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