Posted tagged ‘Poem about AIDS epidemic’


September 13, 2015



I’ve done my duty by pears this year,
shaking them from the tree as autumn neared,
remembering they can rot before half-ripe,
climbing after even the small hard type–

That was back when August shone its sun
(the apples still bit back when tasting one)
when rhubarb prime in June still limply stalked
and our own loosing limbs seem to be caulked
with warmth; the pears were only browning at the core
and only some–but now, no more
than two weeks later, the bags still left
sweat heavily with decay, heft
hollowing–fruit flies flitting in the fridge–

So, set to work, trying to save the ridge
of pear all day–that flesh between the peel
and ploded center, to unseel
the whites of pears’ eyes, forget
the dark brown cornea that sometimes stretched
across the fruits’ both hips–

until, at last, I try for any sauce–I’ll sieve it
later–tossing in the rot and sheath and seed–
just seeing what will work–no longer trying to weed
out more than stem, hard navel, leaf–

And the smell, cooking, wafts itself so sweet–
the peels, curled like mute tangled clothes
abandoned on a visit from their beaus,
seem to smile, cheshire-catting the sides
of the deep pot, as I blow my wide
hot spoon, tasting then the essence
of pear–not the excresence
of pear–though maybe they’re the same–
what is, what was–still called by single name–

and I think again–all day, I’ve been thinking–
about loss, reading Thom Gunn, sinking
as I read, into a numbness–all those beautiful
young men, who finally said screw dutiful
(except to self and friends) infected in the blood
to carry hard beneath the hood
that new despair.  I mourn
as I salute–their cheekbones born
again in wasting skin,
their frames becoming tents to house them in,
as what was wit and spark and human want,
what had determined to be insistent,
was cut down, taped, tubed, gone–
as pairs, as legion–
how can it feel so very long ago–
eyes still in the photos darkly glow–

And I don’t know what any of this
has to do with rot or pears or sauce
or numbness, only that the mind moves
back and forth through what it loves
which is so much over a life,
much even in the barest slice–
trying somehow to couple reason, rhyme,
with what’s been lost, is lost, in time.


This is very much a draft/first draft/ but can’t come up with more somehow–so sorry for the length and thanks to you who made it through. 

I am writing in response to Grace’s prompt (her last one) on Real Toads about Thom Gunn.  Some of Gunn’s very effective work arose from the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s.  I found such poems particularly moving.   Thanks so much to Grace for her series of prompts based on wonderful worldwide poets.  

The photo above is mine–all rights reserved (as, of course, with the poem).