Stride Magazine -



Fevers breaking, lungs, heart not so
Stressed, & dementia itself even clearing,
We got on Ralph’s slippers, we got on
Ralph’s robe, we polished his cane,
We dappered him up.
For Ralph’s sweet as hell
Even when bitching about the hospital’s
Red tape, & falling on the floor
Insisting he can bloody well walk, &
Ralph’s sweet even when giving a finger
To the nurses, sneaking a cig in his sheets,
Pissing up to the ceiling, holding his stuffed
Elmo doll & yapping a fly’s bar rag
Queen regal as a loon.

& so we lope to the front desk, admire the ship
IV Timoteo made.
& so we stroll through the halls admiring
the reproductions of Georgia O & Gaugin.

Yes, it’s as if this were the Whitney & not another
Piss poor hospice.
I can believe it if Ralphie can.
I can believe it the way, when little, at Peter Pan,
One once clapped,
& Ralph is happy
At last sated for sleep,
Re-entering the tinsel show of his drag room


Fold strong wings about.
Here the tones of gold turn into silver,
The sheerest white, iridescence all on top
But closest where we are held.
This blue black comfort glows of course red.
So shadow has met shadow & continues to
For thereís a place where we melt & go on
As fluid, as such colored air.

Now the teeming of life gathers slowly round,
Electricity humming, heat massaging fatigue
Confessions, monologues, hymns build, disperse
A diaspora of neurons lit in their travels.

Endless, endless, no limits found
Between edges of skin & other matter of any world----

Thus anyone, by accident, may intrude upon, love
Deeply, those who are dying, only at a different rate.
Thus anyone could will presence to become touch
Of kimono, heating pad, shroud.

Only martyrs know such self indulgence,
To be called “angel” their very soul’s hunger
Suturing shadows to light:
Heal systems,


Metaphor from a dream, world’s end being
Sleet ash apparently made by humans.

I wake realizing in both the dream & reality
How the world goes on.

In carafes of mauve plastic back at my job
Of the visionary’s pace, I pack cubes from
The chute & go from room to room offering
Something to quench what only a better
Deliverance could.

I stay awhile, as long as withstanding can stand,
Especially with Jose percolating with Karposi’s tb,
Blood, a stigmata, as though from Ebola, streaming
From each orifice: the bloated organs, the sausage
Limbs, he all one wound
About to spew-----

Where is the mercy? Where?

He asks for a cig his guards with snitch eyes
Would fire me for handing out.
I shut off the O2, pull curtains, say
“Baby, take a drag.”

Drag, drag, & in each of these halls
There’s other twists to the disease
In the face of the humane.

Ice shall accompany that, ice for the specimens,
Ice for the blood bags, the trays for lips of blisters
My own in a room of private screaming where I make
Not a peep
& liquid seeps between teeth, the glass with its
A melody burned out requiring a balm

for the Gilead of Anybody


Blank hands, the emptiness of them held up:
2 winged angels equally naked before the nude torso,
A life stripped to shadowplay, the boxing as a dance

For whom could these hands hold at the waist,
At the head-----
The length of these hands above the hips
Falling & falling?

You, love, could be the fill-able phantasm:
You & you & you.

But you have left, are gone as an erasure
With us 2 living ghosts in the scourge against
Sensuality plaguing our time.

Love, should a host of angels chorus in,
Should any eucharist be presented, myriad
As the butterfly wings, the prisms of existence
With all of its charm & violence,

Than I will not lack for a thing in my senses,
Or my remembrance

Holding you close as I hold to you now

To pray

AIDS March '88

After the enthusiasm, a balloon
gauges blue, a quilt is packed up,
and these fingers release
a single blade of grass.
Earlier, names of the dead
were read to an audience already
familiar with what disease does.
On the outskirts, farther,
people chomped hot dogs, bought
generic knick knacks, guzzled
beer, tossed frisbees.
I don't mean
to sound so judgmental. I don't
mean just to let the sawdust out of
ritual leisure. Of course we're
entitled to it and can genuinely
feel joy for a minute untinged.
But anguish is consistent,
an individual cycle where bones
become one. Meanwhile
even "nice" people believe
this can't happen to them
and order another sausage to
Ignore a horde of inherently
peace-loving fruits.
I, myself, don't do much, only
carry a carnation and walk on
while hatred gapes. This poem
is no epitaph, valiant stand, prop-
aganda. It's simply
an account of a toll too huge
to be summed up by numbers.
The subjective sky, one grass
stalk, a balloon, are symbols
of that price.
Lying on blankets, looking up,
does anyone else notice?

                   © Stephen Mead 2002