On World AIDS Day, Friday, December 1, 1995, the Poetry Society of America and The Body broadcast the following poems from the AIDS Poetry Project on the SONY JumboTron above Times Square in New York City, thanks to the generosity of SONY Video 1. In these poems, the poets come to terms with what AIDS means to them, offering those who read them insight and inspiration in the face of this disease.
Last year, the AIDS Poetry Project collected poems by young people under 18 for an anthology entitled Listening to Young Voices, which was broadcast on the SONY JumboTron, distributed at GMHC's AIDS Walk New York in Central Park, and carried at The Body. More poems about AIDS by writers of all ages will appear on-line at The Body and on the SONY JumboTron in early 1996. For more information about the AIDS Poetry Project, to purchase a copy of the Listening to Young Voices anthology, or to submit poems about AIDS and HIV, please call or write Diana Cohn, 39 Claremont Avenue, #101, New York, NY 10027, 212-665-1969. Please include name, address, phone number and age on all poems submitted.
The Last Time
The last time we had dinner together in a restaurant
with white tablecloths, he leaned forward
and took my hands in his hands and said,
I'm going to die soon. I want you to know that.
And I said, I think I do know.
And he said, What surprises me is that you don't.
And I said, I do. And he said, What?
And I said, Know that you're going to die.
And he said, No, I mean know that you are.
Michael writes to tell me his dream:
I was helping Randy out of bed,
supporting him on one side
with another friend on the other,
and as we stood him up, he stepped out
of the body I was holding and became
a shining body, brilliant light
held in the form I first knew him in.
This is what I imagine will happen,
the spirit's release. Michael,
when we support our friends,
one of us on either side, our arms
under the man or woman's arms,
what is it we're holding? Vessel,
shadow, hurrying light? All those years
I made love to a man without thinking
how little his body had to do with me;
now, diminished, he's never been so plainly
himself -- remote and unguarded,
an otherness I can't know
the first thing about. I said,
You need to drink more water
or you're going to turn into
an old dry leaf. And he said,
Maybe I want to be an old leaf.
In the dream Randy's leaping into
the future, and still here; Michael's holding him
and releasing at once. Just as Steve's
holding Jerry, though he's already gone,
Marie holding John, gone, Maggie holding
her John, gone, Carlos and Darren
holding another Michael, gone,
and I'm holding Wally, who's going.
Where isn't the question,
though we think it is;
we don't even know where the living are,
in this raddled and unraveling "here."
What is the body? Rain on a window,
a clear movement over whose gaze?
Husk, leaf, little boat of paper
and wood to mark the speed of the stream?
Randy and Jerry, Michael and Wally
and John: lucky we don't have to know
what something is in order to hold it.
In a Cave
I am in a cave
a dark turn ahead,
"Where do I go?"
Do you see any light?
The Indians say feel with your feet.
"And then what?
I am so alone."
You are not
I am right here.
Can you hear me?
I am standing right beside you holding your hand,
your head, your heart.
"What do I do?
Where do I go?"
Pretend you are writing with your feet.
Pretend this cave is your paper
Small steps again,
you will hear the music.
It will float above your head.
"And if I don't? What if I stumble?
It may happen.
You may find a friend who is waiting. Like me. I've been
waiting for a while.
Because you are ready. It is time to close your eyes and listen.