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Poetry: From The Bones of Susan

By River Huston

December 30, 2010


(to Donald Ray Huston)

On the second day I cried
I could not hold it in any longer
I was strong, brave and courageous
on the first day

On the third day
morning is too bright
I wanted to talk to you
pick up the phone hang up
remember you're gone

The fourth day I read
the Bible felt corrupt

On the fifth day I walked
looking for your crucifix
there were thousands of them
with men just like you
singing on the river banks in the hills
against that peculiar shade of winter blood

On the sixth day
I did not want to go on
I cannot believe I'll never see you again

On the seventh day I went to a movie
It had a happy ending
I was angry because I know the truth

Body Count

How many today?
The phone poll says five and falling;
catching bullets on main street,
downtown and out on the farm.

Lou wears a scarf around his hairless skull
like warriors do
until it flies off his head on a Sunday.
Lou rips tubes from arms and nose;
floats like an angel past ceiling to (only) sky.
Wounds close. Lou rises.

The guns have silencers on them these days,
picking them off 1-2-3 ...

She says she loves him,
you know ... he'll save her
from Mother's not good enoughs,
can't trust you enoughs
why aren't you me enoughs.

In the darkness she dances,
spreading her 15-year old thighs,
remembering something about safety
from health class.
But this is love, baby, love.
and the count goes up one.

In the Doctor office
Jeannie tired all the time:
rash like pain like fever like
whispers in Jeannie's ear
some dusty "Pleased to meet you" Stone's misquote.
it all gets too real.

Death gnaws at Karen with tiny bites:
takes her son away, then her mother,
then her eyesight.
But you never look too bad
that's what everyone said
Nine a.m. Wednesday morning,
you slip away without comment,
having given your voice already
to those who had none.

John is riddled with bullets
tubing the great ravine.
Keeps dragging his sorry ass back for more
spinal tap bone marrow chemotherapy more.
"Living is living" he says,
even if it doesn't seem like much to the civilians.
"Let go,baby"
they utter so lightly.

There's a devil facsimile in virus form
clicking his hooves across my ballroom,
dancing over the bones of the dead.
my friends, the dead.

Therapist asks me
"How come you don't cry?"
I reach for the door
"I am detached," I say,
turn the doorknob,
let the door shut behind me.

In my dream I swim in pure bloody rage
that never penetrates.
I can never move toward safety.
There is a man on the shore with a net.
He is calling to me.
When I open my mouth to reply,
it fills with red nothing comes out.

I stand on Madrid street corners
blowing "Summertime" on my horn.
People stop and listen to me.
Me with tears tattooing my cheeks.
I know what love is.
True fucking love.

I want innocence.
The kind without memorial service, casket lining
bullet holed, funeral marching parade.
Black on black ripped sleeve
sitting shiva, burning pyre,
votive dripping wax,
musky incense choking
hair and flesh.

I want a long, wet kiss
like I see in movies.
Read about in novels.
One that sends me to heaven
and when I stop
I won't even know where I am
kinda kiss.

I want to be far from smokestacks
where wood turns to earth
and bodies are piling up.

Tonight I am safe for an hour or so
as Paganini Rhapsodizes.
Memories can't come here for dinner,
Memories drown outside far away from my béarnaise sauce and asparagus.
Memories wilt in the heat of the sidewalk.
Memories are shot down behind enemy lines
before they commence their dreary serenade.
Tonight Memories can hang
with the tourist trade, Nikons flashing.
Nothing shows on the negative
except smiling memories, hand in hand.

Death Is for The Dead

I'm saying it

The world looks
and sees what it wants
They have memorials written
They have you wasted and dead
skeleton in your bed

Oliver Wendell Holmes
once said
"To find true happiness
get a terminal illness
and take real good care of your self"
real good care
pajama parties cookies and milk
afternoon naps kinda care

I see angels flying
above everyone's head
I see miracles all day long
in oranges
brown fat crawly bugs
on the big time journey across the towpath
ducks in winter
Ginkgo trees raining yellow
my dog smiling and wagging its tail
to the rhythm
of three sweet altos
"knock, knock, knocking on
heaven's door"
lint and dust dances in the afternoon
toy Buddha's on 202 talking to wild things
toothless old men
who caught wild fish in Finland
who keep youth in blood
pumping flowing free

Rivers are always miracles
they aren't stopped by rocks
bridges boulders beer bottles
old tires dead bodies
or even dead refrigerators
they go around over above under
embracing all they touch
they never go back
to the beginning
to get it right
changing forever
seeking accepting expanding being

We have
mortal worlds
filled with gods
Buddha Christ Vishnu Mohammed and Henry
the hitchhiker's god
they walk us through
to the end
shedding our named coats
our finely pressed out laid out
figured out
fitted in life suits
no expectations
no more mundane earthly matters
9-5 skull famine
weight loss facelifts fashion statements
free to go home
the early release program
do the mambo till dawn
safe sex erotic safe sex
free of judgment guilt and shame
Death is for the dead
and living is for every one else

Hey I said it
don't memorialize metaphorize hypnotize categorize or sanitize me
its hard enough living with an illusion
no more definitions of my death
no more sympathetic death sentence eyes
I'm not dead dying
no siree bob
I'm living
just thought I'd let you know

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More HIV/AIDS-Related Poetry


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A River Runs Through It

River Huston

River Huston

River Huston is an award-winning poet, journalist, performer and activist. She travels through the United States speaking on issues related to sexuality, communication, overcoming challenges and change. She has been featured on Good Morning America, Showtime, Nightline, CNN and ABC Up To The Minute. River has written three books of poetry as well as The Goddess: A Guide to Feminine Wisdom and A Positive Life: Portraits of Women Living With HIV. She wrote and performed a one-woman show, Sex, Cellulite and Large Farm Equipment: One Girls Guide to Living and Dying off off Broadway and is currently working on a second show, The Dominatrix Next Door. For more information about River you can go to

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Articles by River:

Sex, Cellulite and Large Farm Equipment: One Girl's Guide to Living and Dying (October 15, 2008)

I Feel Good! Attaining Survival Through Illness (March/April 2008)

Goddess in a Muumuu: AIDS Changes Sexual Self-Image (December 1999)

A Positive Life: Portraits of Women Living With HIV (October 1999)

Interviews With River:

White Women and HIV (April 1999)

A Brief Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed by's bloggers are entirely their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of itself.