I knew of some gents, when I was young and naïve.
These men were invincible.
A choir of rebels.
They’re no longer around.
The deluge of AIDS relentlessly unkind,
pulling them under an angry tide,
drowning more than their vitality, charisma and fame.
Among this chorus of valiant men,
my friend - Don.
Handsome and gallant.
Stoic and proud.
True leader of the pack.
His mask of polished veneer
would soften, as secrets were shared.
I knew his longings, regrets and fears.
The years separated us to different worlds.
In synch to our shared taste for Hall and Oates
Out of touch, out of time.
The news came third party to my listening ears.
A dramatic suicide in public view
Knifing his throat to flag his pain,
his blood unfurled in the gaze of onlookers, and those walking by.
His life force poured down to the grassy ground.
If I was but there, I would have extended
hands to hold him,
comfort his mortal frame.
I would have let him know I‘d remember him, and always love him.
I will recall his name.
The years of men are marked at given times.
Within his frame, the delicate balance of life and death fans a flame,
plays a game.
This viral infection cloaks a powerful name – HIV.
The virus will twist and coil,
than a host CD4 cell,
It envelops the bearer’s soul with constricted emotion.
Conflict of thought.
A flurry of change.
A different life to manage.
Another crisis fought.
Fears can whisper in the bearer’s ear.
Who will be near?
Who is here?
Medications give promise.
Time is on our side.
Yet we are poked, prodded, pricked, tested, researched, and usurped.
We are exhausted.
Testing our blood becomes the pulse of life.
It marks our progress, our stress - our strife.
If the value of a life can be measured in tubes and vials, then the summation of us could fill the open sky,
giving way to recognition and pride.
We align ourselves like metronomes to the impatient rhythm of unknown science.
The cure would surely temper the rage.
Before us, behind us
Among us and ahead,
warriors stare valiantly into the virus’s flame.
Smoothing its embers - squelching its pain.
Others seared by the sting, feel swallowed whole
Some live quietly, often loudly
in struggles of disproportionate scale and size.
Grace takes hold of the HIV mosaic.
We mark our place in the patterns that surround.
We resist the fatigue of death,
Weaving three decades of HIV and AIDS into dreams, goals and vision.
It takes anger, resolve, contribution, understanding, forgiveness,
and quite often…love.
Cut our agendas,
Break the virus in its winding track
Diminish the resound of rhetoric and political gain,
Resurrect love and abolish disdain.
The people of HIV.
Take opportunity to attend your local AIDS Candlelight Memorial. Toronto’s 2016 Candlelight vigil takes place atBarbara Hall Park,519 Church Street on Tuesday, June 28, 2016 9:00pm - 11:00pm. Details here. http://www.pridetoronto.com/pride-month/events/aids-candlelight-vigil/ Contact your local AIDS Service organization for details of a vigil near you.