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Tory Dent

Jan 9, 2006

Dr. Bob thank you for all of the information that you provide to the general public free of charge. It was sad to hear about the recent death of poet Tory Dent. This may be politically incorrect of me -- but I was wondering if you knew how she got hiv? I heard it was from a blood transfusion. Thank you again for your website and my best to you and yours in 2006.

Response from Dr. Frascino


Tory Dent was a poet, essayist and art critic whose verse vividly revealed her life and struggle with AIDS. What possible reason could you have for wanting to know how she became infected? Hopefully you do not believe she would be more of an "innocent victim" if she acquired the virus via a blood transfusion rather than sexually? The best answer to "how she got HIV" is really quite simple: "it doesn't matter!" Rather than spending time wondering how the virus found Tory, I suggest you read her work. I'll reprint a portion of the title poem from "Black Milk" below.

Dr. Bob

Black Milk in memory of "HIV, Mon Amour"


Black trees, blue trees, white trees, bare trees -- Whatever was my life has been returned to me in a made-of-trees coffin killed in action like a veteran husband, its flag a pitiful consolation, its flag a smug presupposition, for some greater cause more important apart from what you know to be the most important to you: his voice, his smile.

To me, the world now held away, irreversibly, that once was just (now "just"?) suspended, when I thought then there could be no greater torture.

Life's truest truth, it's that truth itself unravels in ways that reveal less not more sense or comfort.

Consolationless is the tarmac wind, the kickback of jet fuel fume, the bulkhead of the coffin wherein only regret to be alive alights in contrast.

It burns like eyes burned out by cinders, a hot poker waved amidst laughter.

It burns, a torch's temporary pathway improvised within black trees, blue trees.

It burns like a novena unerring, pure prayer within the black trees of longing.

It burns, the ultimate act of atonement, the cremation of what I tried to save.

It burns in order to drown, ash in saline, May fly rose petals of burial at sea.


It burns in order to drown, ash in saline, the May fly rose petals of burial at sea.

The regret burns like its converse property, the hope I had (so fucking much of it) now retarded in me, a tumor, inoperable, contained by chemo, a perverse kind of cancer where the desire to live only prolongs the suffering --

I wish death upon this desire, I wish AIDS and cancer upon this desire, let the desire suffer instead of me, this pathetic willingness to live regardless of consequence, regardless of indignation.

Who am I but the vessel, the holy vessel for this desire, and for the natural spasms that confirm somatic reality: vomiting, allergic reactions, orgasm, coughing; involuntary humiliations, proof of living, of precious humanness.

In order to suffer one must divorce the pain, divorce the vessel, until you become a slave to the vessel, a whore to the harpy's needs, its spasms, its pathetic desires.

Its moanings must be tended, its shaking and sweating, its fevers, its ailments, its medications -- copious, expensive. What are these drugs but a very refined life-support system, science at its most powerful, most phallocentric?

We were not born for this, this stainless steel, this sanitary lack of love, this medicine-vacuum.


For this, this stainless steel, this sanitary lack of love, this medicine-vacuum, we were not born.

Yet every twelve hours I take my drugs and refuse to capitulate to the desire, acquiesce to that most base, pre-conscious motivation that's common to humans and dogs, from scavengers whose howling in the distance we detect as equidistant to the canine within us, the jubilee of inconsequential behavior.

We enjoy acoustically the disowning.

But under the weight of one life-threatening moment, concretized and extenuated by its repercussion, what distinguishes us as civilized, as generations apart from the medieval acts of our ancestors, collapses, so fragile is the rope bridge of its construction, reducing us all to dogs.

Let no more natural light befall, thus, like shiny hair upon pillowcase, this crying face.

Let no more jealousies assemble in my heart like migrant workers.

Take me as a life can be taken in a car accident, or at gunpoint then exterminated, taken from the pack, a succulent carcass extracted from their exhilarated jaws, for too well do I identify with the hunger, the taste, the smell.

Take the needle, arrest these senses, excise the egg-shaped moon from my field of vision and silence the bark.

Sections I, II, III of the 35-section title poem from Tory Dent's recently released Black Milk (Sheep Meadow Press, 2005).

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appendicitis and hiv

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