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A Poem for Pride

For the past couple months, I’ve been taking a class called “Writing the AIDS Generation” taught by Brian Malloy. Brian’s a great teacher and an amazing writer. As you can imagine, the class can be pretty intense. Many of my classmates remember the AIDS crisis of the ’80s very vividly. They lived in major metropolitan areas and watched many friends die.

Keith Haring’s Radiant Baby

I was 11 in 1981 when “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals” fired a warning shot. I lived in rural Wisconsin and what I knew of the growing crises was dictated to me by Dan Rather on a nightly basis. It was terrifying. I knew it related to me somehow–I didn’t identify as gay but I knew I was different–and I didn’t know how to express this fear. So I kept it inside and it ate at me.

Poor me. I was scared and people were dying.

I took this class partly because I wanted to write about the era through my eyes. I’ve been experimenting a lot and one of the new things I’ve tried is to approach this through poetry. I wanted to share a fairly early draft of a poem that might be my final project for the class. The limitations of the blog don’t quite allow for the lines to fall as they do on a typewritten page but you get the gist. Feedback is welcome.

1988—A Footnote

The kingdom of calculated silence has fallen, my children, my lovelies
The unholy ramparts sundered under the strain of the Great Experiment
An eight-year reign denying reins to quell the rain of burning blood
Cursed with a king and queen who wore hatred on their satin sleeves
Until democracy’s design disgorged new ramparts for a shrub
Second curse, same as the first


Hail to the keepers of secondhand grace! Ye sacred! Ye profane!
Ye alchemists between two worlds who parlay faith into indifference
The scorn and bile of 4,855 pilgrims won’t be wasted on you
Their fevered dreams are precious, reserved for the survivors
Who tend their bedsides like beloved gardens, plucking weeds
Waiting for a spring that won’t come


We all watched the brightest souls of our generation destroyed by apathy, a madness unto itself
Sacrificed to a new Moloch for an era of singed ascendancy and power
And the Congress of Sorrows who bleed allegiance to the flag in the name of Nobody’s God
These blessed souls upon whose broken backs was erected a cenotaph
Monument of War! Tower of Discontent! Honoring reluctant soldiers
Losing the fight for their own bodies


Until we stop dreaming in color and only dream in blistered shades of rage
The detritus of wicked angels demands our attention
It is we who are the new kings and queens and rulers
Usurpers bargaining for another year, another day, another minute
My children, my lovelies, take it back. Take it all back.
Rising up is only the beginning.

Six years in and the worst is yet to come
But we don’t know it now and we’ll be too stricken to know it then


Published in: on June 1, 2019 at 9:14 am  Comments Off on A Poem for Pride