One who lifted his arms with joy, first time across the finish line
          at the New York marathon, six months later a skeleton
          falling from threshold to threshold, shit streaming from
          his diaper,
one who walked with a stick, wore a well-cut suit to the opera,
          to poetry readings, to mass, who wrote the best long poem
          of his life at Roosevelt Hospital and read it on television,
one who went to 35 funerals in 12 months,
one who said I’m sick of all you AIDS widows,
one who lost both her sisters,
one who said I’m not sure that what he and I do is safe, but we’re
          young, I don’t think we’ll get sick,

one who dying said They came for me in their boat, they want me
          on it, and I told them Not tonight, I’m staying here with James,

one who went to Mexico for Laetrile,
one who went to California for Compound Q,
one who went to Germany for extract of Venus’ flytrap,
one who went to France for humane treatment,
one who chanted, holding hands in a circle,
one who ate vegetables, who looked in a mirror and said
          I forgive you,
one who refused to see his mother,
one who refused to speak to his brother,
one who refused to let a priest enter his room,
one who did the best paintings of his life and went home from
          his opening in a taxi with twenty kinds of flowers,
one who moved to San Francisco and lived two more years,
one who married his lover and died next day,
one who said I’m entirely filled with anger,
one who said I don’t have AIDS, I have something else,
one with night sweats, nausea, fever, who worked as a nurse,
one who kept on studying to be a priest,
one who kept on photographing famous women,
one who kept on writing vicious reviews,
one who kept going to AA meetings till he couldn’t walk,
one whose son came just once to the hospital,
one whose mother said This is God’s judgment,
one whose father held him when he was frightened,
one whose minister said Beth and her lover of twelve years were
          devoted as Ruth and Naomi,

one whose clothes were thrown in the street, beautiful shirts and ties
          a neighbor picked from the garbage and handed out at a party,
one who said This room is a fucking prison,
one who said They’re so nice to me here,
one who cut my hair and said My legs bother me,
one who couldn’t stand, who said I like those earrings,
one with a tube in his chest, who asked What are you eating?
one who said How’s your writing? Are you moving to the
          mountains? who said I hope you get rich.

One who said Death is transition,
one who was doing new work, entirely filled with anger,
one who wanted to live till his birthday, and did.



(From Cold River, copyright © 1997 by Joan Larkin. Published by Painted Leaf Press, New York City. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any medium, print or electronic, without the author’s written permission, except for brief quotations in reviews.)