The Poetry of HIV--A Sampler


I am made up of:

the anger, frustration, pain, and craziness of my family; the
    love and abuse I
received; the boy who could not cry or forgive, the man
    who can now cry,
understand, and forgive; the one who questioned the pain,
    yet never gave up,
and found healing for his inner wounds.

I made the choice to:

Let go of the past and live in the present;
not to be frozen and cold-hearted like some from my past;
start fresh each day, live, love and make mistakes,
learn the lessons each day holds,
accept, love, and forgive myself and others in my life.

Phoenix (Richard Anderson)

Richard Anderson participated in the Body Positive writing workshop conducted by Peter McMillan.


Once there was an innocent young boy.

He learned well. He was trained to
please others, be perfect, be strong.
He was not okay unless another said
so. He became ashamed of his body,
emotions, his sexual and spiritual needs.

Time passed. He developed a controlling
style--obtaining a number of degrees,
always buying the "best."

He depended on externals to convince
the world he had worth.

He looked grown up.

Then one day as he looked longingly out
to sea a friend said, "You deserve better."

He cried. He'd believed he deserved the
pain in his life. Now there was a little doubt.

But how to unlearn the shame?
He read John Bradshaw, Melody Beattie.

Began each day with a prayer and meditation.

He practiced saying "No" and stopped

Each day he wrote an Affirmation and said it
aloud during the day.

Time passed. He came to know he deserved
the best. There was nothing to do, to say
or to have . . . he was valuable.

Time passed.

He learned well.

Maggie Hart

Maggie Hart lives in Roseburg, Oregon.


My name is Fear
Make no mistake about it.
In parasitic ways I dwell inside
The timid and the angry and the ill.
Best of all, you can host me
Even when you refuse to believe I am there.
Provide me with the circumstances
And I'll control your life.

My ally is Rejection
Whose specialty it is to invade the heart
And there turn insecurity to doubt;
To make of bad occasions when they surface
Both deep and personal attacks
Until the host begins to live the role
Of victim powerless--
The opposite of superhero--
A helpless, hopeless soul
That dwells in migrant misery
Unable to belong to any one or any place
But worst of all: rejecting self as self
Leaving room for nothing other than depression
And possibly . . . despair.

Are you afraid yet?
Have I infected all your hopes and aspirations
To the point of total intimidation?
Come now, take me home with you.
I'll introduce you to my child Indecision.
Together we can paralyze you cold;
convince you that no matter what you do
It can never, never turn out right.

And furthermore,
Your actions will turn off your so-called friends
Who in frustration will abandon you
Or treat you with indifference.

Oh how I relish and I wallow
In your inability to break the chains
I helped you forge
And in the shackles that I, your cobbler,
Fastened to your feet.
No matter where you go,
No matter what you do,
You will never catch me as you run away,
For I live in your mind
Where you have bid me dwell.
Nor will I leave you soon
As long as you continue to receive me;
To feed me your anxieties and imperfections;
To let me cast my doubts on everyone's intentions
And even muddle up your own select designs.

I have become, you see, quite callous to your needs
Since you have granted me a life force all my own;
Inviting me to be your Master.
So kowtow and caress me,
And whimper in the co-dependent state you built.

Stop looking at my feet!
Ignore my heel all bandaged up and sore.
The weakness there does not concern you.
Refuse to hear and trust your friends!
Refuse to celebrate the goodness all around you!
Reject your God-given gifts and talents to the hilt!
Reject your urge to walk on water in the night;
For these can only turn the spell which I have spun
Back here into my sly and mirrored self
Where I'll be left in weakened state
To slowly wander, wane and shrink
Until one day and over time
I start to fade away
And slowly

Roger Chauvette

Roger Chauvette is the Editor of Provincetown Magazine and has been a volunteer at the Provincetown AIDS Support Group for over three years. This poem first appeared in A Pilgrim Adrift in the Dunes, from Vital Links Media, Provincetown, Massachusetts, and is used by permission.

Gay Father, Straight Son

Talking to pictures every night.
I wonder if you know that I
Marvel at the sheer
Miracle of your existence.
Your pictures adorn my kitchen.
And chronicle our years as father and son.
When I talk to your image,
Beaches, boat, and bare feet.
Races by the sea's edge.
Always make me smile.
I feel blessed that you
Who are so different than I
Are my son.
A sportsman enthusiast,
A young boy bare-handed
Grabbing a huge frog
From the lake at Central Park
And proudly presenting your stunned
And muddy trophy to me as Dorian
The great hunter.
I am so proud that you are my son
And smile at our differences.

Nelson F. Jewell

Nelson F. Jewell is a poet and playwright who lives in New York City. His musical Working Out with Leona ran to critical acclaim from 1993 to 1995.

faces (in my dream)

    faces, faces, faces
i was tired of the faces
of my time

    some tired and rugged
    some, seemingly shiny and new
all were mere flesh-made masks . . .
. . . emoting too few real feelings--

so (in my dream-life) i chose three faces for myself
one, for friendship, joy and laughter
the second, for my continuous experience in space
and the third, for companionship, warmth and sexual pleasure

    we danced through our 'Oz'-like existence
no thoughts of pain or hurt--
knowing forever we'd always be there . . .
. . . i now know these three faces eternally . . .

Denis Siri

Denis Siri is a poet, photographer, and painter who lives in New Jersey. All of his work is dedicated to the memory of his longtime companion Albert Totoro.

More HIV/AIDS Poetry

For further reading, consider the following fine anthologies:

Poets for Life, Seventy-Six Poets Respond to AIDS, edited by Michael Klein (New York: Crown Publishers, 1989)
Things Shaped in Passing, More "Poets for Life" Writing from the AIDS Pandemic, edited by Michael Klein and Richard McCann (New York: Persea Books, 1997)
Jugular Defenses, edited by Peter Daniels and Steven Anthony (London: The Oscars Press, 1994)
Unending Dialogue: Voices from an AIDS Poetry Workshop, edited by Rachel Hadas (Boston: Faber and Faber, 1991)

Back to the April 2000 Issue of Body Positive Magazine.