before AIDS. . . have I felt so close to love and pain, so connected to other
--Abraham Verghese, from My Own Country
We were warm then,
wrapped together like pieces in
a family quilt,
and woven into each other's lives.
invisibly shy until he smiled,
then shining as if ignited by
And Darryl--like linen, slightly abrasive,
less kempt than the rest of us,
and as reliable as any good, comfortable sports
Amy had the laughter of rich tulle,
sultry and innocent
all at once,
and in Tom's voice was the roughness
of unwashed silk.
were folded in the folds of
our joy in each other--
a rainbow fabric
drew the stranger--that retroviral moth--
to Fire Island,
to the Castro,
to the hundred thousand places where
blood runs through the embroidery of arteries
Now the stranger pulls at the threads that join
and the tapestry of our history unravels.
Threadbare, cold through to
I stitch your names into quilts,
six foot by three foot,
to cover myself.
As do I.
I stitch less now-the effects
of modern medicine conjoined with marrow-deep cynicism-
And studiously ignore
the amorphous houseguest who will not leave.
Five times the
names of my chosen family
Have blanketed the national mall:
Bits of cotton
and gauze in bright colors
A discordant reminder of possibility gone-
opened, blamed for their own defects and then discarded,
Forgotten as quickly
as bolts of fabric can be warehoused.
In each year of twenty
I have listened to promises-
Of non-toxic drugs
For non-toxic drugs, vaccines and cures-
The cloth of insubstantial
political will, shredded
By the sharp tones and clipped sermons of the righteous.
can't believe in this day and age
The Lord knows the sinners
And in each year of twenty,
of other Lees and Darryls and Amys and Toms
Are sewn onto six-foot squares
those who still believe the promises
Of evicting the stranger
stranger I will no longer name "enemy"
Existing, as I do, amid
hatred of the righteous
And the apathy of promise-makers