earth?
an entire generation cut down
and smoothed over like asphalt
 
do we ever think of that?
in our perpetual urge to be present, in the moment?
those who have gone before
stand now like ghosts around him
an entire era
strangled before they ever could
inherit their voice
 
(This is my contribution to Pride Month. I want to remember those who are not here with us, because they died when they could have lived, if they had not been forgotten and repulsed. During and afterward, Africa was equally rejected, neglected, ignored, and millions died. Worldwide HIV/AIDS is still a death-sentence, make no mistake. Those with power decide who lives and dies, whose life has worth, whose does not, decisions are not made out of mercy they are made coldly with calculation and lack of compassion. All the rest is froth on a daydream. Our memories are sometimes the only thing keeping us from repeating history). #neverforget
 

0 Replies to “Inherit their voice”

  1. An eloquent poem, Candice, which reminds us of how things were in the 80’s and 90’s. I knew some wonderful young men who died of AIDS (so very young!)… including a couple of classmates. And now, even now there are those who think it was their own fault, that they deserved it. Such thinking outrages me. I also know some women who were abused psychologically and still bear the scars. (Some withdrew into themselves while others are selfless humanitarians today.) Thank you for helping to make us all more aware.

    1. I’m glad that my poem read as it did, because that was my aim. It was more prose-than poetry in that message. I feel strongly any purpose I ever have, is highlighting what is not or rarely highlighted. Seeing younger gay people who do not know their history or if they do, do not know it viserally, take for granted some of their freedoms, reminds me just as with women earning the vote, the importance of appreciating progress and recalling the need to never forget it was earned by blood, and on the backs of others. You are so right about women being abused and this not ever really being dealt with even today, look at Cosby, 50 women raped by him and people still query it? Just unbelievable. Thank you for reading this long poem and for being supportive of my aims!

  2. Wonderful, poignant piece. I remember those days, when AIDS was rampant, and people were completely ignorant of it. Much like the sanctimonious preacher in the pic you used. Sadly, there are still many who believe that. I’ll never understand the levels of intolerance and ignorance humans are capable of.

  3. A powerful poem with remembering those who’ve we lost and will always remember in our hearts.
    I hate religious institution who are still ignorant close minded, and still judge others based on their sexual orientation.
    You have the power sis. Love you.

  4. That picture flew me into a rage! Because I know people still believe it.
    Your flow of words here is very poignant. Everyone living in the moment and wondering do you remember or even know what those have gone through FOR YOU to get to where you are. Very meaningful

  5. Nice commemoration. It was indeed so tragic and haunting, the lives cut short by a disease barely grasped. AIDS is truly the horrific epidemic of our time.

  6. Truthfully the thing that changed for ever my mindset on gay people was a movie from around that time.
    I twas about a gay son and his relationship with his father.
    The father disowned the son and all of the horrible grief and emotions that ensued forced me to ask myself the question, “what would I do?)
    What would I do if one of my children came to me to announce they were gay?
    The only answer I could give would be that I would hug them and accept what they were.
    For me it would not be a choice of accept or not as my children will always be my children.
    From that point forward the prejudice I learned from my father were swept aside by the simple fact that if my children would be accepted so should all.
    Thank you for the beautifully written reminder of that time.

  7. Wonderful tribute, Candice. I remember the fear and dread of those years. I was 18 in 1984. And I think about how many more lives could have been saved if poverty and prejudice weren’t factors in treating and preventing disease. We don’t talk about HIV/AIDS enough anymore. Thank you for this – your poignant and powerful writing. <3

  8. Reblogged this on Survivors Blog Here and commented:
    This post recall the a dark time in recent history. Aids: dying without mercy, condemnation in every direction. We have moved forward yet have a long way to go. Let’s learn more today and everyday. From my dear friend at The Feathered Sleep. M

    1. Thank you so much! Thank you so much both for reading this and commenting, it is very appreciated. Sorry for the late reply I have been feeling a little under the weather. Thank you again!

      1. I know that feeling, Lyme and depression has me in a head lock. If my husband didn’t notice I wasn’t sleeping it would be so much easier. I’m tired to taking so many damn addictive pain pills on top of the other addictive drugs I take.
        I think we would get on just fine, no way could I match you in writing but real life, we have shit we both share it sounds like. You’re excellent, I know you hear it all the time but so many of your emotions sound like mine. I’ll keep coming around every post. Take care.
        M

  9. Powerful, stunning writing, Candice. I remember when AIDS was ravaging the gay community. The lack of compassion was deplorable, but the insinuation that the disease was well-deserved or an act of god was beyond the pall. We continue to be a “Christian” nation afflicted with cruel righteousness.

    1. Dear Sue, Thank you so much both for reading this and commenting, it is very appreciated. Sorry for the late reply I have been feeling a little under the weather. Thank you again!

        1. Sometimes it’s good to be gone for a bit, I definitely feel that about social media like FB but not so much WP as it’s about writing not socializing or all the fake stuff πŸ™‚

          1. So pleased I never Joined FB.. πŸ™‚ I am only hopping on here now and again this week.. Look after yourself dear Candice.. Sending huge hugs your way xx

          2. Bless your heart Candice, I have seen what FB does to families. And never been tempted.. And no I will not stray far.. But I have not been on WP much either only moderating comments.. Summer is too precious to Miss with head in a key board.. So go smell the Roses too πŸ™‚ my friend xxx Lots of Love.. Sue xx

    1. Dearest Nan, Thank you so much both for reading this and commenting, it is very appreciated. Sorry for the late reply I have been feeling a little under the weather. Thank you again for your reblog when I saw that it made my day!

    1. Dear DaveThank you so much both for reading this and commenting, it is very appreciated. Sorry for the late reply I have been feeling a little under the weather. Thank you again! thank you so much!

  10. Well said. And yes, those lives were sadly lost tragically and unnecessarily, not at the hands of God but by the hands of men who stood to gain monetarily or politically from the Aids epidemic. That sign in the background represents man’s indictment of behavior and choices, be it homosexuality or any other of the ills that men/women succumb to. Jesus offered healing to lepers and all who asked, and He offers forgiveness for human frailties, including being judgmental or condemning among a host of other things. We are asked to love all who come our way and leave whatever needs to change or not change up to God and God only. We are asked to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to help strengthen each other in our faithfulness and willingness to be obedient to God’s will for our lives. Anyone who reads Scripture must know that some of the most influential people in the Bible were all flawed, murderers, prostitutes, and on and on the list goes. And yet the Maker of heaven and earth chose them and thought them worthy of furthering His kingdom. Love, hugs, and blessings, Natalie πŸ™‚ <3

    1. YOU are one of the good ones. I hope you ALWAYS remember that Natalie. My only refute would be I don’t see homosexuality as an ill other than ill-treated in society. Saying that, there are practices within every group including homosexuals, that do them no favors and this was true with HIV/AIDS as promiscuity and drug-use really exacerbated the growth. I don’t blame homosexuality but the life style that accompanied it for some, as with the life styles of some heterosexuals too. I don’t see homosexuality as a sin because I combed through the bible references and I see those as reference to sinful behavior like rape and sodomy against ones will or the taking of underage boys or exploitation. If one is born without an ability to love or be connected with someone of the opposite sex I would not condemn that person to a life of celibacy I would wish them love and if that is found with someone of the same-sex that’s not really a choice that’s their nature. Obviously we could argue a paedophile’s nature is to sexually abuse children but the difference is they hurt someone. I do not believe homsexuality hurts anyone but those who are condemned for it, so I am mindful of that in my approach to the subject. Aside that I totally am with you because judgement is flawed and we are not capable of judging others xo

        1. The thing I most admire about you is your heart and your capacity for love and caring. This should not be a rare thing but it is and you are an example of how more people should be. Thank you – just for being the way you are.

          1. The feelings are mutual my lovely feathered friend‼️ Two of the things I most admire about you love are your courage and honesty about what has hurt you so that me and others know we are not alone. You are truly the sunlight on cold water for many!!!!Je t’aime❣️😘😘😘

  11. I remember my officemate in grad school coming out to me. I and another woman in the department were the only people he had told. I’m sure he hadn’t told his family. It was before AIDS was being talked about very much in the general public or media, if at all, and I wonder what happened to him.
    I think there is an effort now to commemorate those who fought for justice and recognition. There was the recent TV mini-series, and I’ve seen things about Stonewall. It’s sad though that there are still those who want to take away rights. I don’t get it. Love is love.
    There are actually more women than men infected with HIV/AIDS in parts of Africa. In part this is because of the high number of rapes, and also cultures that don’t believe a woman has the right to say no to a man. My younger daughter once got in trouble with her teacher in 7th or 8th grade for telling the class that there were men in Africa who raped young girls because they thought raping a virgin would cure their AIDS. She learned this from her mom. πŸ˜‰

    1. I knew I’d get the best reply from you because truthfully you know so much and I love that about you among other things. You inspire me to try harder to learn more. Thank you for being a person in this world where people are increasingly seeking to know less, who seeks to know more. I admire that about you so much. And also what you choose to care about and why. It is very sad that people should wish to take away rights but people like you rebalance this never forget that. You are right about women being more infected nowadays, I should write on this also. It is absolutely hideous to rape someone thinking it a cure but I had read that also. My mom comes from Egypt and there female circumsiscion is rife, and I grew up furious with this practice and the detrimental effect it has on women and girls. So this is one step away under the same guise really. Urgh. Thank you dearest Merril and sorry for the late reply I have not been feeling well xo

  12. Poetry’s muse, C,
    you do writing so well that my talent envies your ability. Well spoken my friend applause from silent hands in the corner. You can email me if you get this comment.

    1. Thank you lovely girl! Thank you so much both for reading this and commenting, it is very appreciated. Sorry for the late reply I have been feeling a little under the weather. Thank you again!

      1. You are welcome and I always understand, life happens all the time. By the way I did a post called helpful books it is a thank you to you Your book was actually very helpful to me

    1. Wow thank you so much! That is a truly lovely thing to say and I am so grateful to you for taking the time to read this and respond. You have lifted me into the light!

  13. Thank you for sending me the link. This is a gorgeous, moving poem. I remember the young men who cluttered the beaches of the late 70’s and early 80’s and I remember them dying en mass a few years later. It was the women who volunteers to take care of the dying, as right wing ideologues clawed their way into power on the corpses of their patients.

    1. Rob, I am SO GLAD you saw this because I really hoped you would and that you would relate to some of it, as I do. I felt so powerfully a need to say something to this, because Pride is about history as much as about celebrating existence. Thank you so much for just existing. Thank you.

      1. Your poem moved me to tears.
        In my recent reflections on the AIDS epidemic I understood that if large numbers LGBTQ people of the educated and upper middle class had not come out in the late 1970’s the movement would have died.
        Those who decry too much corporate influence and income disparity are obligated to speak out.
        But we should do so with respect for the contributions all of us have made to the survival of the idea.

        1. I like that – your last line about the survival of the idea. Powerful words and thoughts. The movement would literally have died, that’s the horrifying aspect literal death not just figurative, though who cared? Few. Few cared. Even now so -called enlightened days of freedom and acceptance, not quite as the media would have it. And then to think if we went to another country, stoning? Death sentences? Nothing is free until everyone is free. I admire your work so much you know this, thank you, for being a voice much much much needed in this world Rob.

  14. A wonderful piece of writing and heart dear Feathers. I see so much progress it makes me very hopeful. I have beautiful friends that mean so much to me it’s very important that we continue to work hard for advancement and against bigotry and bias. We can’t go back.

    1. Thank you lovely girl – this means so much to me. Sorry that I took so long to reply been sick with nasty stomach flu or something. I definitely want to go forward, people say it’s like opening the flood gates or letting anything go, did you hear about how some paedophiles for example want to be added to the LGBTQ list? WTF? So of course, those against LGBTQ just think this means they sanction paedophiles, or that it’s synonymous, which is really faulty logic but … grrr. Such a tendency toward hate and bigotry. I felt this before I even ever experienced it. I hope more like yourself are in this world to counter it. Thank you for being one of the good ones, who shine the light in the dark corners Holly xo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.